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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, January 9, 2011

Pakistan on Shortwave: The Rawalpindi Story

In our program today, we return to the shortwave radio scene in Pakistan; and in particular, to the city of Rawalpindi in the far north of the country. Actually Rawalpindi, together with its twin city Islamabad, make up the 3rd largest city complex in Pakistan, behind Karachi and Lahore. At one stage, Rawalpindi was the temporary interim capital city of Pakistan during the transitional era between the transfer from Karachi in the south up to the newly built Islamabad in the north.

Three thousand years ago, Buddhist culture flourished in the area during the Vedic era, and the locality was known at various times under several different names, including the short name Rawal. It was Jhandar Khan who augmented the name to Rawalpindi in 1493. The British came in 1849, and they ultimately established Rawalpindi as their largest army camp anywhere in colonial India.

The first radio station in Rawalpindi was an army station under the callsign VVX. This was a shortwave facility rated at around 1 kW and it was the northern Punjab unit in the British army network of communication stations that were on the air during the 1930s with three letter callsigns beginning with VV.

Pakistan exerted its independence from British India at the time of partition at midnight on August 14-15, 1947 and radio became an important priority in the new country. The first new radio station in the new Pakistan was established at Rawalpindi, and this was a small shortwave unit with an output of just 500 watts.

This new and rather temporary broadcasting station was inaugurated on April 16 of the following year 1948, and it operated under the callsign APR. There are no known loggings of this quite low powered shortwave station though it must have been heard, at least locally and into nearby countries.

The international range of callsigns allocated to the new Pakistan included the series beginning with the two letters AP, with A indicating Asia and P indicating Pakistan. The third letter in Pakistani callsigns indicated the city of location; and for Rawalpindi, this was of course the letter R.

Mediumwave came to Rawalpindi with just 100 watts a year later, and during the following year, this facility was upgraded to a 1 kW unit on 1260 kHz with the callsign APR1. In the meantime, a much larger facility was under construction just beyond the edge of suburban Rawalpindi on the south side of the Grand Trunk Road running west towards Peshawar. This radio station is located near the more recently established Riphah International University near Naseerabad just out of Rawalpindi.

On September 1, 1950 the mediumwave transmitter at this new location was inaugurated as Rawalpindi 1 with 10 kW on 1260 kHz, though the channel was moved to 1150 kHz four years later. This transmitter was de-activated in 2001 at the time when a new 100 kW mediumwave transmitter at an unstated location took over the programming from Rawalpindi 1. Due to the fact that the area around the original transmitter base near Naseerabad is now overcrowded with housing, it is probable that the 100 kW mediumwave transmitter was installed at a new and somewhat isolated location.

Ten years after the mediumwave unit was inaugurated at this Rawalpindi radio station, a 10 kW shortwave transmitter was activated at this same location on the tropical shortwave bands for local and regional coverage. The inauguration date was October 15, 1960. This shortwave transmitter was on the air regularly for around a quarter century carrying the regional programming as Rawalpindi 2 and subsequently as Rawalpindi 3.

However in 1973, the regional programming listed as Rawalpindi 3 was then transferred to a 100 kW transmitter located at Rawat, 25 miles east of Rawalpindi. This transmitter site is officially identified as Islamabad, and the specific 100 kW transmitter was listed as API8.

However, the 10 kW shortwave transmitter located on the western edge of Rawalpindi was apparently renovated, and it was re-activated again somewhere around the year 2001 on its same familiar channel 4790 kHz. The programming relay was split between Azad Kashmir Radio and Rawalpindi 3, though it should be remembered that the 100 kW transmitter located at Islamabad-Rawat was also operating at certain times of the day on this same channel, 4790 kHz, and with similar programming.

The production and on air studios for Radio Pakistan were transferred from Karachi to an in town location in Rawalpindi in 1967; then they were moved again within Rawalpindi seven years later, and then finally to a new headquarters building in Islamabad in 1977.

Thus it is that the radio station known as Rawalpindi has been on the air from several different locations over the years as follows:

Over the years, many QSL cards have been issued for the broadcasts of Radio Pakistan Rawalpindi, though the earliest of which we are aware is dated in the year 1955. Currently, QSL cards are still available for this station from their national head office in Islamabad.

Silence in the Air - 1: The Sound of Silence

Quite recently, the nationwide networks of All India Radio and Doordarshan TV were paralyzed in a two day strike by disgruntled employees who were upset over what they described as management inefficiencies and delayed payment of regular salaries. The strike began at 9:00 am local time, corresponding to 0330 UTC on Tuesday November 23.

In view of the fact that the two major points of disagreement were not met to the employees satisfaction, another strike, perhaps a continuing strike, was threatened by the 38,000 members of the employees union of Prasar Bharati and this was scheduled to begin on Monday December 13. However, in view of the fact that this 2nd strike did not take place, it would be apparent that discussions between management and employees must be making progress.

As a result of the strike late November, the programming of all government radio and television stations throughout India was affected and a large number of stations were off the air during this time period. This gave a remarkable opportunity for international radio monitors in India and neighboring countries to check the mediumwave and shortwave bands for previously unheard distant stations on the temporarily empty channels in India.

The employee strike in India is by far the largest strike against any news media anywhere in the world. However, other strikes against other radio stations in other countries have occurred, and there have been other occasions when mediumwave and shortwave stations have been silenced, due to various reasons. That is our topic in this feature item: Silence in the Air, or if you like, according to the title of a popular song, the Sound of Silence.

On occasions there have been short term and limited strikes against both the BBC in London and Radio Australia in Melbourne and these events have affected the programming of both international shortwave stations.

Back in the year 1981, there was a strike by some of the personnel employed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and this affected the output from the large shortwave station operated by Radio Canada International at Sackville, New Brunswick. The BBC London was on relay from RCI Sackville for 11 hours a day during that era, and because of the strike, this program relay was reduced to a little less than 3 hours a day.

Under the title, the Sound of Silence, let's go way back to the beginning. On August 22, 1922, the entire telephone system throughout the United States and Canada went silent for exactly one minute, beginning at 6:25 pm. The occasion was the death of the illustrious founder of modern telephone technology, Alexander Graham Bell. At the conclusion of the funeral service, every telephone in North America was silenced for one honoring minute.

A similar event occurred as a memorium to Guglielmo Marconi when he died. Marconi is credited as the founder of wireless and radio, and during his lifetime, wireless grew from a crude simple piece of noisy electrical apparatus that could send Morse Code a few miles, to radio that could instantaneously communicate worldwide and entertain all dwellers upon planet Earth. Marconi died of a heart attack on July 20, 1937, at the age of 63, and in his honor, radio stations all around the world observed two minutes of silence.

Over in India on January 30, 2005, all radio stations went silent for a period of two minutes. On this occasion, it was not a strike by disgruntled workers, but rather a memorium in honor of freedom fighters who lost their lives in India's earlier struggle for independence from Great Britain. At 10:59 that morning, sirens sounded throughout India. Traffic on the roadways came to a standstill, pedestrians came to a stance, trains, planes, buses and ships delayed their 11:00 departures by two minutes, and all radio programming went silent.

A similar circumstance took place in the Philippines on the one year anniversary of the mass murder of 58 people, including 34 radio and TV personnel, the largest mass murder of media personnel anywhere in the world. On November 29, just 6 weeks back, all radio and TV stations throughout the Philippines went silent for 58 seconds, one second for each death.

For a different purpose, all radio broadcasting stations in the United States, all 10,000 of them, went silent for half a minute on May 26, 1989. The purpose of this event was to publicize to the nation the importance of radio in daily life for every person. This project was organized by NAB, the National Association of Broadcasters.

Six years later, a similar event took place in Spain. At exactly 8:30 am on Wednesday October 4, 1995, all radio stations in Spain went quiet for exactly one minute. The purpose for this exercise was to draw attention to the importance of radio in the life of Spain's 20 million radio listeners.

There are times when radio stations have gone silent for other reasons, including economy. Back in the 1940s during an era of electricity rationing because of strikes in coal mines in Australia, all radio stations throughout the continent were required to reduce their hours of transmission, closing in mid evening. This gave the avid DXer a wonderful opportunity to tune in to mediumwave foreign radio stations on his battery operated radio receiver, radio stations not normally heard down under.

Then, for example, the American mediumwave station WPHC in Waverly, Tennessee was noted in December 1995 with just one hour of programming every day. Due to financial constraints and yet to keep the station active, it signed on daily at 1:00 pm local time on 1060 kHz, and after one hour it went silent until the same time on the next day.

We asked Jose Jacob VU2JOS over there in Hyderabad, just what stations were heard on the empty channels during the November strike in India. From his information, and the information of others, we learned that no startling new DX stations were heard, just a few stations in China and other nearby countries in Asia. Those stations in the AIR network that remained on the air during the strike were usually just playing continuous unannounced Indian music, though some gave out test tones, and a very few seemed to be on the air with regular programming.