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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 N283, July 27, 2014

The Story of Radio Broadcasting in Pakistan: On the Air in Peshawar

The city of Peshawar in Pakistan is located right up against the edge of the Khyber Pass in what used to be the North West Frontier in British India. The name Peshawar comes from an old Sanskrit word which is translated as "City of Men," perhaps meaning a city with a lot of people, or a city where the men were dominant and powerful.

The original inhabitants were tribals of Indo-Iranian heritage who moved into the area in ancient times. In the year 326 BC, Alexander the Great moved his armies through the area in their onward march towards mainland India; and it is stated that doubting Thomas of Biblical fame passed through the area in his trek towards south India in the year 52 AD.

By the year 100, historians tell us that Peshawar was the 7th most populous city in the world; and it was around that era that descendants of the left over soldiers from Alexander's army became rulers in Peshawar itself. The Buddhist era began soon afterwards with missionaries coming in from the plains of India.

The Buddhists constructed a stupa, a rounded mound, that was 400 feet high and it is thought that this was the tallest building on Earth at the time. On several occasions, the stupa was damaged and destroyed by lightning, and though it was again repaired and rebuilt, these days only the ruins of the base remain.

Islam came to Peshawar a thousand years ago; the territory was absorbed into British India in 1849; and the monumental Bab-i-Khyber, the Khyber Gateway, was constructed over the highway in 1964. During the 1980s with the Russian presence in Afghanistan, around four million refugees came into Peshawar, though the official population for Peshawar stands around 2-1/2 million.

Wireless came to Peshawar in 1919 with the establishment of station VWP, quite close to the Bala Hissar Fort and the nearby railway line. An early postcard shows all three in the one photograph: the Fort, the railway line and the wireless station.

When wireless became radio and spark gave way to voice communication, the station identification was changed from VWP to VVP. A station list in 1933 showed station VVP on 34.28 metres, or as we would say today, 8750 kHz.

It was in 1934 that the Marconi radio company in England offered equipment for a new radio broadcasting station to the government of the North West Frontier Province. The agreement provided that if the project was successful, the provincial government would purchase the equipment.

This new broadcasting station was inaugurated with local programming on March 6, 1935 and soon afterwards it was allocated the callsign VUP, with these letters indicating India Peshawar. This small radio station emitted just 250 watts on 1500 kHz which gave it little more than just quite local coverage. Back at that time there was a promise that the station would be upgraded to 2 kW, though this prediction was never fulfilled.

During the following year, the provincial government took over the control of the station, and during the next year again, the station was taken over by the Indian national government in Delhi. Then, in March 1939, station VUP Peshawar was converted into a relay station, taking its programming on a telephone line from the national station VUD in Delhi.

However, a totally new broadcasting station, with new studios and new technical equipment, was constructed at the old wireless location in Peshawar soon afterwards, and this was inaugurated on December 1, 1942. This new station with its new RCA transmitter was assigned the mediumwave channel 629 kHz with an output power of 10 kW.

Thus, it is true, there were really two different radio broadcasting stations in Peshawar in the era before partition; the Marconi station on 1500 kHz, followed by the government station on 629 kHz, both of which were on the air, consecutively, under the same callsign, VUP.

Back about 1-1/2 years before the epic events of Freedom at Midnight, there was a man from Pilibhit up near the border with Nepal, by the name of Tahir Husain. He owned a radio shop in Delhi and he agreed to assemble a radio transmitter together with a power supply. This radio broadcasting equipment was smuggled in three large fruit baskets into a house in Peshawar occupied by Sardar Abdur Rab.

On April 24, 1946, this new clandestine radio broadcasting station was activated in the 70 metre band (approx.. 4285 kHz) in another home in Peshawar. The programming that was broadcast over this mini radio station was intended to influence the vote in a coming local political election. The station was moved several times within Peshawar itself in order to avoid detection, and its short life span ended as soon as the elections were over, shortly afterwards.

At the time of partition in 1947, there were just two radio broadcasting stations on the air in the Pakistani West Wing; VUL Lahore with 5 kW on 1086 kHz and VUP Peshawar with 10 kW on 629 kHz. When things got sorted out in the two dominions, India & Pakistan, the callsigns were regularized in Pakistan under new designation for this new country, and VUP Peshawar became APP.

As Nihal Ahmed tells us in his very interesting book, A History of Radio Pakistan, the transition from All India Radio Peshawar to Radio Pakistan Peshawar took place around midnight, between Thursday August 14 and Friday August 15, 1947. At the time, the AIR relay station VUP in Peshawar was on the air with 10 kW on 1500 kHz.

Soon after 11:00 pm on Thursday, August 14, Yunus Sethi made the final announcement on behalf of All India Radio. This was followed soon after midnight with the opening announcement on behalf of the Pakistan Broadcasting Service in the Urdu language of Pakistan by Aftab Ahmad Bismil and then a similar announcement in the Pushto language of Afghanistan by Abdullah Jan Maghmoom.

Interestingly, the first series of new radio stations planned for installation in the new Pakistan were all intended to radiate on shortwave, and not mediumwave. A few months after partition, a representative of the new Pakistani government visited England to negotiate the purchase of equipment for several new radio stations.

Soon afterwards, it was announced that these new radio stations would be installed in five cities in Pakistan including Peshawar, and that the transmitters at these locations would operate on shortwave with 7.5 kW.However, as the unfolding of events would demonstrate, not one of these transmitters was installed anywhere in the territory we know as Pakistan.

Much later, in the year 1960, a fifth new shortwave station in Pakistan was installed in the frontier city, Peshawar, and it was inaugurated on October 15. This was a 10 kW AWA transmitter from Australia and it was inaugurated at the city location and given the callsign APP2.

However, as time went by, a new transmitter station was constructed at Chughalpura, some three miles out north east from Peshawar. This station housed two transmitters, both mediumwave and shortwave at 10 kW each, though these days, just one mediumwave transmitter is on the air at this location, now with 100 kW on 729 kHz. Radio Pakistan Peshawar APP shortwave left the air in 1999.

More recently, a newer and larger transmitter station was constructed at Pabbi, a dozen miles east from Peshawar, and these days it houses two mediumwave transmitters; 100 kW on 1170 kHz and 300 kW on 540 kHz.

Back in the late 1930s before Partition, QSL cards were printed for general use by the various stations in the federation-wide network of All India Radio. These cards also showed entries for VUP Peshawar.

The first known QSLs from the new Radio Pakistan are dated in the year 1949, just two years after Partition. These cards showed the Radio Pakistan logo, the star and the crested moon, and they listed the early radio stations that were on the air at the time.

A subsequent QSL card gave more details about the early mediumwave stations in Pakistan. The earliest of these cards, of which there are three or four different designs, lists the mediumwave and shortwave stations in Peshawar:- APP1 on 580 kHz & APP2 shortwave.