From a black and white monochrome display, on Thursday 26 November, at 6:30 PM, many Pakistani’s heard a crisp and deep voice accompanied by the face of Tariq Aziz in what became known as Pakistan’s first Television Broadcast.
Born in 1936 in Punjab, India. He received his early education in Jalandhar and in 1947 migrated to Sahiwal, Pakistan, graduating from the Government College Sahiwal as a self-proclaimed ‘socialist.’ This strong political ideology coupled with his knack for patriotism would also lead him to be a prominent political figure in Pakistan.
He began his career in entertainment soon after college by working as an announcer on Radio Pakistan and was soon enough picked up to make the introductory announcement at the launch of PTV in 1964. He would also deeply fall in love with Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s philosophies and shown through numerous accounts to charge up the crowds with revolutionary slogans at ZAB’s rallies.
In the following years Aziz dabbled in films as an actor with films like ‘Insaniyat’ and ‘Haar Gaya Insaan’, unfortunately, his film career overall never stood out. Aziz’s greatest hit would soon come in 1975 in the form of ‘Neelam Ghar’, a more populist version of a quiz show Sheeshay Ka Ghar already airing on PTV.
This show which comprised of a set of contestants being quizzed on their trivia skills, often on the history of Pakistan, and winning prizes, soon exploded in popularity. Part of this success can easily be attributed to Aziz’s somber yet engaging hosting, which can be best described as a Desi, Jimmy Carson. Neelam Ghar’s popularity kept on growing as it even attracted major brand sponsorships such as Hitachi. As the show entered into the Zia regime it inculcated a more Islamic tone to survive yet Aziz’s charisma remained unaffected. He had his career highlight, being bestowed the Pride of Performance award for his excellent services in 1992 However, due to him now being seen as Zia sympathizer, his fame came with hefty criticism and resulted in his show being canceled when Benazir first came into power in 1988.v
This caused Tariq to align with PLM-N and even joining the national assembly from 1997 to 1999 under the PLM-N ticket. Eventually, his show was brought back at PTV along under the name of ‘The Tariq Aziz Show’. Yet maybe because of Tariq’s dwindling popularity or the rise of more contemporary Pakistani shows, it failed to gain the same popularity it had enjoyed in the ’70s and ’80s.
His political alliance would see one final shift as Aziz later broke away from PML-N and joined the Gen Musharraf-backed PML-Q. He had hailed Musharraf’s coup against the PML-N regime in 1999. But he seemed lost in his new party and was soon sidelined. His show saw a final revamp on PTV as Bazm-i-Aziz and become the oldest television show in Pakistani history in February 2012.
Having almost completely vanished from the public spotlight Aziz was once again brought to attention when around December 2018 he announced via twitter that since he had no children of his own as accordance with the will of Allah, he would donate all his possessions and wealth to the welfare of Pakistan. This came as no surprise to anyone familiar with his charity and welfare work.
Having been a diabetic, he passed away in the hospital on the morning of June 17th, 2020. Mr. Tariq Aziz led an eventful life, doing all the things he was most passionate about. His mark on Pakistani history will always be a prominent one. He not only carved the way for all modern Pakistani game show host with his flamboyant personality and sharp wits but did it without ever being deluded by the degradation of fame. He died as most Pakistani legends; a patriot through and through.