Friday, November 25, 2011

Early Shortwave in Pakistan: Lahore

The history of the city of Lahore in Pakistan goes so far back that its earliest origins are lost in the mists of antiquity. It is thought that the city was named in honor of its apparent founder Price Loh, a
Hindu prince who moved into the area from a neighboring kingdom.
The Greek military general, Alexander the Great, together with his wandering army, bypassed the area in the year 325 BC; and it is possible that the Egyptian historian Ptolemy mentioned Lahore under a similar name a hundred years later; and then, the Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang visited the area in the 600s AD. It seems that the oldest genuinely authentic document mentioning Lahore by name is lodged in the British Museum, dated 982.
As the centuries went by, Lahore was conquered by many invaders; from other Indian states, from Turkey, Mongolia, Afghanistan and Persia. The British came in 1839; and when Pakistan gained its independence at “Freedom at Midnight” in 1947, Lahore became the capital city of Pakistani Punjab, the largest state in the newly declared country.
These days, Lahore is a flourishing city of ten million people, the 2nd largest in the country of Pakistan. Its edge is just 15 miles from the border with India; and its tourist attractions include the Shalimar Gardens, the Red Fort, and the Badshahi Masjid.
English cricket is their most popular sport; and Lahore was at one time the home court for world champion squash players. Lahore is also a production center for movie films under the name, not Hollywood in California, nor Bollywood in Bombay, but Lollywood in Lahore.
As noted here in Wavescan some time ago, Radio Pakistan Lahore was the temporary headquarters for Radio Pakistan in the new, fledgling country; and at the time, a single 5 kW transmitter on 1086 kHz was on the air under the new callsigns APL. The only other radio broadcasting station in West Pakistan at the time was the smaller APP located on the edge of Peshawar.
Two years after partition, a small 250 watt shortwave transmitter was installed in Lahore as the first stage of a wider radio coverage. The compass bearings for the new facility indicate that it was located in a vacant area near the railway station in a locality known as Faiz Bagh.
At the time, Radio Pakistan announced that plans were underway for the installation of a 7½ kW shortwave transmitter, one of several new units intended for installation throughout Pakistan. The stated power level of the new transmitter indicates that it would be a unit built by the English Marconi factory at Chelmsford, out from London in England. However, this planned intent was never fulfilled.
The original ¼ kW shortwave transmitter in Lahore was inaugurated on November 1, 1949, stated an international radio monitor by the name of Sampat, living somewhere in India. The original frequency, he stated, was 6075 kHz, though other sources indicated that another channel, 11740 kHz was also in use at the time.
Two years later, this small radio station was logged in New Zealand on 4810 kHz, with a news relay from Karachi. It would be suggested that this was an off air shortwave relay, because at the time, there was no reliable telephone service covering the 1,000 mile distance between the two cities. In fact, two years later again, an international radio monitor in England heard shortwave APL2 on an adjacent channel, 4805 kHz, and the station announcement indicated that it was indeed an off air shortwave relay, and the Karachi channel was 11674 kHz.
In January 1953, a listener in Australia heard this same low powered station on 3465 kHz, when it was still apparently on its original low power.
The records show that a 1 kW shortwave transmitter was installed later the same year, and a few months later the older transmitter was removed from service. The listed geographic co-ordinates show that this new transmitter was installed at a location on Multan Road, somewhat south west from Lahore city. The station engineer at the mediumwave location on Multan Road, a mile south of the headquarters campus of the Adventist church in Pakistan, confirmed back more than 40 years ago, that this was indeed the actual location of the 1 kW shortwave transmitter, APL3.
Interestingly, the World Radio TV Handbook gives a list of as many as 21 shortwave channels registered for use by APL3, the 1 kW shortwave unit of Radio Pakistan Lahore. However, monitoring reports at the time show that no more than three channels were in use, 4885 6160 & 7245 kHz.
However, due to the fact that mediumwave coverage was becoming the accepted mode for radio coverage throughout Pakistan, transmitter APL3 was removed from service during the year 1968. Apparently a transmitter fault was the immediate reason for the closure, but the transmitter was never repaired and reactivated for service on the air.
Two years later, Radio Pakistan announced that a new 10 kW shortwave transmitter would be installed at Lahore, replacing the current 5 kW unit. However, the events of radio history tell us that there never was a 5 kW shortwave transmitter in Lahore, and neither was the projected 10 kW unit ever installed.
Thus, Radio Pakistan Lahore was on the air shortwave with two different transmitters at two different locations. The 250 watt unit within the city was on the air for five years from 1949 - 1954, and the 1 kW unit was on the air for 15 years at an out of town location along Multan Road.
All programming was taken from the Lahore studios of Radio Pakistan, and the shortwave transmitter was always in parallel with one of the local mediumwave stations. Some programming was produced in the Lahore studios, and other programming was taken on relay from Karachi and co-ordinated in Lahore.
A total of four different QSL cards are known for the verification of Radio Pakistan Lahore under the shortwave callsigns, either APL2 or APL3, though all four designs are rather similar. These cards show the stylized Pakistani symbol of the crested moon in green, with a list of active radio stations, mediumwave & shortwave, in both West & East Pakistan as they were at the time.
(NWS 128 via Adrian Peterson)
(photo: Yimber Gaviria)