Obituary: Viqar Ahmad

Letters to Editor

Viqar Ahmad, the most outstanding broadcaster and an authoritative voice of the BBC Urdu Service for many decades, passed away on 13 March, 2019, after a prolonged illness in a London hospital. He was 90. Viqar Ahmad was born in Sitapur in Awadh in 1929 in undivided India to Nisar Ahmad, a prominent lawyer of his time in Uttar Pradesh (then known as United Provinces). Viqar was educated at Lucknow and Aligarh universities in the years before Independence and developed an early interest in politics and history. After the Partition, the family moved to Pakistan in 1950, where they settled in Karachi. Soon afterwards, Viqar left for London to study ,B.A. in European History at Birkbeck College. At the same time, he began broadcasting for what was then the BBC’s Pakistan Service, first as a contributor and later as a member of staff.

In 1961, Viqar Ahmad returned to Pakistan to take up a job as a lecturer in European History at Karachi University.  He also became a regular contributor to discussion programmes on Radio and TV.

In 1971, Viqar returned to London again to join the BBC Urdu Service, by now with an increase in his audience because of following his commentary of the recent political and military upheavals. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, through some of the most turbulent years in the politics of South Asia, Viqar was the regular presenter of the BBC Urdu service’s flagship daily current affairs programme, Sairbeen.

Outside the studio, Viqar was a man of many friendships across the Urdu, Hindi and Bengali Services of the BBC. He and his wife Rehana are also fondly remembered as wonderful hosts in their family home in Harrow, where Faiz, Ahmad Faraz and Zehra Nigah would sometimes be found reciting their poems late in the evening. According to his former colleague at BBC Urdu service Prof. Obaid Siddiqui “Viqar bhai was a caring husband, the much-loved father, an enlightened, liberal, humane man, a much-loved friend and colleague, a wonderful host and a remarkable broadcaster, whose influence on BBC broadcasts to South Asia is still felt today”.

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