Mediaman Waqar Khan is best known as the producer, director and anchor of “Safeer-e Pakistan”, a 48 minutes show that has aired for the last 9 years from GEO TV on Saturday mornings at 9am and Sundays evenings at 10pm. For 9th consecutive years, Waqar Khan has successfully organized the prestigious Award and Gala Nights for GEO, an event that honors achievers and entertainers. Every year, Safeer e Pakistan holds a tradition by hosting the annual award night in different cities of United States to recognize those who are high achievers in their fields and have made a difference in their communities.
A well known personality in the American Pakistani Community, Waqar Khan is the true ambassador of Pakistan. He is the founding member of several key organizations and institutions in the US that aim to provide a platform for the progress of the Pakistani community and strengthen its link to the American society. He is the founder of the Pakistan American CEO Forum, an organization that promotes interaction, lobbying and dialogue between the Pakistani community members and elected officials. “A Day on the Hill” in Washington DC (2009-2010), provided the much needed communication between the Pakistani community, US law makers and legislatures. Khan also heads the Pakistan American Sheriff Advisory Council, a group dedicated to developing relations and cooperation between the Sheriff’s Office and the Pakistani community.
Waqar Khan is the Chairman of the Pakistan American Chamber of Commerce (PACC) which he founded in 1989, and in April 2013 organized the first ever “Dream American Expo” which sought to support and promote small to midsize businesses of the Pakistani community. Earlier in March 2013, he was a part of the famous textile exhibition in Las Vegas The Magic Show, and brought the ex- Governor of Nevada as a special guest to the Show. He was also the architect of the historic Pakistan Day Parade held for the first time in August of 2012 in Los Angeles and subsequently arranged both Parade & Festival in 2013 in the iconic downtown Los Angeles. He is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA), the highest award which was given to a non physician and media personality.
Lesser known about Mr. Khan is his incredible journey, which exemplifies his many talents, intelligence and a natural flair for communication and collaborative work. As a young man, he started working as an ardent fine artiste and was trained in sketching, calligraphy and painting. His expressive style won him three prestigious art awards: a pencil sketch for a Childrens’ exhibition sponsored by the then Indonesian President Dr. Ahmad Sokrno, a portrait for King Shah Faisal, a competition organized by Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Karachi and a portrait of Lenin which still hangs in the Lenin Museum in Moscow. But soon his focus turned to the real passion of his life: journalism and media.
His first step towards journalism started in school days, when he started writing for the school wall magazine Sehr, which would be put on the wall for students to read. Soon he was writing for the student page Safar-e- Talba in the leading newspaper Jung. At the Allama Iqbal College, he was the designer of the cover title page for the school newspaper “Majjala”, using his artistic talents of hand painting. “One of the more important title pages that I painted was a spider web analogous to education , and signifying that achieving academic excellence is like creating a web of security and successes,” Waqar Khan remembers. And to which his farsighted Principal Professor Husnain Kazim told him, “You will be a very important person and achieve a lot in life.” His rigorous participation in professional hockey and political dialogue on campus made him a very popular and admired student.
He progressed to get his Degree in Master of Economics from the Karachi University, where he received full scholarship on the basis of his performance in field hockey. During his days as a university student, when he had decided to pursue a career in banking, Waqar Khan earned his way through his education. He worked as a secondary school art teacher for afternoon classes and in the evenings coached kids in hockey.
After working as an executive industrial relations officer for three years at Bela Engineers in Karachi, a company that fabricates engine components for Bedford trucks, Mr. Khan left for Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, he found the work he always enjoyed doing. But as an account executive at Mecca Advertising, the road to success was not easy, “I had no contacts, the soaring temperatures were unbearable since I had to rely on public transportation, and more importantly, I did not speak Arabic and the language barrier seemed an impossible issue to tackle. But I did not give up.” Give up he did not, Waqar learnt the Arabic language in the next eight months, his charming personality paved the way to overcome many obstacles. “The first business that I brought to the Firm was a 2”x2” print ad of a real estate group called Arab Homes. I remember that as I shared the news with my colleagues, there was laughter and friendly teasing on my ‘big accomplishment’ ’’ Eventually, however, it was Waqar who was smiling – the Arabian Home client eventually became a multi-million account and as a top executive in the firm, Khan was handling over 40 key clients. “The joy of getting the first Mazda car from the company – priceless,” he reminisces.
Journalism, however, seems to be chasing Waqar Khan. The first English daily was launched in Saudi Arabia, the Arab News. The newspaper was organized and put together by a Pakistani journalist Mohammad Ali who was the managing editor. Mr. Ali offered him to join Arab News as an Editor and Supplement Manager. It was a time when there was no TV or radio in the English language in Saudi Arabia, and a daily paper was much needed. He was fortunate to get a head start through this paper, and as a specialist of country supplement, he had the opportunity to extensively travel and understand various cultures and its people. “Most countries wanted to develop good relations to Saudi Arabia. Our official travels included meeting with industrialists of that country to promote relations and businesses, bilateral cooperation, image building, and to gather and produce in print information about the country for the general public.”
Later, he was also affiliated to Al- Medina newspaper and Hajj newspaper. Another major break in his journalistic career took place when he joined as the head of the trade magazine called Al –Tijarat, a magazine run under the secretary general of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, and for whom Waqar Khan worked for the next three years. He authored special reports, noteworthy among them was, “The Role of European Countries in the Development of Saudi Arabia.” He had developed a very strong presence in the Saudi business, government and media circles. At the onset of the Iran-Iraq war in the early 80s and having achieved all that he had, his free soul compelled him to move back to Karachi.
The three years that Khan spent in Karachi were momentous in his growth as a media personality. He had enough experience to recognize the structure of this industry, and got the chance to work with the best in the business. He started as the editor of the supplement section of Daily News. He recalls, “Wajid Shams ul Hasan, now an Ambassador to UK, interviewed me for the position. On the issue of salary I asked him for Rs. 15,000 which he promptly refused, saying it was not possible and implied that Saudi salaries cannot be compared to Pakistani remunerations. I stood my ground and proposed that I work for him for free for three months, and if at the end of it he finds me worthy of the salary I can continue or leave. He accepted the proposal – and I continued.” Waqar gave a contemporary look to the paper and in time, Daily News circulation doubled.
It was also the time when he met Mir Shakeel ur Rehman, now the Chairman of the Jung Group and the leading network GEO television, and the meeting blossomed into a lifelong friendship. Waqar Khan is also responsible for the creation of the iconic logo design of the weekly “MAG” magazine. He conceived the first marketing outlook for Style Tiles, a ceramic tile product which was newly launched in Pakistan. His advertising campaign was a pioneering effort: an Expo arranged in the Arts Council with designs displayed in bathroom and kitchen models. The sales of the product sky rocketed, the Pakistan government eventually banned the import of ceramic tiles, and the industry of ceramic tile in the country flourished. Waqar Khan then organized the first ever Garment Expo in 1982 in Karachi, which broke new ground.for the industry.
After a brief stay back in Saudi Arabia after his marriage to Fatima Khan, and perturbed again by its lack granting citizenship status and limited opportunities for women, Waqar Khan moved to US in 1985. In his early years in the US and like most immigrants, Khan struggled on many fronts. After obtaining a Diploma in Banking in the US, he worked for awhile in a Bank, worked on contract with LA Times. For few years, he ran his own advertising company SAF Marketing set up in1986 and initialed after his family – daughter Shama, son Aazar and wife Fatima. He started the first monthly newspaper in LA Pakistan Prime which he later handed over to Mr. Faiz ur Rehman, and its name was changed to Pakistan Link. Later, he started two separate magazines, The Pakistan US Economist and the more political Frontline, but both projects were closed due to financial constraints.
In 1989, Waqar Khan laid the foundation of the Pakistan American Chamber of Commerce (PACC) with the objective of promoting the Pakistani businesses and community under one platform. Always eager to explore new possibilities, he launched the first Urdu Radio service Dil Dil Pakistan, which became a symbol of the Pakistani community and also gained popularity among the Indian community. The show was broadcasted for seven years and Khan served as its anchor. The success of the show was followed by starting TV Pakistan, a half hour show on a major network, KSCI. The show was a window into Pakistan; it covered politics, business, tourism and entertainment. Under the patronage of his friends, Dr. Sohail Masood, Dr. Sana Khan and AJ khan the show aired for four years.
With time, TV media gained popularity over Radio, and another Channel by the name of PTV Prime, a 24/7 service, was started by the Pakistan Government and private investors. Waqar Khan was offered a senior position by PTV Prime. Moving from Cable to nationwide Satellite in the electronic media was an immense opportunity for him, and the one he took right away. Safeer-e-Pakistan aired from PTV Prime for five years and received recognition nationwide for its coverage of Pakistani community affairs.
GEO television came to US in 2004 and Khan was reconnected again to his old friend Mir Shakeel ur Rehman, who invited him “to come back to his family”. In the past several years, Safeer-e-Pakistan has become a defining Pakistani American Community show of GEO. It has evolved as a Show of international caliber, owing to the professional expertise of GEO television. The Show is watched coast to coast, and entails interviews, news, events and entertainment. Over the course of years, Khan has conducted over 500 interviews, not only focusing on famous personalities but capturing the stories of Pakistan immigrants that came to this country with very little or nothing and succeeded.
As I listen to Mr. Waqar Khan’s life story of sheer brilliance and immense communicative power, I am convinced that he has a very strong vision and rules by which he lives by. What are those? “Believe in yourself - your intelligence, capability, honesty and character. Learn from the people you meet; I think that is something I realized very early on in life. – surround yourself with the best and learn from them. And learn all your life, you are never too old to try something new. I also never distracted myself with what others might be doing or thinking. For achievers, always have admiration and not jealously. And most importantly, listen to your heart.”
(by: Saman Mahmood)