Distinguished scholar, documentary filmmaker, media person and novelist Obaidullah Baig died of cancer on Friday at 5.30am. He was 76.
The scholar is survived by his wife, Salma Baig, a television host, and three daughters, Maryam Baig, Fatima Baig and Amina Baig, the last being a staffer at The News.
In the 1960s Baig produced and presented on Pakistan Television a series of documentaries titled Sailani Ke Saath. It was one of the most watched and critically acclaimed programmes on television at the time. He would visit far-off and culturally rich areas of the country and introduce them to TV viewers. Some of the most successful of the episodes were on the Khirthar Range and the Lahut Valley in Balochistan.
The year was 1967; the man that brought him to the forefront was Aslam Azhar, and the brilliant question-answer show was christened “Kasauti”. All of Pakistan became obsessed with its mastermind, Obaidullah Baig.. The show of 20 questions that gained such mass appeal that it redefined the word Kasauti in the Urdu lughat (dictionary). Kasauti is part of our national heritage
Kasauti in which he teamed up with Iftikhar Arif in 1970s and then with Ghazi Salahuddin and Quraish Pur in 1990s.
It may come as a surprise that Baig had no formal education after his intermediate education,yet so accepted was his status as a man of knowledge that a majority not just assumed that he was a trained scholar but revered him as one.
In losing the man called Obaidullah Baig, Pakistan lost more than a beautiful mind. The juncture at which we have lost him is ironic. His death, in the words of Salahuddin, is “symbolic”. Symbolic of a nation’s intellectual decline.
Baig’s namaz-i-janaza held at Sultan Masjid in Defence after Friday prayers was attended by a large number of people and he was laid to rest in the Defence Graveyard. Among those who took part in the funeral procession were actor, TV producers and Zafar Akbar, writer , music composer Arshad Mahmood, media persons Farhad Zaidi and Ghazi Salahuddin, poet Naseer Turabi and scholar Quraish Pur. Moving scenes were witnessed as some of his close relatives and friends couldn’t control themselves and became teary-eyed.