Karachi Literature Festival concludes breaking its previous records

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The sixth Karachi Literature festival came to end on Sunday with successfully conducting 86 sessions over the course of three days attracting a total of over 125,000 people to the event.

Addressing the participants at the closing ceremony the, co-founder of KLF and Oxford University Press Managing Director Ameena Saiyid said that the Karachi Literature Festival was a unique event but hoped it would not remain so.

“For me KLF is a movement to spread peace and harmony through expression: that is through books, dialogue, debate, art, music, storytelling, and dance and through watching, listening, and asking questions,” she said.

She stated that in Pakistan today, there was clearly a revival or a new movement to promote literature and the habit of reading. “We need a country-wide network of public libraries to support this revival. We need to honour our authors.  A successful way of bestowing recognition and gratitude to authors is to give prestigious and credible awards to them and organize writers’ residencies,” she underscored.

She concluded her speech saying that independent authors were the conscience of a nation and have made great contributions in the evolution of our society “The muse in Pakistan needs to be exalted, revered, and venerated. We must have an intelligentsia which is not coerced to conform and can survive and flourish without compromising its intellectual stand”.

Carrying the thought forward co-founder of the Karachi Literature Festival Asif Farrukhi in his concluding speech quoted excerpts from Nayantara Saghal and Zehra Nigah’s books and stressed over the need for education. “It is our privilege that we are educated,” he said.

His speech was followed by a reading session held by Zia Mohyeddin.

On the last day of the event, renowned Indian writer Nayantara Saghal spoke at her book launch—The political Imagination of Nayantara Sahgal— and discussed her journey as a writer through which she had to overcome notions set in the western world.

The writer further discussed the importance of role played by writers belonging to developing countries. “Living in a developed country, I feel the writers need to stay put in their own countries to bring about change,” she said adding that writers write in native languages which assist in putting across the culture of the country.

The event also included a session on Sindh—Sindh Sagar aur Qayam-e-Pakistan: In conversation with Hamida Khuhro. The discussion, taking place between the legislator Aitezaz Ahsan and Hamida Khuhro geared into the partition era where people migrated from India to Pakistan.

“Sindhi is not just Hyderabad’s language. It is a language that goes to Lasbela and Multan,” said a defensive Hamida Khuhro.

Continuing with the session Aitezaz Ahsan urged that we were yet to find our identities as Pakistanis. “We are not Arabs. We are the residents of Sindh and we should review our history which includes national heroes such as Bhagat Singh”.

One of the most enjoyed sessions conducted on Sunday at the Beach Luxury Hotel included that of discussing Pakistani drama serial. The session included renowned people from the television industry, namely Aamina Sheikh, Sajid Hasan, Sania Saeed, Samira Fazl, Haseena Moin, Neelofer Abbasi, Adil Vaadia and was moderated by Raju Jamil.

The session engaged the audience in a discussion explaining the shift witnessed in the content of drama serials made in Pakistan.

“People were more professional and less commercial in our times,” explained writer Haseena Moin. “It was a team’s work,” she added saying that work was now more commercialized and producers were only working for ratings.

Contradicting Haseena’s point of view, contemporary script writer Samira Fazl said that all could not be planned on the production houses which were only giving the audience what they wanted.  “It is a demand and supply sort of a situation, where the production houses give the audiences what they want,” she insisted.

“People see what you show them,” was the stand that actor Raju Jamil took.

KLF covered a wide range of sessions which also included a conversation with Mustansar Hussian Tarar.

The session titled A traveler’s tale: Lahore se Yarqand tak, the writer in conversation with Asghar Nadeem Syed spoke of his inspiration to write travel logs. “Nearness to death is what gives me the inspiration to write,” he said.

He added that owing to his deteriorating health he has come in close contact with death which has brought out the creativity in him to write further.

The festival also included sessions on education. Renowned educationists including—Arfa Sayeda Zehra, Ishrat Husain, Zobaida Jalal, Sabrina Dawood and Ameena Saiyid conduction a session The constitutional Right to Education: From Access to Quality Learning for All. The session was moderated by Baela Raza Jamil.

The speakers in the session discussed in detail the educational system and the pros and cons of 18th Amendment which devolved powers to the provinces.

Expressing her opinion Arfa Sayeda Zehra said that our education system changes with each government to please the incumbent rulers.

“We belong to a generation which was not taught Islamiyat and Pakistan Studies as a subject yet we were far more religious and patriotic than the new generation,” she said.

The session discussed at length the Annual Status of Education Report 2014. Stressing over the state of education in Balochistan, Zubaida Jalal said that there were certain things which were better not let for the provinces, “education was one of them,” she said.

She insisted that the matters such as setting a standard for the education system should not be decided by the provinces rather should be a matter planned out by the federal government.

A few lighthearted sessions were also conducted at the sixth KLF on Sunday. A session including Ali Saleem, Jiya Ali was held in the afternoon.

The speakers at the session brought under discussion the role that films and plays play in bringing about an impact in the society. “Film is a powerful media,” underscored Ali Saleem adding that it was the content in the movies and plays that generates debate and can be used to highlight issues in the society.

Alongside, a dramatic presentation of the stores of Sadat Hassan Manto and Intizar Hussain were also conducted. The presentations were made by renowned actress Faryal Gohar who read excerpts from the books of both Manto and Intizar Husain.

Audiences broke into fits of laughter at the conversation held between actress Bushra Ansari and Nimra Bucha.

The actress in her usual valour explained her journey as an actress. “I had to strike a balance between work and my personal life,” she said adding that 20 years of her being in the industry were spent between the house and PTV.

She further shared that digest writers have made stories available for the common people. With it she said that the industry was now overshadowed by commercialism and though a few producers wanted to produce quality work they also had to keep in mind the ratings for the channel.

“We romanticize sorrow,’ said Bushra Ansari “which limits us to a few topics’.

Another session was held discussing the need to focus on Urdu and give it its due importance in order to save it. Speakers at the session—Purani kahaniyaan, Nayi Dunia: 32 tales of thrones—criticized the neglect that parents show in not emphasisng over the need for their children to study Urdu as vigorously as they study English.

“We have marginalized Urdu. We have stopped taking pride in our own language,” Arfa Syeda Zehra said.

In response to a question posed by Masood Ashar, Intizar Hussain said that we cannot translate books as they lose their charm in this transformation.

Serial aur Soap: Rung Badaltay Dramay, which included Neelofer Abbasi, Shahira Kazmi, Rashid Sami, Khaled Anam and Shahnaz Ramzi as speakers, attracted a huge audience. The session was moderated by Hina Khuwaja Bayat.

Talking about the influence of the Indian television industry on Pakistan’s drama industry Neelofer Abbasi said, “We were very influenced by Indian at one point in time. Saas bahu is not the only issue”.

But she then heaved a sigh of relief that that time had passed.

The sessions also included a stage enactment by Fawad Khan and Nazarul Hasan of NAPA. The performers enacted n excerpts from the works of Deputy Nazeer Ahmed.

The three day event concluded on a performance by Nighat Chaodhry and Ali Sethi.

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