Curtains were drawn on the last day of the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) 2016 with a Qawali session by famous Qawals Fariduddin Ayaz and Abu Muhammad, who mesmerized the audience at the Marquee of Avari hotel on Sunday night.
The three-day popular event had to be cut short by a day and the venue had to be relocated to the hotel from Al-Hamra at the eleventh hour after the city government expressed its helplessness in providing adequate security there. The LLF organisers were forced to reduce the events in order to fit in the tight schedule.
“It’s amazing that the LLF organisers could arrange a new venue at such a short notice. It would have taken a month to come up with an alternate plan back in Sri Lanka,” Ashok Ferrey, a writer and illustrator who was attending LLF as a delegate, said while talking to Pakistan Today.
However, several enthusiasts were disappointed with the abrupt changes in the schedule.
“I wanted to attend a session but to my dismay it was cancelled without prior information,” a student of Beaconhouse National University told Pakistan Today.
Another visitor was unhappy with the arrangements made by the organisers.
“It seems like LLF is being conducted for the first time. I have never seen such commotion and confusion before,” Mehren Waqas, who has been attending the annual festival since 2013 told Pakistan Today.
Prominent human rights activist and lawyer, Asma Jehangir, however, felt that it was wise to relocate the venue in the wake of security concerns.
“Everybody understands the security-related problems and we should cooperate with the government agencies in such a situation,” she said.
Although many visitors said they had enjoyed the sessions, yet a large number were of the opinion that the organisers had cut some important sessions.
“I always find a very positive atmosphere at LLF, debates are open and frank and the conversation is very stimulating. This time senior Italian journalist Viviana Mazza was speaking at a session and I believe everyone present there must have enjoyed her conversation,” Ellna, first secretary of the Italian Embassy in Pakistan, told Pakistan Today.
The Italian Embassy is also sponsoring the event for the third time.
“I wasn’t expecting such an event where people would be interested in debates or ideas and counter challenges for Pakistan and the world,” said Jean Francois Cautain, Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan.
Political analyst Ayaz Mir said the event provided an opportunity to people to make new friends and discuss literary works.
“I attended the session on David Bowie but I doubt people in Pakistan know who he is,” he said.
Nevertheless, several people Pakistan Today spoke to said that neither the government nor terrorists could deter them from celebrating literature and culture.
“One thing that was lacking in the festival were the number of sessions on Urdu and Punjabi literature. It’s unfortunate that the organisers cut down on the Urdu and Punjabi sessions to accommodate those in English,” said Sana Mir, an MPhil student.