The 5th annual Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) was held in Falatti’s Hotel on Saturday and attended by a large number of literature lovers.
Originally scheduled to be a three-day event, the festival was shortened to a single day because of security reasons. The turnout was unexpectedly good for a city that had recently witnessed a deadly terror attack.
One of the sessions was named after Pakistan’s iconic kidney transplant surgeon Dr Adeeb Rizvi, who is also the founder of Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SUIT), to honour him for his services in the medical field. The session titled ‘Medicine Man: The Making of a Legend’ was moderated by Hameed Haroon and shed light on the early life of Dr Adeeb Rizvi. He spoke about the hurdles he faced in his struggle to make access to medicines free for all Pakistanis.
SUIT is a renowned centre in Karachi for ethical kidney transplantation and provides free medical treatment for liver and kidney diseases. It developed from an 8-bed ward and now has a dedicated transplant centre which is the first one in Pakistan. The only force behind this was the passion of an ordinary citizen.
The LLF management recognised Dr Adeeb Rizvi with a lifetime achievement award, which was presented by activist and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) Chairman I A Rehman.
Hameed Haroon shared with the audience how Dr Adeeb fought the political and religious powers in Karachi who wanted to shut his hospital down. The hospital was raided several times but Adeeb faced the pressure and defied all odds to make the institute what it is today.
The 58-year-old wanted to make SIUT a haven of tolerance and that’s exactly what the institute is right now. The hospital gives free-of-cost treatment to the needy with the help of donations it receives from across the country. With a motto to serve humanity without discrimination of religion, race, or ethnicity, the hospital continues to give hope to liver and kidney patients who cannot afford treatment.
Hameed Haroon recalled how Rizvi violated the orders of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) against admitting Sindhi patients to his hospital. The political elements and bureaucrats were unhappy with him because they saw his work as a threat to their own popularity. According to Hameed, religious extremists and militants were after him because he did not have a religious bias and his hospital served everyone regardless of their religious identity.
Hameed Haroon further elaborated how Dr Rizvi had been under threat because of his Shia sect. “They thought that as a Shia doctor, he had to be killed,” Haroon said.
Despite having given so much to Pakistan, Dr Adeeb doesn’t seem to be satisfied with how the weaker segments are treated in the country. “Pakistan is an independent country, but the people are still slaves. Until all citizens are not given their rights, the threats (of instability) will keep on coming”, he said.
The legendary humanitarian received a standing ovation from the audience at the end of the session.
FOREIGN SPEAKERS APPRECIATE ‘RESILIENT’ AUDIENCE
The LLF lineup included a number of foreign writers and literary figures who time and again appreciated the audience for showing resilience in the face of terror.
A session titled ‘Art in the Age of Fascism’ featured American artist Moly Crabapple and was moderated by Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s daughter Salima Hashmi.
“Lahore is a beautiful city and I am privileged to be here”, Moly told Pakistan Today.
She discussed the wave of fear prevailing in America following the election of Donald Trump as president. She said that it wasn’t just Trump, and that the hateful rhetoric had been going on for years.
The American artist said she was taken off a TV show because she spoke out against Islamophobia. She said there were not enough Muslims on TV in America, which is a threat to diversity.
Moly said the new trend in American journalism focuses on sharing stories of victims but that positive stories of resistance should also be told.
The packed day at Faletti’s came to an end with hopes that the security situation would have changed by next year so that the event is not cut short.