The 5th Literature Festival – Islamabad

“Literature is the Mirror of Society”

As the world’s attention has mostly been drawn to Pakistan on negative highlights of breaking news, terrorism, Islamist militancy and what not, we are in dire need to show the world of the cultural flip side, where readers and writers are stepping forward to share their comprehensive viewpoints on the country’s ongoing situations, progress and dilemmas and voice their thoughts through the power of words. That’s where the Literary Festivals come in the picture and hold a great importance. Reading out important passages that relate to our current situations, enactments and debates featuring local and international authors, journalists, intellectuals etc that help circulate progressive ideas, clarify misconceptions, expand the thinking pattern and project a positive response to the negative limelight that Pakistan unfortunately, is most of the trapped in.

Recently the 5th Literature Festival took place in Islamabad at Margalla Hotel organized by the Oxford University Press (OUP), that had a line-up of around 150 leading Pakistani and international authors, academics, journalists and artists along with exhibitions and a book fair.

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History proves it, reading has always been a key to changing perceptions and bringing revolutions. Literature has had a major impact on the development of society. It has shaped civilisations, changed political systems and exposed injustice. Literature gives us a detailed preview of human experiences, allowing us to connect on basic levels of desire and emotion.

At this year’s Literature Festival, popular personalities of 8 countries including Germany, France, Canada, Singapore and Italy had participated.

When talking of history and literature, one can’t really keep art and music out of the discussion. Music is another great form of representation of thoughts and ideas and emotions. On the first day of Lit-Fest, there was a performance by Amna Nawaz Khan, one of the few classical dancers in Pakistan who specialise in Bharatnatyam. She dedicated her performance to Mashal Khan, a student beaten to death in Mardan and talked about how no one came to his aid. She and Imran Nafees Siddiqui performed to Habib Jalib’s “zulm rahe aur aman bhi ho” as the tribute followed by Tillana, a Bharatnatyam piece by Indu Mitha.

The three day literary celebration saw some great content display by powerful writers, thinkers, dialogists, intellectuals and performers.

Concise listings are below

Day 1

• ‘Judiciary and the common Man’ with Afrasiab Khattak and Bushra Gohar

• Heritage and social mobilization in post-conflict reality by Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro and Elisa Lori

• Prison Narratives, a book by Akhtar Baloch.

• Mohammad Hanif discussed the burden of a translator for searching appropriate words while writing.

Day 2

• “Preparing the Citizens of Tomorrow: Are we Succeeding or Failing?” an education-critical session by Fasi Zaka and others.

• ‘Lost Heritage: The Sikh Legacy in Pakistan’ with Reema Abbasi, author Amardeep Singh and columnist F.S. Aijazuddin.

• Session: “Where has all the Water gone?” with experts Nisar A. Memon, Kaiser Bengali, and Aaron Mulvany.

• A Performance by Nimra Bucha and Sarmad Khoosat on readings from Amrita Pritam and Sahir Ludhianvi’s poetry

• “Gender Violence, Law, and Power in Pakistan – Feminists’ struggle for justice and equal rights” with Nafisa Shah, Sherry Rehman, and Ijaz Shafi Gilani

• ‘Rail Kahaani’ by Zambeel was a reading out session of short stories of railway journeys written by different authors, presented by Asma Mundrawala, Saife Hasan, and Fawad Khan

• “Mohabbat aur Dehshat Gardi: Aaj ka Urdu Adab” with Hameed Shahid, Irfan Urfi, and Ravish Nadim.

• AWAZ program presented a special session “Women and Excluded Groups in Political Parties and Legislative Bodies” with Marvi Sirmed, Zafarullah Khan, and Bushra Gohar
• “English Poetry: The International Muse” with Blaine Marchand, Harris Khalique, Waqas Khwaja, Azka Khan, and Orooj e Zafar.

Several new books including Pakistan ki Tehzeeb o Saqafat by Kishwar Naheed, Learning to Live with the Bomb: Pakistan: 1998–2016 by Naeem Salik, The Arts and Crafts of Hunza Valley in Pakistan: Living Traditions in the Karakoram by Jurgen Wasim Frembgen were launched among many others.

A Mushaira was also held in the evening with leading poets from all over Pakistan

Day 3

• ‘Uljhay Suljhay’ by Anwar Maqsood with Imrana Maqsood and Sarmad Khoosat – a complete housefull

• “Kashmir: Two Sides to a Question The future of a dispute: Is a solution possible?” with President Azad Kashmir, Sardar Masood Khan A.G. Noorani and Riaz H. Khokhar

• “Can politicians and media be on the same side” with Nasim Zehra and Sherry Rehman

• “Murder between the covers: Crime Fiction” by writers Omar Shahid Hamid, and Sabyn Javeri
• “Social Media – New strategies for creativity and change” discussion with Adnan Khan Kakar and Leena Hashir
• Ismat Chughtai “Kaghazi Hai Pairahan” and short stories ‘Chirri ki Dukki’ and ‘Amar Bail’ had the audience fighting for space

• ‘70 Years of Pakistan: A Reflection on Pakistan’s History’ with Sayeed Hasan Khan and Ishrat Husain

• Session ‘Will Technology Influence Music?’ featured Noori’s Ali Noor, Rakae Jamil, Masuma Anwar, Akbar Yezdani and moderator Taimur Rahman.

• Nimra Bucha moderated a session “Small Screen Intimacy and Big Screen Splendour” along with participants Samina Ahmed, Rehan Sheikh, Seema Taher Khan, and Sultana Siddiqui.

• One-man mushaira conducted by Syed Nusrat Ali, an unassuming management consultant and motivational speaker stole the show on the final day of ILF.

• More book launches: Intikhab: Khalida Hussain, Teesra Qadam by Nasira Zuberi, Kalaam e Aarifaan by Hasan Aziz and many others.

The closing ceremony has concluding speeches from the organizing committee and a dance performance in tribute to Mashal Khan by Shayma Saiyid.

It’s hoped that those who attended the festival or were watching it live through any medium, would have added something beneficial to their knowledge and would have found their thoughts progressed and viewpoints altered for the better.  Such literary events surely do not leave anyone unaffected.

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