Karachi Literature Festival is the very festival that satisfies the craving of avid readers who have a huge interest in history and history of literature. Each year KLFKHI takes place to appreciate those who offered a perspective on the unique Pakistan society and culture, contributing to the development of the literary tradition in Pakistan. The purpose of this festival is to bring together those who appreciate the history of literature.
Day 1: The Inauguration Ceremony & Other Activities
February, 2017, kicked of with the 8th Karachi Literature Festival at the Beach Luxury Hotel. While addressing the inauguration ceremony, the Founder/Director of Karachi Literature Festival, Co-founder of children’s Literature Festival, and the Managing Director of Oxford University Press (OUP), Ms. Ameen Saiyid OBE expressed her thoughts:
“The KLF is held to celebrate the rich, ancient, and diverse cultures and literatures of Pakistan so that they flourish, bloom and make an impact by becoming accessible to a wider public”.
Further she added:
“KLF creates spaces where cultural and intellectual energies gain release and knowledge and understanding, both about today’s world, ourselves, and our history and civilization, are not only disseminated but also questioned and debated critically. We are also taking the Karachi Literature Festival to London where it will be held at the Southbank Centre on 20 May 2017, to celebrate Pakistan’s culture and literature and the 70th anniversary of its creation,”
The very first activity was a performance by musician, Asif Sinan.
Sinan, specializes in bridging the East and the West through his musical innovations, first and foremost, presented the national anthem. It was a very unconventional presentation on the guitar. While the guitar strings were so different from the martial version that we all are accustomed to hearing, it was a nice and versatile rendition.
The next performance was an old Rafi-Lata duet, “Saavan Beeta Jai”, followed by other light Eastern and Western pieces.
Dr Asif Aslam Farrukhi, the co-founder of the festival, said
“Kites had gone out of the sky with the ban on Basant celebrations. The spring, according to weather pundits, had been shortened. So now, he said, we’d have a “Basant of books”. “
Further he added
“The KLF, he said, had added another facet to city life. He referred to the KLF as “the mother of all literature festivals”. “
Around 136 Pakistani and 40 international authors and speakers from ten countries participated this year. Mustansar Hussain Tarar and Ayesha Jalal were the keynote speakers at the inauguration.
Among the many literary luminaries, academics, and intellectuals participating, both from Pakistan and abroad, some of the notable names included Adeel Hashmi, Afzal Ahmed Syed, Ali Akbar Natiq, Amar Jaleel, Ahmed Rashid, Arfa Sayeda Zehra, Arif Hasan, Asif Noorani, Arshad Mahmud, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Attiya Dawood, Ayesha Tammy Haq, Bina Shah, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, Christina Oesterheld, Fahmida Riaz, H.M. Naqvi, Hamid Khan, Harris Khalique, Imdad Hussaini, Jamsheed Marker, Kishwar Naheed, Mahtab Akbar Rashdi, Masood Ashar, Mian Raza Rabbani, Mirza Waheed, Mujahid Barelvi, Nadeem F. Paracha, Nafisa Shah, Najmuddin Shaikh, Nasira Iqbal, Noor ul Huda Shah, Omar Shahid Hamid, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Roger Long, Sabyn Javeri, Salima Hashmi, Sania Saeed, Shabnam, Shazia Omar, Sheema Kermani, Shandana Minhas, Shrabani Basu, Taimur Rahman, Tina Sani, Zafar Hilaly, Victoria Schofield, Zehra Nigah, Zia Mohyeddin, and Zoe Viccaji.
Prizes were announced and Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, a former ambassador who was the jury member, announced the winner of the prize for the non-fiction book of the year. The prize went to Yasmeen Khan for her book, “The Raj at War”. The Getz Pharma Prize for fiction went to Omar Shahid Hamid for his “The Spinner’s Tale”. The Infaq Urdu literature prize went to Nasir Abbas Nayyar and Admiral Baqir gave away the prize.
This year’s KLF activities includes 18 book launches and more than 70 sessions. A vibrant programme, encapsulating talks, panel discussions, readings, book launches, English and Urdu mushaira, stand-up comedy, author signings, performing arts, art exhibition, film screenings, art strand, book fair, literary awards, and a food court, has been lined up for the festival.
The first day of KLF-2017 ended by on a captivating ‘Kathak’ performance by Shayma Saiyid.
Day 2: Continuity Of Activities
Second day of KLF started off with the same enthusiasm. This day was packed with with a varied range of sessions, one of them was Bringing the Past into the Present in which Dr.Framji Minwalla and Nomanul Haq conversed with Ayesha Jalal. “History is methodology to investigate evidence, not an ideology”, historian Ayesha Jalal defined. A professor at Tufts University in the United States, Jalal disapproved of being labeled as a historian of Pakistan alone.
Ayesha Jalal shared her views on the relations among and between the two countries, in fact amongst all the countries in South Asia that we need decolonization of the mind and by that we need to go beyond the British assumptions about this region, and this applies both to India and Pakistan. Further she highlighted the importance of religion and that this is what brought two nations into existence. “People have called me a historian of Pakistan but I am a historian of Southeast Asia,” stressed Jalal.
Another session Pakistan: A Fragile state or resilient state was moderated by one of the great minds of the country Mujahid Barelvi Sahab who is a well-known journalist, commentator and author, also known for the vigorous defender of the freedom of expression. The session was aimed to discuss the current situation of the state and its ability to stand still on its feet. After introducing the panelists for the session he opened the door of discussion with Kahan Qatil Badlte Hain Faqat Chehray Badalte Hain Ajab Apna Safar Hai Fasle Bi Sath Chalte Hain a verse from Hafiz Jalandharis poetry.
Opening the session on the topic Mian Raza Rabbani, the Chairman Senate, shed light upon our history as a resilient state which has been engaged in wars against terrorism from its very inception and then the economic turmoil that we as a nation have been through and are still struggling with. Encouraging the resilience of the intellectuals, labors and common men of the state he pointed out the fact that the state is eating this resilience of the nation by cutting their hands so that they don’t ask question or raise voices against the injustice by the state and become spectators’ or rather silent victims.
As he mentioned “The government in its deliberate attempt to change the ideology of the Pakistan has neglected the speeches of Quaid that projects Pakistan as a progressive state not a garrison state that it has become now”. Hamid Khan in his contribution to the discussion highlighted the fact that we, even after 70 years of our existence, are still not being able to face the truth and the facts, our ignorance had already led to the separation of Bengal in 1947, and he continued on a lighter note that “ Wo smajhtay hain k wo humse alag hue, main smjhta hun humne unhein alag kiya hai”. The session was concluded on the note that our issues aren’t external; in fact, the problems lie internally. Ahmed Rashid said, “The state now has far more control of foreign policy than ever before and as long as Pakistan uses extremist groups to project their foreign policy we’re in trouble.”
Ali Nobil Ahmad was awarded the 3rd KLF Peace Prize for Masculinity, sexuality and illegal migration, announced Pervez Hoodbhoy. Masculinity, sexuality and illegal migration explores the myth that economic pressures drive illegal migration, through 60 interviews. Ali Nobil said, “My book is an attempt to humanize migrants because they are more often demonized.”
Faraznaz Ispahani’s Purifying the Land of the Pure was the 2nd prize winner. Anum Zakaria won the first KLF Peace Prize for Footprints of Partition. The book weaves together her observations of contemporary Pakistan with memories of four generations of Pakistanis and Indians as they try to reflect and make sense of the past.
The session, International and Regional Politics impacting South Asia, was moderated by Dr. Huma Baqai and the panelists for this session were Mathew A. Cook, Zia Mian, Najmuddin Shaikh, and Asad Sayeed. The issue discussed was Pakistan’s strategic position in this fiasco of whether CPEC is in our favor or it’s just another attempt towards the development by our government. According to Mr. Zia Pakistan has become China’s Israel now as he mentioned that “Chinese see Pakistan as their military client”, and this is what we have had already experienced because of our brotherly and cordial relations with US, he said with a grin on his face. Answering the question asked by Huma Baqai, Mr. Najmuddin Shaikh said that we are looking at CPEC as one road belt and not pondering over the fact that it’s just an element of a bigger picture. He mentioned that the mindset behind the CPEC is the mentality that compels us to let others take care of our problems and not rectify our mistakes on our own.
The most awaited session and the highlight of today was Phool aur Shabnam hosted by the famous Bushra Ansari in the honor of Jharna Basak, better known by her stage name Shabnam, the famous Lollywood legendary artist. She last visited Pakistan in 2012 along with her husband where they both got the lifetime achievement award from the government of Pakistan. She was so delighted and overwhelmed by the response and love she received from her Pakistani fans.
During the session she had gone into the nostalgic feel of the older times and while talking about her memories she shared her experiences with the audience. “I would love to come back here and I will come whenever the people of Pakistan will call me,” she added. She respects the immense love that she received here and when the question was asked that would she accept the offer to work in a Pakistani movie, she said I’d love to.
Shabnam further said that “If an artist wants, he or she can learn any language for a film, you just need to have passion.” “Robinson never said no to me when it came to work. We both trusted each other and he never once asked me why I came home late,” she added.
“I don’t call our cinema a revival, I believe it is a new emerging cinema in Pakistan and the one place to have done this is Karachi,” said Bushra Ansari.
In a session on Cultural Heritage Preservation in Pakistan and South Asia, Sheema Kermani said about culture, “What we need to think about is that what exactly our cultural heritage is. We have not been able to resolve our cultural identity.”
Sneak Preview of The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack by H.M. Naqvi hosted by Dr. Framji Minwalla gave us an overview of the book, the passion of the writer for this city and how he looks at the development this city and its residents have made.
There were total of 11 books launched today at KLF that included High-Life in Pakistan by Regula Bubb, Nobody Killed Her by Sabyn Javeri, The Party Worker by Omar Shahid Hamid, Tum Kabeer and Qila-e-Faramoshi by Fahmida Riaz, Sadequain and the Culture of Enlightenment by Akbar Naqvi, How Pakistan Got Divided by Maj Gen ( R) Rao Farman Ali, August Voices by Sudheendra Kulkarni, Teesra Qadam by Nasira Zuberi, Kalaam-e-Aarifaan by Hasan Aziz, Crimson Papers: Reflections on Struggle, Suffering & Creativity in Pakistan by Harris Khalique and Erotext: Desire, Disease, Delusion, Dream, Downpour by Sudeep Sen.
The session Roshan Khayali: A Homage to Sibte Hasan included a 10 minutes documentary of the work of Sibte Hasan who is known to be the pioneer of the Socialism and Marxism in Pakistan.
The presence of the Mayor of Karachi, Waseem Akhtar, also created quite a stir. He spoke about how important it is for the love of literature to be encouraged in all socio- economic classes of the country. He praised the organizers for providing the city with a healthy activity. The mayor also floated the idea of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation participating in helping to host next year’s KLF.
Second Day of the event came to an end with a Mushaira in which renowned poets of the country like Kishwar Naheed, Anwar Shaoor, Fahmida Riaz, Peerzada Qasim, Imdaad Hussaini, Afzal Ahmad Syed, Naseem Syed, and many more participated.
Day 3: KLF Bids Farewell To Karachi
Last day of Karachi Literature Festival started with a Video competition “Making Change in Pakistan: What Works, and What doesn’t” Winners were announced by Sarmad Khoosat, Nadeem. F Paracha, and Parvez Hoodbhoy. Faisal Raza’s documentary on transgender issues won first place.
In the session The Empress and her Munshi, Shrabani Basu explains that researching for her book was a challenge because after Queen Victoria died her son destroyed all the letters. However, she found some of Abdul Kareem’s relatives which helped gather information. “Abdul Kareem had no children and he died 10 years after he returned to India after the Queen’s death. So I tried finding the letters and what not and there was a time I found no one and then all of a sudden all these extended family members started coming out of nowhere with diaries and letters and it was lovely, they’ve been my hosts in Karachi it’s been lovely and they helped me piece these things together,” she said.
The session “Celebrating Faiz” in which Adeel Hashmi took the opportunity to recite poetry to pay homage to his grandfather and master poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz. ZehraNigah shared her views on how simple Faiz was, she mentioned that “he was very patient and was known as a man of peace, he never complained about his imprisonment or his loneliness”.
In a way partition began in 1947, we’re just getting further away from one another,” said Ayesha Jalal in a session on The Birth of Two Nations. “Conflict resolution is one thing but partition was conflict management. Partition is not an event that happened in 47 but a process. Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims but not in the name of Islam. It was about political power,” she added. “Jinnah kept the definition of Pakistan vague and it came to mean different things to many people,” said Roger Long, professor of History at Eastern Michigan University.
The session “The Future of Pakistan’s Creative’s: Film, Fashion, and Music” led by dynamic and charismatic women of our Industry including Mansha Pasha, Pakistani drama artist; Maheen Karim, A fashion designer and none other than Zeb Bangash, who has touched the souls of many people across the globe with her voice. Zeb Bangash said, “Hania and I had nowhere to go during Thanksgiving break in one college year and we recorded a song
just for fun. Next thing we know, it was being played on the radio daily.”
The session included the discussion about the evolution of Pakistani Film Industry and the panelists also highlighted the issue of women empowerment in our society and that the only purpose of woman is not to get married, there is more to life than that. Talking about her start in the fashion world, designer Maheen Kareem said, “I was fortunate to come back to Pakistan at a time when fashion wasn’t considered a cottage industry anymore. The fashion industry has its politics and cliques and horror stories, but as long as you lay low and concentrate on your work, you can thrive.”
In the session on “Palestine, Syria: Where Doves Endlessly Weep” Laleh Khalili talked about the need to take a holistic approach to the understanding of the conflicts in Syria and Palestine. “There are political grievances other than geopolitical or regional problems. I can’t remember a more disparaging moment than this,” she said. Talking about stability Ashraf Jehangir Qazi said, “Palestine is worse. There is permanent, colossal tragedy that doesn’t seem to end.”
On the last day of KLF, 11 books were launched including, “Dear Heart: To Faiz in Prison, 1951-1955 and Over My Shoulder by Alys Faiz , Daddy’s Boy by Shandana Minhas, Fasana Raqam Karain by Mujahid Barelvi, Love in Chakiwara and Other Misadventures by Bilal Tanweer, Those Children by Shahbano Bilgrami, Ajmer Sharif: Awakening of Sufism in South Asia by Reema Abbasi, The Pakistan Anti-Hero: History of Pakistani Nationalism through the Lives of Iconoclasts by Nadeem F. Paracha, Interpreting Islam, Modernity, and Women’s Rights in Pakistan by Anita M. Weiss, Hybrid Tapestries: The Development of Pakistani Literature in English by Muneeza Shamsie, and Hindustan ki Mauseequi by Abdul Halim Sharar.
“Partition: Drawing Borders in Blood” the story that how a family that was separated at the time of Partition and its aftermath and was reunited because of the publication of the book by Ishtiaq Ahmed called the Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned, and Cleansed was narrated.
Harbhajan Kaur’s/ShehnazBegum the lady whose son Rizwan from whom she was separated, both were present at the session and were introduced to the audience.
On the lighter side of KLF, viral sensation Syed Shafaat Ali engaged the audience in the main garden with his witty jests. Ali said: “This is the first time he has been invited to host a session at the Karachi Literature Festival… before this I was one of the guys who came here and stood at the back or checked out girls.” “I never knew what is KLF…yes I was one of those guys…I never thought that there’d be a time when I’d be invited on stage at KLF…and big people would come to hear me…but it happens…” he added. His mimicry of the politicians and the singers provoked laughter from the crowd.
Around 200,000 people attended KLF this year which was an achievement unlocked for the whole KLF team. Ameena Saiyid Managing Director, Oxford University Press, and Founder/Director, Karachi and Islamabad Literature Festivals, in her closing ceremony speech thanked everyone for contributing towards the success of this event. She specifically thanked all the speakers and performers who set the underlying theme of the Festival. “Whether you have travelled all the way from Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Bangladesh, the UK, US, India, or Maldives, or other parts of Pakistan; or you have commuted from somewhere within this Karachi: thank you for being here to inspire and enlighten all of us”, she said.
“This is not the end but the beginning of another wonderful adventure, the preparation for the
next Islamabad Literature Festival to be held at Margala Hotel on 14, 15, and 16 April 2017 and the Karachi Literature Festival ‘London’ in partnership with Bloomsbury Pakistan and
Southbank Centre London on 20
With an unparalleled creative culture and diverse communities, London is the ideal city for KLF to launch itself outside Pakistan. KLF London will offer a unique and inclusive experience at a mainstream venue. We plan to celebrate Pakistan’s 70 years of creation and complex history and culture through its literature and arts,” she added.
8 Klf ended with remarkable classical dance performance by Shayma Saiyid and Suhaee
Abro, a concert by Saif Samejo and dhamaal by Sufi group.