Karachi Literature Festival

Karachi Literature Festival Goes International

Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) recently celebrates 70th anniversary of the Pakistan’s foundation at the Royal Festival Hall of the Southbank Centre, as a part of their annual festival Alchemy, was a resounding success. Dubbed as Pakistan’s biggest literary event, the KLF brought together writers, scholars, and artists from diverse backgrounds, creative traditions, and academic disciplines to showcase contemporary Pakistani literature and writers. Produced by Oxford University Press (OUP) Pakistan, KLF was organized in collaboration with the Southbank Centre, Bloomsbury Pakistan (a research collective based in London), and Rukhsana Ahmed.

KLF London

In the welcome note, Ameena Saiyid, Managing Director, Oxford University Press, and Founder/Director,

Karachi, and Islamabad Literature Festivals said,

“We have much to be pleased about in Pakistan which has had the longest period of continuous democratic government. Despite its image, most Pakistanis are moderate because of our Sufi tradition. Today, we are celebrating Pakistan’s diversity and plurality.”

“By holding KLF in London, we are also celebrating 70 years of Pakistan–British friendship, our shared history and future which, I hope, we can together build for the next 70 years. Pakistan and the UK have strong cultural, educational, intellectual, diplomatic, and commercial ties. Hopefully, through collaborative events with Southbank Centre, UK’s cultural hub, we can strengthen our ties and build a foundation for the future”

The audiences at the KLF were treated to a medley of around 20 parallel sessions encompassing talks, panel discussions, poetry readings, mushaira, and performances. A stellar cast of around 70 leading Pakistani-origin and international writers, scholars, critics, journalists, and artists participated in stimulating sessions covering a broad range of themes, ideas, and subjects pertaining to Pakistan’s literature, arts, and culture. A separate strand for children which included an immersive theatre piece by Jungly Jadoogars; an animated film by the artist Fauzia Minallah; storytelling by the children’s author, Shahbano Bilgrami; and sing-along songs by the veteran Pakistani musician, Khaled Anam, were also a part of the festival.

KLF London

KLF London started off with the renowned novelist and journalist, Mohammed Hanif’s keynote address giving unique insights into Pakistan’s history, hopes, and dilemmas. Earlier, at the festival opening, Ameena Saiyid, KLF and Islamabad Literature Festival Founder and Director, Asif Farrukhi, KLF and Islamabad Literature Festival Founder, and Adrian Mellor, Managing Director, Asia Education, OUP, welcomed the guests and speakers. Pakistan’s High Commissioner to UK, Syed Ibn Abbas also spoke on the occasion.

KLF London

Some of the sessions held early on in the day included ‘Transphobia and Misogyny’, a discussion on legislations around transgenders and women in Pakistan; ‘Reluctant Returners: Migrants, Refugees and Memories of the Homeland’ in which Kamila Shamsie, Qaisra Shahraz, and Mirza Waheed explored characters and fictions inspired by exile and displacement; and ‘Pakistani Renaissance? The Best in Cinema, Reportage, Theatre and Fashion’ with the television actor Atiqa Odho, filmmaker Faris Kermani, designer Maheen Khan, and journalist Cyril Almeida as speakers.

KLF London

Faris Kermani, Cyril Almeida , Atiqa Odho and Maheen Khan

Taimur Rahman, Moni Mohsin, and H. M. Naqvi weighed up the challenge of portraying Pakistan’s gender and class divide in the session ‘Blaming the Elite: Class, Greed, and Gender in Contemporary Pakistan’. Educationists, entrepreneurs, and experts including Farid Panjwani, Ahmereen Reza, Mona Kasuri, and Ameena Saiyid were part of a stimulating panel discussion titled ‘Madrassas and Montessoris: Are Private Schools Keeping Madrassas at Bay?’ moderated by Nigham Shahid.

KLF London

In a panel discussion titled ‘Against All Odds: The Price of Prosperity in Pakistan Today’ held later in the day, Shuja Nawaz, Maleeha Lodhi, Ishrat Husain, and Victoria Schofield analyzed geopolitical and internal challenges facing Pakistan. In the session ‘Urdu ki Zid Mai: At Loggerheads: Urdu vs English vs Regional Languages’ Basir Kazmi, Ishrat Afreen, and Harris Khalique, and Asif Farrukhi discussed if Urdu in Pakistan is under threat from English or the regional languages.

KLF London

The evening sessions comprised thought-provoking discourses on ‘Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: Diaspora Pakistanis Caught in Post Brexit Hate-Storm’, with Ziauddin Sardar, Farooq Bajwa, and Iftikhar Malik debating the challenges faced by Pakistani diaspora in Europe; ‘Karachi: City of Lights and Gangs’ with Laurent Gayer, Nichola Khan, Mohammed Hanif, Sobia Ahmad Kaker, Omar Shahid Hamid, and Kamran Asdar Ali talking about the battle for Karachi and its resilience despite political conflicts; and ‘Tweeting for Social Change: How Social Media is Influencing the Political Scene’ in which Huma Yusuf,  Umber Khairi, and Umair Javed discussed the impact of social media on Pakistan’s political scene.

KLF London

The highlight of the festival was the ‘Satrangi Mushaira’, which was an open mic session for Pakistan’s regional language poets to recite their latest offerings. Another session ‘In Their Own Words: Writers and Poets from Pakistan’, moderated by Muneeza Shamsie, featured poetry and prose readings by writers of Pakistani origin including Imtiaz Dharker, Aamer Hussein, and Zaffar Kunial. In ‘Partition Stories’ Nimra Bucha, Vayu Naidu, Shayma Saiyid, Amrit Kaur Lohia, and Sarah Ansari presented a medley of readings, film clips, recitals, dance and poetry about the Partition of India.

KLF London

The evening came to a close by a kathak dance performance by Shayma Saiyid and a music concert by Khumariyaan, a Peshawar-based music band known for their fusion brand of Pashtun folk music.

Sponsorship support to the KLF London was provided by Bestway, Arts Council England, Third World Quarterly magazine, Salt n Pepper restaurant, High Commission of Pakistan in London, South Asia Institute of the University of Texas at Austin, and The Pakistan Society.

Karachi Literature Festival 2017

Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) is the literature festival that provides the connection between the author and the reader. It is also a platform for art performers and cultural programs.

The festival starts with the welcome speeches by the organizers followed by the performance by  Asif Sinan.

In her keynote speech Ayesha Jalal  said that, “Pakistan needs to focus on gaining consumer rights before political rights.”

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Asif Sinan performing at KLF

Then there was an Award ceremony of KLF Pepsi and the winner of the prize for the non-fiction book of the year was “The Raj at War” by Yasmeen Khan. 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.

First day was concluded by a captivating ‘Kathak’ performance by Shayma Saiyid.

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Shayma Saiyid at KLF

This year there were 18 book launches at KLF but I really wanted to attend the launch event of Omar Shahid’s new book “The Party Worker” but unfortunately couldn’t reach the festival on day 2  cos I got sick.

So I went to the festival on day 3 and at the entry there was stall of Tapal Danedar where people were standing in queues to get Chai/Tea proves that how much we love Tea.

Tapal at KLF2017

First I attended ‘Celebrating Faiz’ where  Zehra Negah an Urdu poet  praised his work by saying  that, “He was an evergreen, extremely generous and down-to-earth man who was open to criticism.” Adeel Hashmi  concluded the session by reading  Faiz’s sublime poetry.

After that I had to the Book Fair, first stop was Liberty Books to buy my copy of ‘The Party Worker’.

The Party Worker

And I found the some great collection Marvel and DC Comics at the some book stall at the end of the Book Fair.

Comics at KhiLF

Last session of the day was ‘Memories and Reflections’ by  Zia Mohyeddin who needs no introduction. It was a treat for me to listen him reading  the paragraph from his book “The God Of My Idolatry”.

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Zia Mohyeddin at KLF

Then  there was closing speeches by Ameena Saiyid and Asif Farrukhi followed by Performences by Shayma Saiyid and Suhaee Abro and a concert by Saif Samejo.