Adab Festival Pakistan concluded on Sunday with a memorable note from its founder director Ameena Saiyid that to her the event was tantamount to a movement to spread peace and harmony through expression through books, dialogue, debate, art, music, storytelling and dance and through watching, listening, and asking questions. Thousands of literature lovers thronged the venue on the third and last day of AdabFest. Avid readers, writers, academics, and literary figures from across Pakistan and the world were seen at the festival, which began on Friday at the Sindh Governor House, Karachi. It featured writers, poets, showbiz figurers and journalists as well.
Ameena Saiyid OBE, SI, Chevalier des Ordres des Arts et des Letters, founder and director Adab Festival Pakistan said that the seed and idea of literature festivals caught on and spread like wildfire where it seems that a fuel of parched trees was waiting for it. Speaking at the closing ceremony she said AdabFest was a unique event.
The co-founder/director Asif Farrukhi said that the 3 days of the event were full of magical atmosphere with discussions, book launches, theatres, dramatic readings, music and through all this a wonderful answer was given to all those who were against the magnificent backdrop of this monumental location. He said this was made possible by the efforts of a very small team. He apologised for all the shortcomings. He said real triumph is the way we managed to do anything at all against all odds as it took us a very painful route to reach here. He felt guided by the courageous example of Fahmida Riaz. He also acknowledged Krishna Sobti who was born in what is now called Pakistan and is connected to us through her knowledge and historical vision. He also acknowledged Altaf Fatima and ended quoting Khalida Hussain's words that 'writing represents the love of life.'
CEO Getz Pharma, lead sponsor of AdabFest, Khalid Mehmood, in his concluding speech said "Getz Pharma from its inception in 1995 has always played its role to support literature and preserving our cultural heritage as envisioned by our founding fathers for a peaceful and progressive country." He said that their support as lead sponsor of the Adab Festival was part of the larger mission of encouraging tolerance, dialogue and nation-building without which neither the industry and the economy nor other institutions can sustain and prosper.
The third-day began with the session 'Ushering in a new area of youth activism: Hope or despair?' with Faisal Siddiqi, Jibran Nasir, Alia Amirali and moderator Palvasha Shahab. The said panel engaged a diverse spectrum of activists and their perspectives on the opportunities for activism that can be seized or created in moments of rupture and/or system breakdowns. The panel discussed the unique sets of possibilities and opportunities that can be teased out in the Pakistani context. They said Pakistan operates under a certain degree of anarchy and a continuing lack of access to justice. Given this, it was discussed as to how can we engage in effective activism to address this, when can moments of breakdown be harnessed to our advantage? What are the strategies that can be employed to raise our voices, to keep hope alive, and to emerge victorious despite the discouraging circumstances? Where can the nexus between judicial activism, advocacy and social political activism be exploited to empower the marginalised? Why is it important to bring the marginalised into the fold of rule of law?
In the session 'Pakistan in the second globalisation (We missed out on the Western-led post-1980 wave: Can we catch the bus on the second, China led one?) the speakers Mushtaq Khan, Asad Sayeed, Ehsan Malik, Saquib Shirazi engaged in a thought-provoking discussion with the moderator Salim Raza.
Later, a dramatic presentation on P.G. Wodhouse by Richard Heller was given which was moderated by Lynette Viccaji. Parallel book launch sessions were held where Hani Baloch's 'Zind ak aadink' (the mirror of life) was discussed by Sheema Kermani and Amar Sindhu with the author. Aleeya Khan's 'House' was discussed by moderator Basit Usman with the author.
At the session 'Education Emergency: 22.6 million children out of school: Expanding partnerships or shrinking space for private sector' panel discussed that as per government statistics, 22.6 million children are out of school. According to recent surveys, children in school are not learning well. How do we address the challenges of access, equity, quality and governance? On one hand we have the successful launch of the government-financed Education Management Organisations (EMOs) in Sindh through the PPP mode, seeking support of private sector to manage new and old government schools and teacher-training facilities. On the other there has been rising judicial activism to protect families from private sector's school fee increases.
'The New Deal 2018-2023' speaks about a robust yet flexible framework to streamline efforts of private actors to ensure value for money in teaching quality, recruitment, infrastructure, school management, etc. What is the score so far in Naya Pakistan in its very early days? Is there a trend towards expansion of partnerships or shrinking space for the private sector? Speakers Zobaida Jalal, Shahid Siddiqui, Shehzad Roy, Salma Alam, Faisal Mushtaq, Ameena Saiyid discussed all these burning issues with moderator Baela Raza Jamil.
At 'A conversation with Ahmed Rashid' speakers Zahid Husain and Fatemeh Aman had an interesting discussion. At another parallel session 'Dilli jo ek sheher thha,' Asif Farrukhi talked with Zehra Nigah and Saif Mahmood (author of Beloved Delhi) about Mughal Delhi, its culture and its great Urdu poets from Sauda and Mir to Ghalib and Daagh.
A 30-minute talk on "Life in Karachi during Ayub Khan's rule," was held by Lieutenant Colonel Ian Vaughan-Arbuckle, followed by conversation with Ghazi Salahuddin and Sher Shah Syed.
At the book launch of Syed Kashif Raza's 'Chaar Darwesh Aur Ek Kachwa' Mohammad Hanif had an interesting discussion with the author; at the book launch of Kishwar Naheed's 'Shirin Sukhani say Paray,' Zahida Hina and Ajmal Siraj had a discussion with the author. At the book launch of Maheen Usmani's 'The mercurial Mr. Bhutto and other stories,' Shafaat Ali had an interesting discussion with the author. 'Making music in Karachi: A talk by Sharif Awan' was moderated by Rafay Mehmood.
At the launch of Urdu translation of Alys Faiz's memories 'Kab yaad main tera saath nahin,' speakers Nayyer Rubab, Zehra Nigah along with Sania Saeed viewed a short film on Alys Faiz with the moderator Moneeza Hashmi. At the book launch of Farooq Bajwa's 'From Kutch to Tashkent: The Indo-Pakistan War of 1965,' speakers Syed Javed Husain, Nauman Naqvi had an intriguing chat with the author along with the moderator Omayr Aziz Saiyid. At the launch of Aysha Khan's book 'The women's movement in Pakistan: Activism, Islam & Democracy," speakers Anis Haroon, Amar Sindhu, Uzma Noorani, Sultana Siddiqui discussed the book's details with the author while moderator was Kausar Saeed Khan.
Speakers Suleman Shahid, Inam Nadeem, Zahid Hassan, Imdad Husaini along with the moderator Gwen Kirk discussed that although mother-tongue of the most of Pakistanis is not Urdu, too few institutions teach Balochi, Pashto, Punjabi, Sindhi, etc, as second languages. They were discussing.
'What about the rest? Challenges and Strategies in National League pedagogy.'
The rare institutions that are developing programs to teach these languages face not only academic and infrastructural but also ideological challenges questioning the value of teaching these languages and the skills required teaching them.
Teaching diverse Pakistani languages as second languages can contribute to a more just and interconnected society. How can teachers develop material to serve both heritage and non-heritage students? How can digital technologies help?
At the book launch of Mohammad Hanif's 'Red Birds' Madeeha Syed and Saira Shah Halim discussed the details of the book with the author. Similarly, at the book launch of Iftikhar Salahuddin's 'If stones could speak. Echoes from the past," Javed Jabbar had an interesting interaction with the author. Zehra Nigah presided over the session. At the session Urdu edition of Peter Oborne's "Wounded Tiger: A History of Cricket in Pakistan," Richard Heller, Najum Latif, Qamar Ahmed discussed cricket related information with the author. Dr Saad Shafqat moderated the session.
In the session 'Stefan Weidner,' it was discussed how the Islamic tradition can help us to deal with exile, alienation, origins and recent developments in German public discourse. This included a lecture by the German writer, intellectual, translator (from Arabic) and former editor of the cultural magazine Fikrun wa Fann. Kamran Asdar Ali moderated the session.
In the much-awaited session 'Transformation and Resistance: The challenging art landscape in Pakistan,' Salima Hashmi, Mohammad Zeeshan, Adeela Suleman with moderator Rabeya Jalil discussed the diversity and depth of art-making in Pakistan evident in Karachi and Lahore biennales.
Asif Iqbal and Naeem-uz-Zafar and moderator Yasmeen Kazi were seen on the stage at 'Pakistan's population prerogative: A talk by Mehtab Karim.' They discussed the 2017 census results saying that indicated during the past 20 years, Pakistan's population has been growing at the rate of 2.4 percent per annum and in 2018 it has exceeded 213 million.
The 2017-18 Pakistan Demographic and Health surveys results have been equally alarming, indicating that fertility rate in Pakistan has remained much higher than other South Asian countries. The rapid population growth rate in Pakistan has resulted in poor health indictors particularly of women and children; increasing number of illiterates; keeping poverty level high and rapid urban growth. The session discussed the results of the 2017 census and the resultant social and economic consequences.