KARACHI: By taking ‘seed money’ from the Sindh government, Sindh Festival’s total budget will be around Rs250 million, said adviser to the chief minister on culture Sharmila Faruqi while unveiling the programmes that will be part of the project at a press conference on Tuesday.

Considering the scale of the project, Ms Faruqi said: “Apart from the budget that we already have, we are also looking for donors, both international and national. And though it’s just the first working day [after the announcement of the festival by PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari], we have already been flooded by calls and requests by people who want to fund the festival.”

She mentioned that the festival was a way to bring global recognition to the 130 heritage sites in Pakistan, especially a few of those that are in Sindh. For that reason, “The Sindh Festival will have its opening ceremony at Mohenjodaro, and the closing ceremony will be held at Keenjhar Lake, Thatta,” she added.

Race contests, Mushaira

Being a two-week event starting from Feb 1, the festival will incorporate various programmes. Starting off, there will be a cattle race. “Traditionally held in Jacobabad, we have decided to have cattle race as the first event, to kick off the celebrations,” Ms Faruqi explained.

Next up will be a grand mushaira in which poets from all over Pakistan are expected to take part. “The poetry is not exclusive to Sindhi and Urdu languages. So, all the poets are welcome to present their work.”

The third event at the festival will be what the PPP chairman referred as the ‘Desi Donkey Derby’. In this event, donkey cart owners will be invited from across the country, specifically Karachi, where donkey race used to be a Thursday night activity.

Calling it her favourite part of the festival, Ms Faruqi said that at the deep sea fishing tournament, “those who catch a bigger fish will be awarded a big prize too.”

Sufi nights, music

Bringing people from all the sects and religions together, Sufi nights will be organised to promote the “peaceful nature of Sindh and its people.”

Also a Sindh Music Mela will be held in Larkana, Badin, Shaheed Benazirabad and Sukkur. On the same lines, but on a bigger platform, Voice of Pakistan is another event in the pipeline. “A bus with the logo of Voice of Pakistan will travel from Karachi to Kashmir, looking for the best possible voices that we have in our country,” the adviser added.

Valentine’s Day has been chosen as the night for Ghazal by the organisers, as Ms Faruqi said: “The main purpose of this event is to promote peace and love, and what better a day than Valentine’s to promote love.”

Films & sports

Also, there will be an inaugural of a film festival that will have short films, documentaries, arrays of master classes, Q&A with the directors and special screenings. The best film, in the short film category, will be screened at the festival, with the winner getting a cash prize.

Cricket championship will see cricketer Wasim Akram looking for the best spinners and batsmen for the first 15 days of the festival, in which schools and colleges will be asked to participate, with the best among them winning a prize of Rs1 million.

Cuisine

Separate booths will be kept for a food enclave, which will have traditional cuisine from across Pakistan or specifically from Sindh as it will depend on people to put up stalls of their favourite food. The stalls will be given for free and it will be a chance for the people to promote themselves. Similarly another free stall will be given to craftsmen to showcase their work.

Literature

The Sindh festival will conclude with a literature festival to be organised in Karachi in collaboration with the Arts Council, followed by a festival for children and ‘Basant on the Beach’.

“For these two weeks, we want people to forget everything and just enjoy themselves. Also, we have to give each and every rupee being spent on the festival back to the Sindh government,” Ms Faruqi added.

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