ISLAMABAD: Over 100 literary figures boycotted the inaugural ceremony of an international writers’ conference after waiting for security clearance for over two hours outside the Prime Minister Secretariat on Thursday.
About 400 literary figures were to attend the two-day conference “Literature and democracy” organised by the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL).
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was to inaugurate the conference at the National Library at 10:30am. However, when the participants reached the venue they were informed that for security reasons the inaugural ceremony would be held inside the PM Secretariat.
Around 11am, when the literary personalities reached outside the auditorium of the PM Secretariat, they were asked to stand in a queue for security clearance. The security clearance process was so slow that many participants, particularly those in their 60s or 70s, became exhausted. The security personnel were allowing two people into the hall after about five minutes.
Farooq Sarwar, who had come from Quetta, said he could not bear the agonising situation and decided to boycott the ceremony. Pashto poets left in anger because it was too humiliating, he said.
Unable to stand on the queue, some of the literary personalities were seen sitting on the grass near the parking area.
Poet Qayyum Merawat said he could not tolerate such a humiliation and decided to boycott the ceremony. Khalil Babar, Naseebullah Semab, Adeel Wazir, Ali Akbar Natiq and others also left without attending the event.
Dr Thang, a Chinese professor, reportedly requested the security officials to allow him in but to no avail. Renowned poet Amjad Islam Amjad said the mismanagement showed how our government worked. Politicians have no respect for literary persons, he complained while talking to Dawn outside the venue.
“In 1992, a delegation of Pakistani literary personalities, including me, went to China. At that time, Dr Thang, who is a professor at the Beijing University, was our interpreter. Wherever we went we got great respect from the Chinese politicians and literary personalities. The attitude of our security officials with Dr Thang is unfortunate,” he said.Amjad Islam added: “I am standing in the queue for over one-and-a-half hours and still there is long way to go. This is not the way to deal with literary personalities,” he said.
Columnist and poet Ataul Haq Qasmi said luckily he was allowed to enter the PM Secretariat gate in his car so he would be sitting in the vehicle for two hours before being allowed entry into the conference hall.
“Although I am in favour of democracy, most of the things on the credit of the government are negative,” he said.
About the situation, he said: “Ham tamasha ahl-i-karam dekh rahay hain.”
Saadullah Shah, a poet and author of 35 books, said literary personalities were not eager to meet the prime minister. “In fact, most of us do not want to meet him but still we have been brought to the PM Secretariat. The government officials are humiliating us,” he said.
Columnist and poet Dr Ajmal Niazi said though the country was founded for the poor, corrupt, incompetent and fake degree holders are ruling us. They have no respect for literary persons.”
Ali Yasir, the media coordinator for PAL, said due to security reasons the inaugural ceremony was shifted to the PM Secretariat and security officials did all that.
Chaudhry Maqbool, the media coordinator for the Press Information Department (PID), said he was helpless and could do nothing.
At around 1:30pm, Prime Minister Ashraf came to the auditorium and told the participants that Pakistan was in a state of war and only the vision of its writers and intellectuals can help the country cope with the challenges.
He announced Rs30 million for the construction of an auditorium at PAL, increased the amount of “Kamal-i-Fun” award from Rs0.5 million to Rs1 million. He also raised the stipend for literary persons from Rs5,000 to Rs7,000.