Ameena Saiyid
Ameena Saiyid

KARACHI: A revised and expanded version of the book A fountain of knowledge on the life and work of the founder of the Karachi Literature Festival and managing director of Oxford University Press, Ameena Saiyid, was launched at a local hotel on Thursday.

Speakers expressed their views on Ms Saiyid’s personal and professional achievements. Former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan Dr Ishrat Hussain said he had come to the launch to pay tribute to an exceptional woman leader of the country. He praised her accomplishments in reviving people’s interest in reading books and making efforts to highlight the importance of intellectual property rights. He said she was a role model. In a country where the female literacy rate was very low, he said, she had achieved great feats. He said unless females were allowed to participate in every sphere of life, it would be hard for us to stand alongside the developed nations. He also mentioned the Karachi Literature Festival (which she organises every year), saying she went on with it despite the odds she had to face.

Amin Hashwani said Ms Saiyid was instrumental in reviving the culture of reading in the country and it happened because of her unwavering passion. Pointing out the importance of hard work, he said, she put in hours to achieve her goals. He said our society was faced with issues such as violence, gender disparity and power crisis because we had not evolved as a society. He said we needed to become a pluralistic society and for that to happen the culture of reading was very important.

Hum TV’s Sultana Siddiqui said Ms Saiyid was an intelligent woman who always had a smile on her face. She said it was no ordinary feat in our society to be a woman and earn a name for the hard work that you put in. She also acknowledged the role of her family in supporting Ms Saiyid’s pursuits.

Ms Saiyid’s daughter Shayma Saiyid gave a very touching account of her mother. She said in the 1970s when their family lived in Lahore and Shayma was barely five or six years old, Ms Saiyid used to take her by public transport to dance and singing classes (the latter were conducted by Chhote Ghulam Ali). She said not only that, she would take her anywhere she would go. She said it’s because of her mother that she had a passion for dance and music.

Sirajuddin Aziz said the book was filled with a sense of modesty. He, however, mentioned that sometimes it became difficult to distinguish whether it was a biography or an autobiography.

Retired Gen Moinuddin Haider said Ms Saiyid was a role model and a success story. He said the Karachi Literature Festival catered to people from every segment of society.

Ameena Saiyid thanked the organisers for the launch. She said the book was written 10 years back by Adil Ahmed and now her daughter Shayma had updated it.

The event was organised, and the book has been published, by the 21st Century Business and Economics Club. Anis Younus conducted the programme.

Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2016