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A symbol of reason and resilience

February 25, 2017


To mark the inauguration of the fifth edition of the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF), a dinner was hosted by Ms Aneela and Dr Salman Shah and Ms Saira and Iqbal Z Ahmed on Friday night. The event gathered a constellation of stars including writers, poets, artists, musicians, journalists, historians and academics from all over the globe.

The event began with a speech by Dr Peter Frankopan, a historian at Oxford University, and Director of the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research. His new book, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, was named The Telegraph’s History Book of the Year 2015 and will be available at the festival.

Sharing his thoughts about the LLF and Lahore, Peter said: “Well, Lahore is one of my favourite cities not just in Pakistan, but in the world. As a writer it’s a real honour and a privilege to not just be invited to come to your beautiful city, but also given a chance to give my interpretation of the past and the present day as well. I know it’s been a very difficult two, three weeks in the city, and it’s been a very difficult few years. I think I speak for all of the other delegates and people who come to talk at the festival, and just how important it is that outside voices come to Pakistan. I listen to you, I don’t expect people to agree with me, but at least hear what I say, and stimulate discussion.

“We as human beings are curious animals, and we flourish best when we listen and learn from each other. So, I’ve come here from Oxford for 24 hours, and it’s a real pleasure to be here in your beautiful city.”

While sharing his journey through the years of putting together an incredible event each year, especially this year, Mr Razi Ahmed, Founder of the LLF, said: “We’re extremely proud of the fact that we’ve come this far and this was a pure labour of love. We’ve seen how this evolved -- for every organiser to pull this together for the love of this city and to really stir the youth and the public at large to engage in a world of ideas, to read, to think more critically, and to look beyond our immediate confines and start looking at the wider worldview.”

Referring to the difficult situation in Pakistan for the past few weeks, he said: “We feel that this has to be continued, it has to be an act of resistance annually, whatever it takes to keep the institution alive and growing is extremely close to our hearts as organisers of the festival.”

Sarah N. Ahmed, another core member of the LLF organising team, said: “It’s such an amazing milestone for us because we feel that it was just yesterday when we were sitting and planning the first LLF and here we are five years later with a team of people who love and support us. The dinner commemorates all those great memories that we have…and we’re so thankful to the founders.”

While sharing his thoughts as an organiser and delegate for this year’s LLF, Mr Ahmed Rashid said: “You know, there have been political setbacks because of terrorism and other issues almost every year, but for five years we’ve always managed to put on the LLF. We’ve already invited foreign writers, and we have a very good contingent this year. Unfortunately, it has been reduced from three days to one day, which means that a lot of the topical discussions that could’ve been held on all sorts of things have been postponed. But I think that it’s very important that these kinds of events continue despite the threats that we all face.”

Among the most favourite delegates this year, Mr Michael Palin seemed equally excited. She told Dawn: “It’s nice to know that there are people out there who want to come and see me and are interested in my work so I know that I’ve got to deliver something exciting and interesting tomorrow - I hope I will.”

LLF 2017 will be held today at Faletti’s Hotel.

Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2017