ISLAMABAD: We want the Pakistan of the 1960s, said former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani at an event by the Parveen Shakir Trust titled Yaadein on Saturday, during which he was also given the Parveen Shakir Best Fiction Award 2017 for his book Invisible People.
Before calling Mr Rabbani on stage for receiving the award, the stage secretary read a verse by Habib Jalib, which is also included in Invisible People and which translates: “And then all of them forgot to pen the words of truth, I am the only one writing about rebellion”.
Talking to the audience- which included poets, activists and parliamentarians- Mr Rabbani said: “I miss the Pakistan of the 1960s, when we had a tolerant and progressive Pakistan. In our universities, we discussed ideas, debated issues and talked about ideologies. But we have Kalashnikov culture now. The sharing of ideas has been replaced by extremism and intolerance.”
The state has eliminated the power of thinking, knowledge and awareness in Pakistan,” he said.
“As I recall, the crackdown on progressive ideas was during the Zia era when the coffee and tea houses that used to be places to share ideas were closed down. The state wants its citizens not to think and submit to what it says. I want my progressive and tolerant Pakistan back and I request the state to give it back to me,” he said.
Parveen Shakir Trust Chairperson Parveen Qadir Agha paid tribute to memories of the country’s poets.
“Creative people live on in [the works they create]. However, the culture has to be able to preserve and promote their memories,” she said.
Jia Shah was awarded the Parveen Shakir Trust Members’ Choice Award and Saeed Shariq was given the Khusboo Award.
The event concluded with recitation of poetry by Elie Wiesel.
“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilisation, no society, no future.”
Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2018
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