KARACHI: At the closing ceremony of the Karachi Literature Festival 2019 on Sunday evening, a range of ideas and suggestions were put forth for the state of Pakistan to adopt for a brighter and more inclusive future.

Economist Dr Ishrat Hussain spoke about the economic upheavals the country has been facing and the reason why Pakistan has approached the IMF repeatedly over years.

“An economy that is doing well has all the indicators under control, provides good living conditions for all, invests in education, health and infrastructure; only then does it not need help from external sources,” he said.

Countries such as India faced a crisis in 1991-2 and they approached the IMF but after that they did not go back because strict policies were put in place to sustain the economy and allow it to thrive, he explained.

“The electric distribution companies of Pakistan have accumulated almost Rs1.4 trillion of arrears which have to be paid. This means the government has to find money through additional taxes, levies and fees on the ordinary consumer in order to recover this money or has to run a very high deficit for which it has to borrow money in order to meet these requirements.

“Pakistan Steel Mill is another such example. For the past so many years we are paying the salaries and allowances for employees from the budget without producing one single tonne of steel. And we have to instead import steel,” he said.

What is the message then, he questioned?

“Public sector corporations should be run like businesses and headed by people on merit, who have integrity and are held accountable for their results. We have to completely purge our institutes of governance from incompetent and dishonest people.”

I A Rehman spoke about the importance of holding literary festivals such as the KLF, and that the country can never have enough of such literary events where different languages, outlooks, and religions are represented.

“I would be extremely worried if the scope of difference of opinion to be expressed is curtailed completely in Pakistan,” he said.

He also spoke about the need to cultivate reading habits in the country. “It is very important to make books accessible for all segments of society; those states that do not have a reading culture and have very limited libraries forget about the past and what they stand for very easily.”

He also expressed concern about the looming clouds of war over the country. “We need to stop a war from happening, and if it does happen to bring an end to it is the responsibility of each of us.”

Writer Deborah Baker shared her experiences as a writer and how two books in particular changed her life. One of the books was Abdullah Hussain’s Udaas Naslein which she read in translation and was inspired greatly by it.

Oxford University Press managing director Arshad Saeed Husain spoke about the new era the KLF had stepped into which will focus on the future generations.

“The KLF is a unique that does not leave one unaffected and can change us. We have looked at the way things are changing, whether it is in the field of fiction, poetry, prose, music, the performing arts, the fine arts, education, publishing, the media, the economy, our cultural tapestry, the various languages in Pakistan and our lives.”

The 10th KLF has explored developing trends and frontiers and will continue to do so, he added.

Mairajuddin Ahmed representing the sponsor JS Bank, expressed his delight at being part of an organisation that is a great supporter of the art and literature in the country.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2019

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