Anwar Maqsood brings the curtain down on Urdu Conference

09 Dec 2019

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Anwar Maqsood delivers his deceptively simple ‘Dialogue with 
Ghalib’ at the concluding session of the Urdu Conference on Sunday.
—Shakil Adil/ White Star
Anwar Maqsood delivers his deceptively simple ‘Dialogue with Ghalib’ at the concluding session of the Urdu Conference on Sunday. —Shakil Adil/ White Star

KARACHI: The four-day 12th International Urdu Conference rose to its crescendo at the Arts Council here on Sunday with Anwar Maqsood doing the honours at the concluding session in front of a capacity audience that comprised the literati, the glitterati and people from across the city.

While keeping in line with the larger theme of the event — the 150th anniversary of the death of Ghalib — Maqsood was able to wave his magic wand to bring into fold a range of subjects. From Fehmida Riaz to Malik Riaz, from Misbahul Haq to Ziaul Haq, and from Asif Zardari to Imran Khan, nothing was left untouched. And, yet, the narrative had its focus on Ghalib. It was a worthy treat which ensured that everybody left the venue thrilled and satiated.

The final session, before Maqsood brought the curtain down, also entailed two other happenings of significance. There were lifetime achievement awards for eminent poet Iftikhar Arif, seasoned fictionist Asad Mohammad Khan and Sindhi writer and intellectual Amer Jalil. Besides there was a wide-ranging nine-point resolution adopted unanimously by the conference which called, among other things, for global peace and harmony, with a particular mention of the recent happenings in occupied Kashmir, and ease of travel within the region for writers and poets.

Iftikhar Arif, Asad Mohammad Khan and Amer Jalil get lifetime achievement awards

Earlier in the day, the plight of education and the travails of media — both social and mainstream, and both as the cause and the consequence of the various factors — kept a massive Sunday crowd involved and, at times, amused.

For instance, the session on education had a serious and sombre tone with intellectual after intellectual — Dr Pirzada Qasim, Ameena Saiyid, Ghazi Salahuddin and the rest — taking the discussion forward with their enlightened input. But the session ended on an off-the-cuff note which was as amusing as it was eye-opening.

Just when moderator Dr Jaffer Ahmed was wrapping it up by stressing the need for a sustained effort rather than one-off sessions on education, Arts Council President Ahmed Shah rushed onto the stage, grabbed the microphone — which is but a routine affair over the last 12 years — and disclosed that while every effort had been made to invite the federal education minister to the session, the latter “insisted on attending the session on Faiz Ahmed Faiz instead, saying he was not interested in a discussion on education”.

He announced an ‘Education conference’ to coincide with Pakistan Day on March 23, and hoped that the federal government will pay some attention to the event. “As far as the Sindh government is concerned, I can assure everyone that we are in touch with the right people there and things will start taking shape sooner rather than later,” he said.

Later in the day, a session on ‘Social media and Urdu’ also discussed education in a different light; digital literacy. Moderator Uzma Alkarim tried her best to provide an interface for Urdu within the discussion to justify the title and, probably, the session itself under the Urdu Conference, but it went nowhere.

Wusatullah Khan, with his characteristic deadpan half-liners — for they are always shorter than the routine one-liners — provided articulate perspective on the phenomenon. To their credit, Nadeem Farooq Piracha and Ovais Touheed, the other panellists, were not too far behind Wusat either.

The mainstream media came under discussion during a talk between journalists Sohail Warraich and Mubashir Zaidi, with the former stressing that the national media sometimes tends to give misplaced hype to its own travails. “We forget that Pakistan is not the first country with a media that has its issues. It happens everywhere,” he said rather unconvincingly.

Tailpiece: The session on humour in Urdu literature had first-rate readings and mimicry, but Shahzad Sharjeel, with the only original stuff in the session, won the day with his seriously politicised humour laced with cutting satire. He was no Anwar Maqsood, but that precisely underlined his originality.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2019