KARACHI: The fourth Sindh Literature Festival (SLF) began at the Arts Council of Pakistan Karachi with some thought-provoking speeches highlighting the rich culture and traditions of Sindh on Friday evening.
Before formal proceedings started, a delightful performance by the shehnai player Ustad Abdullah Khan entertained the audience. He was followed by Ali Mohammad Ronjho, who played the chang. Then Ustad Zulfiqar Ali played multiple instruments to set a melodious tone for the things to come.
One of the three principal organisers of the event, Naseer Gopang, was the first speaker of the evening. He talked about the gist of the programme, which is to seek peace in the world.
Writer Noorul Huda Shah lauded the youngsters’ effort in arranging the event, saying we should be proud of them. She also mentioned that the festival came into being in response to another similar event.
PPP’s govt termed pro-culture dispensation
President of the Arts Council Ahmed Shah said SLF’s sun has now risen at the council. But, he pointed out it wasn’t for the first time that has happened. In 1975 Zulfikar Ali Bhutto held a programme called ‘Sindh through the Centuries’ at the same venue. For the late prime minister, the council was the centre of culture. The founder of the PPP was also responsible for setting up institutions such as the PNCA, Alhamra Arts Council Lahore, the National Book Foundation and the Academy of Letters.
‘Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi and Pashto should be declared national languages’
He remarked that even today the Pakistan Peoples Party-led provincial government is a “pro-culture dispensation”.
Mehtab Akbar Rashdi said the SLF was everybody’s institution. Carrying on with the political argument made by an earlier speaker she commented, “Give love, take love.”
Renowned writer from Balochistan Dr Shah Mohammad Mari was the keynote speaker at the inaugural session.
He said Shah Latif Bhitai was not just a poet of Sindh and represented its culture; he was also a buzurg and leader of the Baloch. In his poetry he called the Baloch the ideal human. Shah Latif also compiled a list of points of what constituted the ideal human. The point at the top of that list was respect for Sassui.
Dr Mari said man was the only creature who didn’t communicate with horns, paws or claws. Man (insaan) speaks, sings and plays music, which is why he lives in groups and establishes societies. And which is why he comes up with festivals and carnivals such as SLF.
Poet Imdad Husaini said Pakistan is a multilingual society. All languages (Sindhi, Punjabi, Balochi, Pashto, etc) should be declared national languages. They are not a danger to Urdu or the Urdu language poses any threat to them. Even English should be accepted because writers of the world are our writers, he added.
Dr Syed Jaffar Ahmed said SLF was important on two counts. One, it helps us understand the history of Sindh. Two, it enables us to celebrate the region’s achievements in the arts. After saying that, he read a detailed paper, which raised some questions about the cultural growth of the region.
‘Cultural activism taking place in Sindh’
Sindh Culture Minister Syed Sardar Shah was the final speaker of the opening session.
He started off by congratulating the young organisers of the festival arguing that it’s not easy to be consistent in one’s endeavours.
Referring to the queries that Dr Ahmed had raised in his paper, he said a small answer to one of his questions was SLF. “For the last eight to nine years, cultural activism has been taking place in Sindh.”
Coming back to Dr Ahmed’s concerns, he argued that only the state can provide some of the answers to his questions, not society. To back up his statement, he said the bill of accepting four languages as national languages was moving around in the National Assembly and Senate. “India has declared 26 languages as national languages, why can’t Pakistan do the same with four,” he asked.
With respect to Urdu, he said, “We love Urdu but a similar sentiment should also come from the other corner.”
Zohaib Kaka delivered the vote of thanks. Najia Mir and Sajjad conducted the opening session.
The festival will conclude on Sunday.
Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2021