(Clockwise from top) Artists perform in Saadat Hasan Manto’s play Aao Drama Karain, historian and author Victoria Schofield speaks at a session while visitors look at an art piece during an exhibition held on the last day of the Islamabad Literature Festival on Sunday. — White Star & Online.
(Clockwise from top) Artists perform in Saadat Hasan Manto’s play Aao Drama Karain, historian and author Victoria Schofield speaks at a session while visitors look at an art piece during an exhibition held on the last day of the Islamabad Literature Festival on Sunday. — White Star & Online.

ISLAMABAD: The ninth Islamabad Literature Festival came to a close at the Gandhara Citizen Club after more than 50 sessions and 150 speakers, covering topics in education, literature, economy and political affairs.

The keynote speakers on Sunday were Anwar Masood and Senator Sherry Rehman while Ustad Hamid Ali Khan enthralled the audience with classical ghazals.

Throughout the three-day festival, attendees had the opportunity to meet and interact with prolific authors, discover new voices in the literary world and engage in thought-provoking discussions on a wide range of topics.

‘In Securing Pakistan’s Interest: Navigating Foreign Affairs and Security Policy’, Huma Baqai and Ikram Sehgal discussed whether the security and foreign policies were truly separable.

Ikram Sehgal said: “Geo-economics, geo-politics are all interlinked and must be taken as such but at the end of the day what prevails is the interest of the country in question.”

The session ‘Human Rights: Is there a meaning left?’ started with a minute of silence for Palestine.

Farzana Bari, human rights activist and professor, said: “The discourse of human rights that we all subscribe to is situated in an unequal world, which is based on and perpetuating exploitation. The discourse of human rights is like a smoke screen in this context.”

“When we talk about human rights we apply the same standards universally so the discourse is valid as it speaks of ensuring humanity, dignity and freedom but I believe the institutions and movements that exist to ensure the implementation of these human rights are failures,” she said.

The session on Farrukhyar’s Ishqnama: Shah Hussain, moderated by Sultan Nasir, brought together the author, Kishwar Naheed, Sharif Awan and Arshad Mahmood Nashaad.

Kishwar Naheed recalled the time when the Mela Chiraghaan was celebrated in the Shalimar Gardens in Lahore.

“People would ride their horses into the Gardens and light diyas there. They would come after they harvested their crops and then celebrated. Under Ziaul Haq, the mela was moved from the Shalimar Gardens to Shah Hussain’s shrine,” Ms Naheed said.

Farrukhyar said: “My work has been to reach the port through his poetry and to bring forward that aspect of his existence.”

The session, ‘In a Columnist’s Voice: A Conversation about a Life Lived with Passion - Irfan Husain’ brought Victoria Schofield, Agha Imran Hamid and Khawar Mumtaz together to speak about the columnist and the selection of his columns from three decades of work.

Victoria Schofield said: “Irfan was a great friend and I actually called him a renaissane man because he had such wide ranging interests. Of course, it is difficult to have a book of columns that you’ve written because it might not come off but Irfan was an exceptional writer, he was quite pithy and got to the point so they were good columns to read.”

One of the reasons the book was successful is because the editors have selected and organised the columns thematically and provide insights into the evolution of Pakistan.

The session ‘Curriculum, Textbook, High Stakes Assessments- A Way Forward’ moderated by Faisal Bari led to an insightful discussion on different aspects that impact the education sector of Pakistan and touched upon the merits and demerits of Single National Curriculum.

Moneeza Hashmi took a trip down memory lane in the session, ‘Conversations with my Father: Forty Years on- a Daughter Responds’, which was moderated by Aisah Sarwari.

Senator Rehman emphasised the importance of a sustainable planet, saying, “The planet is under stress, and we need to look at possibilities. We are not responsible for the melting glaciers, heatwaves, or monsoons but this does not translate to a total abjection of responsibility at our homes. No army of consultants will be able to formulate policies or develop projects for us and governments alone can also not do this. Climate successes are collaborations, and we all need to play our part in doing so.”

Anwar Masood highlighted the importance of literature for a civilised society and a brighter future. He praised poets like Iqbal and said, “In times of unpredictability, poetry has long been a source of solace for individuals. With arts and literature, we can discover a glimmer of hope and unearth significance in the ordinary moments of everyday life.”

Also on display was an exhibition from the Beaconhouse National University Mariam Dawood School of Visual Arts and Design curated by Quddus Mirza and co-curated by Ammar Faiz featuring the works of Abida Dahri, Aneel Waghela, Ayaz Jhokio, Ayeshah Shariq, Brishna Amin Khan, Faheem Abbas, Fatima Hussain, Mahbub Khokio, Sameen Agha, Sara Aslam, Ujala Hayat and Zuha Farooq.

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2023

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