KARACHI, March 23: With family or friends in toe, Karachiites turned up at the National Stadium in droves on Wednesday night to listen to the 40-odd poets from home and abroad who took part in the Aalmi Mushaira being held there.

The mushaira began at 11pm, that is an hour late, but ended on time — at the crack of dawn. The poets who had come over from India to present their verses were Waseem Barelvi, Tahir Faraz, Saghar Khyami, Shyama Singh Saba, Madan Mohan Danish and Muzaffar Razmi. The veteran poet Bekal Utsahi was also supposed to come but could not.

The well-known Pakistani poets who were there included Raghib Murababadi, Enayat Ali Khan, Anjum Shadani and Amirul Islam Hashmi. Some poets from the US, the UK and the Middle East also graced the occasion.

Generally, the poets who recited humorous verses were received well. The Indian poets who made an impression were Tahir Faraz, Saghar Kyami and Waseem Barelvi. Tahir Faraz, who was attending a mushaira in Pakistan for the first time, proved to be a revelation as he repeatedly received loud applause. Saghir Khyami, besides presenting his usual humorous verses, presented some satirical ones that took to task the United States for its policies towards, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran. The issue of the blasphemous cartoons also featured in his verses, as it did in Enayat Ali Khan’s.

Prof Enayat Ali Khan was given the microphone in a difficult situation, with the poet preceding him being hooted out by a section of the audience. But the veteran poet acquitted himself well under the circumstances. His verses, which discussed politics as well as social and religious issues, were generally received well. Even the unruly parts of the audience patiently listened to what he had to say.

One, however, felt that too many poets had been asked to present their work at the mushaira. This made matters difficult for the organizers towards the end of the event, when they tried to cram in too many of them in the limited time available before Fajr.

A source told Dawn that the organizers — Sakinaan-i-Shehr-i-Quaid, who have been holding Aalmi Mushairas since 1989 —- wanted only about 30 poets to participant in the event. But at the last minute they had to allow eight to 10 of the lesser-known poets in view of the machinations by some sympathisers of a Karachi-based political party.

Azhar Abbas Hashmi, the chief convener of the event, told Dawn that Wednesday’s mushaira would be remembered as the one at which a poet was not allowed to recite verses.

“Something like this hadn’t happened before. In the past we have seen some poets booed and criticized by the audience. But this was the first time in 16 years that a poet was simplynot allowed to present his verses.”

He added that Bekal Utsahi had been granted a visa to attend the literary event, but couldn’t make it because he was indisposed. “And Kishwar Naheed and Jamiluddin Aali could not participate due to changes in their plans at the eleventh hour.”

Nadeem Hashmi, a member of the organizing committee, said after every mushaira the Saakinan-i-Shehr-i-Quaid reviewed their performance. “We will also review our performance during Wednesday’s mushaira. And I can assure you that we will try to do away with the glitches next time.”

Meanwhile, Governor Ishratul Ibad Khan, who presided over the event, handed over a cheque for Rs500,000 to the organizers. In his brief speech, he said the provincial government wanted to create an environment in which arts and literature flourished.

He said events like the Aalmi Mushaira provided the peoples of Pakistan and India with a platform to exchange feelings of goodwill and friendship. “This is a vehicle which doesn’t just allow our poets to serve the cause of Urdu but also allows the masses to voice their feelings of love and brotherhood.”

The governor later recited a couple of his own verses. The mushaira was conducted by Rizwan Siddiqui and Faisal Sabzwari.

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