First Islamabad Literature Festival: City gleams with Intellectual Energy

Day one of the Islamabad Literature Festival (ILF) was an eventful day that brought numerous writers and readers together to celebrate literature in all its delightful forms. Though a literary fest in reality, but there was something for all ages, including book fair and book launches, discussions, readings, poetry recitals, theater etcetra.lit fest

Capital city seemed to gleam with intellectual energy as First Islamabad Literary Festival, on Tuesday, gathered and celebrated authors writing in diverse languages, genres and traditions. Organized by Oxford University Press (OUP), the two-day festival will see 70 speakers and around 35 sessions at Margala Hotel in Islamabad.

Instilling a love for reading among Pakistanis was the basic idea behind the literary festival, said Ameena Saiyid, OUP Managing Director. Instead of a common system or syllabus, what we need is “teacher training, improving curriculum and providing children better quality books to encourage the reading habit” she said. Asif Farrukhi, co-founder of the literary festival, said that literature remains the medium to express the society’s feelings and status.

Speaking at the opening day of the literary fest, European Union Ambassador, Lars-Gunnar Wigemark said that there should be more of such festivals in Pakistan as it expresses the country’s diversity and ability to have discourse on different issues.

In the session on Pakistani English Poetry, Ilona Yusuf, Athar Tahir, Harris Khalique and Muneeza Shamsie were of the view that English poetry is well and alive in Pakistan and has considerable number of audiences. In a thought-provoking session on his book ‘Pakistan on the brink’, Ahmed Rashid said that he still feels that Pakistan can be salvaged if our foreign and national security policies are changed diametrically.

Ahmed Rashid and Ilona Yousaf
Ahmed Rashid and Ilona Yousaf

Amjad Shahzad, Zubair Hasrat, Arif Tabassum, Muhib Wazir discussed “New Voices in Pushto Poetry” while in “Shah Hussain and Sufi Classical Poetry in Punjabi”, Harris Khalique had an interesting discussion with Sarwat Mohiuddin. On the sensitive issue of “Politics of Child Labour”, Samar Minallah Khan, Anees Jillani, Taimur Rahman with Baela Jamil raised critical issues regarding child labour and under-aged servants.

While addressing another houseful session on electronic media and the ban of Youtube, youth icons like Osman Khalid Butt and Ali Aftab Saeed explained how the ban on Youtube has negatively affected and deprived everyone from a power house and the cheapest tool to reach out to the world.

Kamila Shamsie, winner of Granta magazine best of young writers’ award, said that in Pakistan it is taught that history is confluence of religion; actually history is confluence of geography. “We deny our thousands of years of historical background in Pakistan”, she regretted.

Beo Zafar in Tanz-o-Mizah had the audience in stitches while mimicking the various cultural, social and ethnic diversities. Other interesting sessions included “Conversation with Intizar Husain and presentation of special Man Booker International Prize issue of Duniyazad” and “Kalam e Shair ba Zuban e Shair: In Conversation with Amjad Islam Amjad and Izharul Haq”; Abdullah Hussain & Ahmed Shah captivated the audience in their readings and conversations; Muneeza Shamsie with Ahmed Rashid elaborated on “Pakistani English Novels in the New Millennium”.

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