Islamabad Literature Festival 2023 Day 2: The momentum continues for Literature, Art, and Culture

Saturday, November 4, 2023, Islamabad: The 9th Islamabad Literature Festival, organized by Oxford University Press continued its second day. With a focus on sustainability, diversity, and the potential of human imagination, this literary extravaganza continued to inspire and enlighten attendees who arrived in scores from all over.

The day featured panel discussions, namely Verses in Play: Celebrating Tradition through Urdu Poetry; Pakistan’s Wars: An Alternative History; Destined to Fail Democracy and State Building Experiment in Post Taliban Afghanistan; and Other Days by Arshad Waheed.

Moderated by Yaqoob Bangash, the session saw Rahman present his main findings of his work tracing the history of wars in Pakistan, followed by a discussion on the economic implications of such events. Moeed Yusuf, while commenting on the cost of wars which is not just fiscal said, “The cost of war is that no one who has been born after 1995 has seen a peaceful day in their lives. These people are our future, and they will be weighed down by this trauma tomorrow when they come forward.”

Engaging conversations were held around some thought-provoking and extremely diverse themes including: The Dark Side of Journalism-Culture and Political Economy of Global Media in Pakistan and Afghanistan; Mahmil o Jaras: Collection of Unpublished Poems by Josh Malihabadi; Pakistani Prose and Verse Exploring Contemporary English Literature; Qaidi by Omar Shahid Hamid translated from English by Inaam Nadeem; Grieving for Pigeons Twelve Stories of Lahore by Zubair Ahmad; Shaping the Future of Learning; Ink and Empowerment: Women in Publishing; Lahore’s Lost Legacy Unveiling the Life and Contributions of Sir Ganga Ram; The Other In The Mirror: Stories from India and Pakistan edited by Sehyr Mirza; Hans Kar Jeeyo; The Lost Heritage and Dandelion Blooms: The Evolution of Islamabad.

The insightful session, The Dark Side of Journalism-Culture and Political Economy of Global Media in Pakistan and Afghanistan, moderated by Fasi Zaka highlighted the role of stringers and fixers in the last few decades in KP region. Syed Irfan Ashraf spoke about the impediments faced by Pashtun journalists while Afrasiab Khattak shed light about the importance of KP region as a periphery within a periphery. Hamid Mir also acknowledged the various issues and lamented about the coverage of many events in the post 9/11 era where the fixers risked their lives for foreign media outlets.

Moderated by Mina Malik, Ink and Empowerment: Women in Publishing, raised various issues about the journey of women publishers. Both Muneeza Shamsie and Mehvash Amin narrated their experiences about getting published, getting the work distributed as well as the role of libraries in promoting local writers.

Different panels of diverse speakers came together to discuss the power of literature in representing and celebrating a wide range of voices and perspectives. Democracy, Bureaucracy, and Judiciary: Going Beyond the Colonial Entanglement, AI in Education: Empowering Minds, Development Pathways: India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh at 75 by Ishrat Husain, Fair Assessments: Ensuring Equity and Excellence in Education, Urdu Fiction ka Irtiqa and Investing in Human Capital: Tackling Underdevelopment in Pakistan were the featured dialogues at Islamabad Literature Festival 2023.

Moderated by Khayyam Mushir, the discussion titled Democracy, Bureaucracy, and Judiciary delved into different aspects especially tenets of good governance which are missing in the bureaucracy today. Speakers Hamid Khan, Fauzia M. Sana and Zahid Hussain shared their perspectives about measures which can address these issues by referring to the sociopolitical scenario in the country.

Moderating the session, AI in Education, Saquib Ahmad, Managing Director SAP Pakistan, said that earlier the entire focus used to be on getting the right answers but in today’s fast paced world, it is all about asking the right questions to extract the correct answers. Shahid Mahmud shared that while there is reluctance towards AI, it has been around since late 1950s; it’s only the pace which has now picked up immensely.

In the session Fair Assessments: Ensuring Equity and Excellence in Education, Andrew Coombe, Managing Director OxfordAQA, reinforced the importance of fair assessments and said that the aim of the system is to make a high-quality syllabus which is valid, reliable and comparable. The speakers agreed that assessments should be steppingstones, not stumbling blocks, in the journey towards educational excellence. Equity in education means assessments that accommodate and celebrate the diverse strengths and experiences of every student.

The humourous session of Khaled Anam and Beo Zafar titled ‘Hans Kar Jiyo’ was a sight to behold. The duo delighted the audience with Anam’s signature wit and Zafar’s masterful mimicry.

The day came to an end with screening of the feature film “Kamli,” which was introduced by Sarmad Khoosat. Simultaneously, a captivating Mushaira took place, featuring a gathering of renowned poets who mesmerized the audience with their poetic verses. Iftikhar Arif presided over the Mushaira, with Mehboob Zafar as the host. This dynamic collaboration transported the score of audience to a realm of literary sophistication and artistic beauty, underscoring the festival’s dedication to honouring various storytelling forms and cultural legacies.

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