Literature festivals have become an annual affair in Pakistan for the past seven years. They are held in three to four big cities in February and March and run for several days. Writers and intellectuals from Pakistan, other South Asian countries and the West attend these gatherings and discuss a host of topics ranging from current trends in Pakistani and international literature to social issues such as gender discrimination and urban planning.
In a country where cultural activities have taken a back seat due to a rise of religious intolerance and political and sectarian violence, the “LitFests” are like a breath of fresh air. There is a cultural suffocation in the Muslim-majority country and any liberal activity should be welcomed wholeheartedly.
Although the organizers don’t claim they aspire to counter growing intolerance in Pakistan, it should be expected that such activities do translate into some sort of social action that brings forward a counter-narrative and challenges the forces of retrogression and obscurantism. Yet, many experts argue that Pakistani literature festivals, which generate large funds through corporate and non-profit organizations, have remained an “elitist” affair with writers and intellectuals participating in them remain somewhat detached from the major challenges the South Asian country faces today.
Against this backdrop, the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) kicks off on Friday, February 10, and will run for three days in a luxury hotel in the southern metropolis. Read more