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The Karachi Literature Festival needs disruption to win back Pakistan’s literary heart

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Harris Khalique verbalised my thoughts at the eighth edition of the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) exactly when, during the launch of his book Crimson Papers, he mused, “Why do I write? And what difference will it make?”

He revealed this as the question he struggles with endlessly, and it occurred to me how this is what literature festivals ought to examine today. Because as borders become impermeable, as walls go up between people and as bans become common, a conversation about the limits of literature and language to bridge divides — or the new ways in which writing must be appropriated to effect change — becomes essential.

This year’s KLF felt smaller and more subdued than its predecessor. The festival clearly suffered from tensions between India and Pakistan as only a handful of Indian authors made it across the border. Read more

Source: Images


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The dark side of Karachi and its violent politics

Title: The Party Worker; Author: Omar Shahid Hamid; Publisher: Pan Macmillan India; Pages: 336; Price: Rs 399

Of all vendettas, the most vicious centre on politics, where they can encompass some of the strongest motives — pride, honour, power, money and sex. The high-flyers not only forget those who have helped them but, with more adverse consequences, those they have offended and are hiding massive grudges under outward obsequiousness. These unexpected assailants can wait years for their chance — as we find here.

Masterfully utilising Karachi as a backdrop, with its chaotic, complicated and (lethally) combative power plays, Pakistani police officer-cum-novelist Omar Shahid Hamid delivers another gritty account of the unprepossessing, unsavoury but undeniable link between politics, crime, law enforcement, (some) media — and terrorism.

But his third novel — after the intricately-plotted hostage drama “The Prisoner” (2013) and the unsettling “jihadi noir” “The Spinner’s Tale” (2015) — takes a wider sweep and a different perspective. Read more

Source: Business Standard


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Pakistan’s literature festivals – elitist and irrelevant?

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

Source: DW


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An Open Letter to the PM of Pakistan

From: Rahman Abbas

Mumbai, India

20/1/2017

 

To,

Mr. Prime Minister of Pakistan

Mian Nawaz Sharif

SUBJECT:  Appeal to ensure the safety and release of missing poet and bloggers.

Dear Sir,

I’m an Indian Urdu novelist and a person who has spoken against fanatic elements of my own country who indulge in activities against the principles of democracy and secularism. I have also protested against groups of fundamentalists accused of killing writers and critics of rotten religious practices in our country. Additionally, I am one among the Indian writers who returned their respective awards as a symbolic protest against fundamentalism and intolerance.

With this brief introduction about my concern for principles of secularism and the creative fraternity, I am drawing your attention towards the missing poet and bloggers in your country. Since Pakistan is a wonderful country that cherishes democracy, a country where human dignity and freedom of thought is revered and valued, it is saddening that poets and writers have been made to disappear. Sir, I needn’t say that it is a serious threat to what you stand for i.e. freedom of thought and freedom of dissent. I have witnessed that you take a stand for rights of minorities in your country and value contribution of writers and poets.

Sir, it is true that one can disagree with someone’s views on social changes and reforms, but in that case, we have laws and legal processes to punish people who hurt the emotions of others or use offensive language. But there is no situation in which silencing of thinkers and disappearance of a person would be acceptable as it is against the basic principles of Islam and democracy. Sir, you must be aware of the “mysteriously” missing poet and academicians Salman Haider, Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, Ahmed Raza Naseer and Samar Abbas, and must have also felt the pain of the families of these young minds.

Sir, on Thursday 19th January, the Interior Minister of Pakistan Chaudhury Nisar Ali Khan had also taken note of the matter and stated that there was an ongoing negative propaganda on social media against the bloggers. The Interior Minister has also stated on 10th January that he was in contact with intelligence agencies and was hopeful of finding Salman Haider. However, the disappointment is increasing with every passing day. Hence your intervention is needed in the safe and sound recovery of all human rights and social activists.

Sir, I’m appealing to you to look into this critical matter with personal interest and ensure the safety of people who want Pakistan to be a true democratic and secular nation.

 

14910525_1318428548170182_6247381451463410303_nYours sincerely,

Rahman Abbas

rahmanabbas@gmail.com


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Indian author moots confederation to settle Kashmir issue

Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari on Wednesday released a book that calls for a confederation of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh but without undoing the partition as the only way to address poverty and resolve the Kashmir dispute.

“Regional cooperation with a focus on human security problems, on movement of people and on trade without unreasonable restrictions” was the need of the hour, Mr Ansari said at a function in Mumbai, apparently agreeing with the book’s argument.

“The common traits in cultural traditions and historical narratives need to be transmitted to younger generation through conscious promotion rather than prevention of cultural exchanges, films, and other cultural activities,” Mr Ansari said in his appeal to the governments and civil societies in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Mr Ansari made these comments while releasing August Voices, a new book by Indian peace activist Sudheendra Kulkarni, which calls for an India-Pakistan-Bangladesh confederation. Read more

Source: DAWN


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Book Review: Life Was Like That Only by Prabeen Singh

By Srija Naskar

In her book of memoirs, Life Was Like That Only, Delhi-based author Prabeen Singh gives a heady account of an eventful life as lived by someone who is part of the earliest generations of a newly independent India.

Born in Jamshedpur, Singh recalls how the city benefited from the social largesse of the Tatas: recalls Beldih club’s swimming sessions; weekend movies at the Golmuri club; how, while growing up she was influenced a lot by the songs of Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and so forth. She recalls being brought up in a Sikh family where tradition existed in accomodation with liberal ideas.

Singh writes of a father who began giving lessons on alternative history after having learnt how teachers at school were likening Aurangzeb to the evil, intolerant Mughal ruler who had killed Teg Bahadur. She writes of her grandfather who had built the Sikh National College in Lahore and was its principal till Pakistan became a reality (the college was built to eradicate the spectre of communal divide and inculcate a sense of national pride for an independent, undivided India as it was also the first college in India to fly the
tiranga). Read more

Source: Sunday Guardian Live 

 

 


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Remembering Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s revolutionary poem

faiz

Faiz’s most famous nazm (poem) got both the writer and the singer in trouble. The year was 1985. A packed auditorium in Lahore, with more than 50,000 in attendance. It’s the first death anniversary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

A woman dressed in a black saree – attire outlawed by Pakistani dictator Zia-ul-Haq – takes the stage and starts singing a nazm. There is immediate commotion in the crowd. By the time, the singer hits the crescendo, the restless audience is already incited to passions of rebellion.

Excited members join the rendition, the jampacked auditorium, with people sitting on stairs and near the gate, reverberates with chants of “Inquilab Zindabad” (long live the revolution!)

Action is swift. The lights are switched off; the microphone is disconnected. It’s pitch dark. But she doesn’t stop as if her life depends on it. Defying the authorities, the audience stands with the singer -singing with her till the poem ends. A riotous situation prevails.

The woman was none other than Iqbal Bano, one of the most beloved singers of Pakistan. The nazm was Hum Dekhenge, penned by the most celebrated and yet revolutionary poet of Pakistan – Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Read more


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New Release: Abdul Gani Bhat’s ‘Beyond Me’ captivates, jolts the reader

The former Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was on Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s mission Kashmir in Pakistan to explore possibilities to work out a peaceful settlement of Kashmir dispute but Nehru died while Sheikh was in Pakistan, former APHC Chairman and Muslim Conference leader, Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat writes in his autobiography ‘Beyond Me’.

In his 264-page book published by Gulshan Books Kashmir, Bhat writes that the war between India and China – the most humiliating war to recount amid noises ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ eventually brought Jawahar Lal Nehru’s ivory towers tumbling down in pieces to earth.

“Nehru’s sense of history was sharper than a few others around. He understood that belligerence against the neighbouring China and Pakistan at the same time could spell a disaster in the entire region and thus in deference to Anglo-American diplomatic persuasion as well preferred a strategic dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir dispute. The dialogue happened to produce no solution as usual,” he writes in the book that he has dedicated to Qurat-ul-Ain and her mother Tasleema and that encapsulates his life upto 1987.

The book divided into 15 chapters is being released at a simple function in Srinagar on Friday. Bhat writes things changed when National Conference (NC) founder, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was released from captivity. Read more


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Book Review: Garrisoned Minds: Women and Armed Conflict in South Asia

minds

As a journalist one has covered and read stories galore about rape, atrocities by the armed forces and militants and suppression of women in the name of religion, caste, but reading Garrisoned Minds underlines the brutality all over again.

So disturbing are some of the essays that it is not possible to read them at one go. The book follows 12 journalists across the conflict zones of South Asia—Pakistan, Nepal and India (Kashmir and the Northeast). The impact of 13 long years of war in Afghanistan is evident in neighbouring Pakistan.

The editors, Laxmi Murthy and Mitu Varma, have done well to begin each section with the historical context of a conflict. It is a bold book because it names and exposes the armed forces as well as extremists who tortured and raped women. For women, breaking the silence has severe consequences and without support, few women dare speak out. Read more


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Book Review: Faith, Unity, Discipline – The Inter-Service Intelligence of Pakistan by Hein G. Kiessling

isi

Commonly known by its three-letter acronym, this organisation is held by its enemies, and even some allies, responsible for most of the trouble and instability in South Asia, as well as in its own Pakistan. But how did the ISI acquire this reputation, is it really part of an uncontrollable “deep state”, and did it know – and how much – of 9/11, 26/11 and Osama bin Laden’s hideout?

Ascertaining intelligence agencies’ roles in national or international events is always difficult, due to their secretive functioning, a vested interest in portraying themselves as effective, and an inclination to maintain “deniability”. On the other hand, there is also the opponents’ propensity to view them through the prism of own predilections or ‘national interest’, blame them reflexively for almost everything and ascribe to them capabilities they may not even possess.

The latter is especially true of the ISI from an Indian view – and even of its Pakistani critics.

But offering possibly the first-ever, full-length – and fairly neutral – look at Pakistan’s largest spy agency from its origins to the present, with opinions and responses from the agency itself, as well as key players from the Zia ul-Haq era to the present, is German political scientist Hein Kiessling in this book. Read more