By: Maleeha Irfan
ISLAMABAD: Oxford University Press (OUP) inaugurated the 9th Islamabad Literature Festival (ILF), a vibrant celebration of fresh ideas, creative perspectives, and the art of storytelling, at the Gandhara Citizen Club in Fatima Jinnah Park, Islamabad.
The exciting event offered a captivating exploration of literature in all its forms, featuring renowned authors and experts engaged in discussions and delivering keynote speeches.
“People, Planet, Possibilities” is the theme of the event this year, serving as a call to action, encouraging individuals, communities, and organizations to collaborate in the pursuit of a more sustainable and inclusive world. It envisions a multitude of possibilities that can be achieved through collective efforts guided by purpose and vision.
Arshad Saeed Husain, Managing Director, OUP Pakistan, commenced the session by extending his thanks to the distinguished attendees. He underscored the significant impact of literary festivals, stressing that fostering a cultural shift depends on the celebration of diverse perspectives and their constructive effects. He said, “Literature stands as a testament to human resilience and provides a beacon of light in the darkest of times. Let us collectively look beyond uncertainty and embrace the beauty that tomorrow holds.”
Jane Marriott, British High Commissioner to Pakistan, expressed gratitude for the recognition that Pakistani authors, especially those writing in the English language, had attained at a global level. She stated, “To allow yourself to be lost and unleashing your imagination makes you realize how powerful all forms of literature are. Words offer us a world of self-expression and creativity and are a gateway to a greater understanding of our experiences.”
She also referred to the relationship between the UK and Pakistan, particularly the profound connections in education and culture.
Khalid Mahmood, Managing Director of Getz Pharma Pvt. Ltd., reiterated the significance of sustainability and inclusivity, stating that a sustainable world invites everyone to share in its abundance, regardless of their background or circumstances. “Inclusivity is the cornerstone upon which the pillars of sustainability rest, as it ensures that no one is left behind on the journey toward a greener and more equitable planet. True sustainability lies in sustaining opportunities, resources, and justice for all, irrespective of their identities or origins.”
Iftikhar Arif, prominent Urdu poet, scholar, and literary figure from Pakistan, spoke at length about the various languages, both spoken and written and felt that those need recognition at state’s level as well. Mr Arif also helmed the opportunity to express his deep and profound sympathies regarding the ongoing armed conflict in the Gaza Strip and articulated how imperative peace was in the region.
Victoria Schofield, a British author, biographer, and historian, expressed her delight at being back in Pakistan and her eagerness to explore the 9th edition of ILF.
Nauman Khalid representing Capital Development Authority (CDA), said he was impressed by the festival and stressed on holding many such events in future. The ceremony was concluded by Zahshanne Malik, a renowned actor, performer, artist, and dancer, captivated the audience with her moving interpretation of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s ‘Lao to Qatal Nama Mera.’
The session was followed by an insightful session on Iqbal: Aik Ehed Saaz Shair delved into how Iqbal’s poetry shaped the times, moderated by Nasira Zuberi, with Ahmed Atta reciting the selected poetry for audience.
In a parallel session, Tariq Alexander Qaiser and Umber Khairi engaged in a thought-provoking conversation on Pakistan’s Mangroves: A Forest in Peril.
The day ended with a meaningful discussion on the right to religious freedom, where Syed Irfan Ashraf conversed with Yaqoob Bangash, Farzana Bari, Pritam Das Rathi, and Maham Ali to explore “Jinnah’s Vision: Safeguarding Religious Freedom.”
Two remarkable art exhibitions have been curated especially for the weekend long occasion by connoisseurs Qudus Mirza, Ammar Faiz, and Fauzia Minhalla. The beautiful frames and sculptures will be showcased on all festival days and present an excellent opportunity to appreciate the value of expression, whether through print or brush strokes, and reflect on the power of communication.