The fourth Adab Festival showcased art, culture, and literature while also shedding light on the current issues faced by the country
he fourth Adab Festival, an emblem of art, culture and literature, showcased not only the authors who must be cherished, given their contribution to spreading knowledge, but also shed light upon climate change, the effects of which recently drowned several parts of the country.
The inauguration ceremony was held in the Frere Hall lawns. The Saint Joseph’s Convent School choir sang the national anthem followed by the official anthem for the festival.
Wasif Rizvi, the Habib University president, elegantly described the dying use of the ‘adaab’ greeting and how it is a part of the very fabric of the subcontinent’s culture. The keynote speeches, especially those on the much talked about issue of climate change, were an attention grabber. Sherry Rehman, the minister for climate change and Tariq Alexander Qaiser, the architect and staunch environmentalist, spoke about the climate catastrophe that has hit the country. They also discussed counter actions that can be taken to rectify the situation.
Their recent visit to Sharm el-Sheikh for COP 27 as representatives of the nation whose carbon footprint is less than one percent gave them a chance to showcase the plight of those suffering as one-third of the country came under water. “It makes us a clear advocate for what is known as climate justice,” emphasised Rahman while refuting the idea of using the word victim. “We all need to make climate impactful decisions.” She said the interior Sindh topography had vastly changed. The newly formed lakes are here to stay and the water cannot be utilised for any practical purpose. “While there is water everywhere, there might not be a drop to drink.’’
Rahman elaborated upon the El Nino System and stressed upon Pakistan attending climate change/ environment conferences with an agenda to show the world the consequences of climate change that the entire nation is facing, which it had negligible contribution towards.
“Have absolutely no doubt that these are times of great change. Global warming is causing existential stresses to the human society,” stressed Qaiser, “Anthropocene – an era of extinction and accelerated climate change; it has been created and compounded by man.”
In the session titled, A story of survival; replanting Pakistan’s mangroves, he discussed the importance of the mangrove cover for the sustenance of the environment and how deeply connected he is with Bundal Island. He said he frequents it during his time off from his practice as an architect. He said the alarming rate at which the mangrove trees are being cut down is damaging the ecosystem. Qaiser mentioned that, at times, there are ten boats a day carrying tree branches ruthlessly robbed of their right to live. It reflects the immense pain one can witness in his short documentaries.
One that he played at COP27 aimed at creating awareness for these environment cleansers that we direly need to safeguard us against climate catastrophes. Mangrove forests are known to absorb four times more CO2 from the atmosphere than average trees. The government’s continuous efforts to increase forest cover were also discussed in the documentary.
However, mature mangrove trees are quite frequently chopped off to be used as fuel. “This mangrove cover provides the essential oxygen in the highly polluted industrial area of Landhi and Korangi, and of course the rest of Karachi as well. The reason (behind mangrove depletion) is extreme poverty, lack of education, and absence of civic agencies to protect these forests,’’ says Taimur Mirza, an ardent environmentalist and industrialist.
The session was followed by book launches and other intellectual discussions, with scores of people pouring in. The launch of, Muhammadi Begum’s memoir, a long way from Hyderabad: A diary of a young Muslim woman in 1930s Britain, made references to the pre-partition era and the progressive and empowered women in those days. The author’s daughters said they had chanced upon their mother’s diary, which she wrote in her impeccable handwriting when she travelled to Oxford to study in 1935. They finally decided to translate it and share the life of an educated and empowered Muslim lady from the subcontinent. The daughters, Zehra Masroor and Zainab Masud Zain, said their mother loved books and remained unnerved despite her struggles, especially at the time of partition. They said she was a visionary. An Urdu version of the book is expected to be launched in Pakistan next year. The ladies were kind enough to show the audience the diary in its original form with 1935 etched on the cover.
The launch of Fouzia Saeed’s book Tapestry: Strands of women’s struggles woven into the history of Pakistan garnered the attention of a considerable crowd. She has shown that public rallies and advocacy have been around for decades, including in Pakistan. For her the true meaning of being a feminist resonates with women being progressive and empowered while working alongside their male counterparts in a harmonious environment which gives both genders their rights. “I often get surprised how even some women are taken aback and get defensive, saying they are not feminists. Being a feminist does not mean you start hitting men with shoes,’’ she explained.
She spoke about the era of social welfare when women had learnt leadership skills and strategies and worked for the cause of providing the basic needs; for example, when families were separated between the two countries at the time of partition and what women leaders did to manage the situation while also rehabilitating the families.
Saeed described the late ’70s as period of ‘reactive confrontation.’ The ’80s, she said, was undisputedly the era of harshness when women and non-Muslims became easy targets. This was also a time when female activists became more active and aggressive. She said a rally in Lahore had brought together about 500 women. They attracted a lot of attention but were opposed and ridiculed by some clerics. Some of them declared that the women participating in such activities had ceased to be ‘believers’ and for this reason their nikahs had become void.
‘Strategic activism’ came later; the success lady health workers was a classic example of this.
The author said some of the books she had cited were available only in the Library of Congress in United States. She said the amount of material she found on Fatima Jinnah there surprised her. Saeed said Ms Jinnah has faced tough challenges as a politician when she was banned from appearing on radio. Also, she said, the sale of her book was banned in Pakistan.
The writer is a public relations and communication professional, an artist and a wildlife photographer. She can be reached at moeen.hibagmail.com