Words, thoughts, actions

By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar
Fri, 03, 24

The venue was pulsating with optimistic thoughts and vigorous words shared by the authors, intellects, thinkers, scholars, and eminent personalities....

Words, thoughts, actions


KLF 2024 was this and a lot more!

Insightful deliberations, profound discussions, and thought-provoking discourses were the highlight of the three-day Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) 2024. The 15th edition of the KLF was organized by the Oxford University Press, Pakistan, from 16-18 February 2024. The theme of this year’s event – Sustainability: Words Changing Mindsets – was aptly chosen, given the tumultuous era we are living in, marred with environmental crisis and the efforts to protect our Earth for future generations. The venue was pulsating with optimistic thoughts and vigorous words shared by the authors, intellects, thinkers, scholars, and eminent personalities from the public and private sectors who were in front of an audience eager to absorb their views.

Day one featured a poetry recitation by Adeel Hashmi in memory of Faiz Ahmed Faiz; an in-depth discussion on saving Pakistan’s agriculture; a film screening of Gandhi and Jinnah Return Home; and two book launches, Timeless College Tales by Nadya Chishty Mujahid (in conversation with Nusrat Khawaja) and Foundations and Form: Memoirs of a Pakistani Architect by Mukhtar Husain (in conversation with Aliya Iqbal-Naqvi).

During his welcome address, Arshad Saeed Husain, the managing director of OUP Pakistan, said that the KLF is a testament to the power of the written word. He added that the theme was chosen to address challenges in the domains of environment, economy, and society, the three pillars of a nation that remain ever vital in a country’s development. He added that the youth is the future of Pakistan and steps must be taken to address the tests and trials they are facing. Furthermore, he emphasized the importance of education to drive technology and that it should not be the other way around, and that innovation must be incorporated in letter and spirit to bring about change. “We cannot afford to cling to outdated practices and should embrace adaptability along with overhauling the process of examination,” he added.

Words, thoughts, actions

Presenting their remarks during the inaugural session were H.E. Conrad Tribble, US Consul General, Karachi; H.E. Dr.. Rudiger Lotz, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Karachi; H.E. Alexis Chahtahtinsky, Consul General of France, Karachi; and H.E. Martin Dawson, Head of Mission, British Deputy High Commission, Karachi.

The climax of the day was the in-depth and insightful session on ‘How Agriculture Can Save Pakistan?’ moderated by Ali Habib. The panellists included Dr. Ishrat Husain, Muhammad Aurangzeb, Syed Salim Raza, and Miftah Ismail. The discussion focused on the imperative of updating agricultural practices and fostering empowerment at the grassroots level as catalysts for economic advancement. Addressing the agricultural sector’s potential, Muhammad Aurangzeb emphasized the urgency to implement innovative solutions and sustainable practices.

During the session ‘Framing Reality as Comedy’, Murtaza Chaudary commented, by metaphorically speaking, that in today’s era, serious television journalists enter the premises from gate number five while to become popular you only need to upload a video saying ‘Party Ho Rahi Hai!’ He added that the viewers have lost their patience in understanding humour as they cannot bear to listen to satirical jokes against the political leaders whom they follow. This session was moderated by Nadeem Farooq Paracha and the speakers included Shehzad Ghias Shaikh, Mustafa Chaudhry, and Amber Rahim Shamsi.

Mr. Mohammad Ali, Caretaker Federal Minister for Energy, emphasized upon three pertinent points to help Pakistan become progressive. These were to align our political and economic systems; reduce the unit size of the provinces and the cities; and to enhance the judiciary. Moreover, he remarked that government officials need to focus on the task at hand when it comes to governance instead of focusing on their businesses, whatever they may be. He was speaking in the session titled, ‘The Big Picture: Future of Pakistan’, moderated by Muhammad Azfar Ahsan. Shamshad Akhtar, Maheen Rahman, Sirajuddin Aziz, and Wasif Rizvi were the speakers.

Words, thoughts, actions

A thought-provoking discussion on the education system of Pakistan was held on ‘Higher Education: Nutritioning Tomorrow Innovators.’ Shahnaz Wazir Ali commented that we need to ensure that people with innovative thinking and problem-solving skills enter the market. However, the market dynamics have not evolved as it is not that sophisticated or developed to allow people to come and experience because of constraints related to time and finance. She added that we need to build a culture to allow the youth to take risks. Institutions, including universities, need to take risks and step out of the rules and regulations that confine open-mindedness. She pointed out that universities across Pakistan have the Office of Research, Commercialization and Innovation (ORIC) but we do not see patents and copyrights emerging in the market.

KLF, known for its diversity and bringing in people from all walks of life, kept the tradition alive this year. The audience was delighted to see actors Sanam Saeed and Mohib Mirza along with Faryal Mehmood, Abid Aziz Merchant, and Bee Gul as they took the stage to discuss ‘The Power of Storytelling’, which was moderated by Saba Karim Khan. Sanam raised a relevant point about storytelling in television dramas that until we continue to show women as oppressed and helpless, the women in general will keep thinking of themselves the same way and will not come out of the shell of insecurities.

Words, thoughts, actions

Along with actors, Pakistani authors who pen their works in the English language representing a diverse age group and genres, including Muneeza Shamsie, Salman Tarek Kureshi, Maniza Naqvi, and Taha Kehar, presented their views on ‘Coming of Age: Pakistani English Language Literature’. During the discussion, Muneeza Shamsie said that authors from this part of the world are being read widely because they are meeting the moment, they can speak for so much and so many people. She added that several thinkers and writers of the 20th century who are leftists are of Pakistani descent living in the U.S. and elsewhere. This is because we bring a heritage that is colonial, anti-colonial, and everything in between.

Former Prime minister of Pakistan, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, while speaking in a session on ‘Reforming Pakistan: A New Social Contract’, said that the political, military, judicial and even the business leadership must unite to set a direction for Pakistan that will facilitate in resolving the looming challenges haunting us at every level. He added that the leadership as a whole has failed. This failure did not happen during a specific period but was due to the shortcomings accumulated over decades.

Several books were also launched at the KLF 2024, including Development Pathways: India –Pakistan Bangladesh (1947-2022) by Ishrat Husain Ishrat Husain; Jehan Abad ki Gallyan by Asghar Nadeem Syed; Suffocation translated by Asma Mansoor; A Life Lived with Passion: Irfan Husain (1944-2020) edited by Carmen Gonzalez and Abbas Nasir; A Lifetime of Dissent: A Memoir by I. A. Rehman; Imran Khan: Myth of the Pakistani Middle-Class by Nadeem Farooq Paracha; A History of the Baloch and Balochistan by Mir Naseer Khan Ahmedzai Kambarani Baloch; Awaaz: Echoes of Freedom & Justice by Ansar Burney; Makhona by Najeeba Arif; The Whispering Chinar by Ali Rohila; Earth and Glimmer by Haya Fatima Sehgal; Qaum, Mulk, Sultanat: Citizenship and National Belonging in Pakistan by Ali Usman Qasmi; Underground by Ashraf Shad; The Monsoon War: A Novel by Bina Shah; Pakistan: Search for Stability edited by Maleeha Lodhi; A World of Her Own: Ada Jafarey by Aamir Jafarey with Asra Jafarey; and Among My Own: The Untold Stories Of My People by Dr Naseem Salahuddin.

The speakers at KLF 2024 reflected on a plethora of topics that will undoubtedly influence our thought process and provide food for thought. Constructive ideas, tangible action plans, applicable strategies, and practical perspectives were expressed with a profound sense of commitment and an urgency to implement them, steering Pakistan back in the right direction. KLF once again proved to be an event where fiction and non-fiction, literature and arts, culture and languages, humour and satire, music and melodies, arts and crafts, and authors and readers harmoniously united to create a medley of viewpoints and visions. Perhaps this is why, during his remarks at the opening ceremony, Ali Habib suggested that OUP consider changing the name from KLF to Karachi Cultural Festival, as the event has transcended beyond just literature. KLF is the place where the unique and assorted flavour of ideas compels us to reflect on our present and build a future that is sustainable and practical.

Muhammad Omar Iftikhar, a fiction writer and columnist with over 1,000 published articles, is also the author of three books.

Photos taken from Instagram