The fifth Karachi Children’s Literature Festival was off to an emotional, rollicking start on Friday with almost 3,000 kids, their guardians, parents and teachers wholeheartedly participating in the proceedings, clapping loudly and singing in unison.
To begin with, Fatima Abbasi welcomed the guests. This was followed by Tilawat by Waqar Malik.
Next, was the performance of an anthem “Hamein Kitab Chahiye” by children from a number of different schools. The choir sounded absolutely wonderful with children singing in their beautiful voices with all the gusto they could muster.
Next came Dr Baela Raza Jamil’s highly inspirational address to the young ones and the tiny tots. This was followed by the presentation of a song from the children of Karachi Public School singing, “Mandir, Masjid, Girja Ghar”, in their characteristically angelic voices, with a great degree of enthusiasm. The song spoke of the harm religious hatred and bigotry had done to society and called for shunning it.
Then came Wajiha Naqvi, the founder of “I am Karachi”. Explaining the aims and objectives of the movement, she said, “All of us have to work together to make Karachi a haven of peace”.
This was followed by another song by the children of Garage School in Lyari. The song, “Suno Bacho Uthao Basta”, was sung with the same verve and gusto as the previous group with the children dancing and their angelic voices resounding all over the place.
Nargis Sultana lauded the habit of reading among children but said that on account of the books being an unreasonably dear commodity these days, the government must give thought to the establishment of more libraries.
Owais Sheikh, head of liabilities at the Habib Bank Limited praised the childrens’ enthusiasm and promised that his bank would always lend the support asked for.
This was followed by another presentation by the students of Karachi Public School, with Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem, “Bol ke lab azad hain tere”.
After this, the injured students of Army Public School in Peshawar, accompanied by their parents and guardians entered the venue to the thunderous and emotional applause of the 3,000-strong audience. It was a really emotional moment with many not being able to hold back their tears. The injured children undergoing treatment in Karachi, along with their guardians and parents, came up on to the stage amidst thunderous clapping from the audience. One of the mothers kept blowing kisses at the large gathering to acknowledge their heartfelt response, but at the same time she couldn’t control her tears which she kept wiping away.
Sindh education and literacy department’s secretary, Fazlullah Pechuho, took to the podium and lauded the sacrifices rendered by the children studying at APS. The government of Sindh, he said, stood behind them.
The secretary promised to suggest to the Sindh government to set aside an amount for the Children’s Literature Festival from the annual education budget.
Later, Tina Sani presented one of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Ghazals, “Tujh ko Kitna Lahoo Chahiye”. Like the Teachers’ Literature Festival preceding it the previous day, the children’s festival also had around thirty sessions running simultaneously all the way up to 5pm.
One of the sessions right after the inauguration was an interactive music session with Rumana Husain. The first song they rendered was a famous hit from the late 1970s, “Sang Sang Chalte Rehna”, which had been composed for a children’s programme by Sohail Rana.
This session was followed by the launch of two books, Urran Tashtari (flying saucer) by Amra Alam, and “Tota Khan aur Bakri Ara Ka Safarnama” (the travels of Tota Khan and Bakri Ara) by Rumana Husain. The latter is the tale of an animal and a bird travelling all the way from Khyber to Karachi. Narrated as a fairy tale, it is actually a travelogue describing the historical sites and the geography of the country.
After this, there was the panel discussion titled “A children’s history series: Sindh, Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa, Balochistan and the Punjab” authored by Hamida Khuhro.
The discussants were, Dr Syed Jaffer Ahmed of the Karachi University’s Pakistan Study Centre, Dr Arfa Syeda Zehra of the Forman Christian College University of Lahore and Baela Raza Jamil.