Monday July 15, 2024

‘Cultures and cities are remembered because of poets and writers’

By Zoya Anwer
November 23, 2018

The 11th International Urdu Conference kicked off at the Arts Council Karachi on Thursday with the commemoration of progressive writer and activist Fahmida Riaz, who passed away in Lahore the previous night.

Arts Council Karachi President Ahmed Shah opened the event by stressing that cultures and cities are often remembered not because of their governments but due to the poets and writers produced in their eras, which is only possible with the state’s support.

“Those who feel they have a monopoly over language need to remember that Karachi is a multi-ethnic city where different groups of people exist and speak different languages so they can’t be divided over this.”

He said that categorising people into groups that harbour hatred led the city to tumultuous times, but now it’s time to reclaim the Urdu language, which brings all groups together. He thanked the government for taking the field of arts seriously by allocating generous sums for the council.


Presenting his essay as the first speaker, writer and critic Nasir Abbas Nayyar said that society is constantly being attacked by the weapon of conformity, which despite being blunt makes a significant dent.

Referring to the backlash against Asia Bibi’s acquittal, he said that our society has kneeled before one group, which didn’t just besiege a city but rather has the entire country under its control.

“Some 100 years ago such people would burn the book of a writer they did not necessarily agree with, but now they would set the author on fire if they could.” He said literary circles are also sceptical of those who are using intellect and creativity to challenge the conformist mindset, which is giving room to those who wish to impose their thoughts on everyone else.

Referring to the words of Abu al-Ala al-Mari, an Arab philosopher in the Islamic Golden Age, Nayyar said that time and time again people have suffered injustices, but they need to stop waiting for a messiah because no leader can be better than intellect.

He lamented that despite being witnesses to events that have taken the lives of people, the masses continue to look away due to historical amnesia.


Indian writer and critic Shamim Hanafi spoke about Urdu as a language and the effects of evolution over time. He felt that to build a connection with the language and society, poets and writers need to reassess the relationship between the earth and the world, which would help them create wonders, one of the purposes of a language.

Some of the renowned names present during the inaugural session included Asad Muhammad Khan, Iftikhar Arif, Mustansar Hussain Tarar, Raza Ali Abidi from the UK, Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, Ejaz Ahmed Farooqi, Talat Hussain, Arif Naqvi, Masood Ashar, Athar Waqar, Ameena Saiyid, Zahida Hina and Noor Zaheer.