Thursday December 02, 2021

Lahore Literary Festival 2021: ‘Muslim youth fashioning what social life should be’

February 21, 2021

LAHORE: Speakers at a session on the second last day of Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) 2021 observed that youth in most parts of the world, including the Muslim world, were returning to a more diverse understanding of what social life should be like.

They were speaking at Book Launch, “Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Rivalry that Unraveled the Middle East” written by Emmy Award-winning journalist and author Kim Ghattas. Iranian-American academic and author Vali Nasr also joined the session which was moderated by Khaled Ahmed of Newsweek Pakistan.

The speakers also observed that voting to conservative parties was not just happening in the Muslim world alone, adding, perhaps by doing so people expected better governance models.

Referring to title of her book Kim Ghattas the term Black Wave was coined by an Egyptian movie director to describe what was happening around in 1990s in Egypt as she saw this as euphemism for darkness that engulfed so many countries in 1980s.

Kim said despite this darkness, what she tried to do in her book, was to show how despite this darkness there were always people everywhere who were fighting back, writing poetry, singing, dancing and fighting militants.

It is pertinent to mention here that the first ever all virtual LLF2021 stated on February 18 and will continue till February 18 featuring some of the best writers, authors, historians and journalists from Pakistan and around the world.

At the book launch “Bacha Khan, My Life and Struggle” human rights activist Afrasiab Khattak and London School of Economics’s Mukulika Banerjee threw light on political struggle of Bacha Khan. Shandana Humayun Khan moderated the session and said the movement of Bacha Khan was peaceful and non-violent.

Mukulika Banerjee said, “Bacha Khan was unique voice. His voice must be read by everyone.” She further said when Bacha Khan died it was written by newspaper that non-violent leader passed away. There was outpouring grief everywhere because he was extraordinary person. Bacha Khan had a special place like Gandhi. These two people were special said, Mukulika Banerjee. She said, when the death of Bacha Khan was near he was sick. He said he did not want to bury in Pakistan. Indian offered him that his mausoleum would be built between Nehru and Gandi but he refused, said Mukulika Banerjee. According to her, Bacha Khan wanted to be buried in Jalalabad Afghanistan. After his death across the Durand line, there was no shelling, no firing. In 1988, ceased fire was called. Thousands of people crossed the border to attend the funeral of Bacha in Afghanistan. It was great moment. It was extraordinary funeral. He was such a great man; he had earned respect in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Afrasiyab Khattak said his determination was very impressive. He used to live in society which was tribal for centuries were customs ruled. But Bacha khan decided to reform the society, politicised it and brought it into mainstream in South Asia and world as well. He was a social reformer and he proved it. He focused on education. Khattak further said transformation was great success of Bacha Khan, adding that he made Pashtoon society democratic and modernised it. His vision was beyond religion color, social status and race. He was true humanist. He loved Pashtoons but his was not limited to Pashtoon as he loved people across the globe. Bacha Khan was voice marginalised and oppressed, he added. The noted rights activist further said that Bacha Khan taught us to respect diversity and added this book was very important for us and for generation. Our history is lost actually. Unfortunately, he was labeled as traitor.

Bacha Khan stood for peace, harmony and brotherhood. He was against war in Afghanistan, said Khattak. He wanted Russian forces be out from Afghanistan. He kept his struggle for peace till end of his life, said Khattak. A book representing what author calls ‘a different Pakistan’ was also launched here at the LLF2021. The book titled, ‘Midnight Doorways: Fables from Pakistan,’ portrays fables of a ‘haunted Pakistan’. Usman T. Malik, the author of the book dilated upon different angles discussed by him in conversation with Snopes reporter Nur Nasreen Ibrahim. Usman, several international awards winner fiction writer hailing from Lahore, said the title doorways depicted options and opportunities while stories referring to human choices.

Emphasizing a fable is like torch-bearer of history, he said a lot of people looked at fables as mere moral allegories. While mentioning the second part of the title of the book, he stressed that a fable which gives up its moral allegory is not a true fable. The writer was of the view that he greatly enjoyed writing such stories. I wrote this book to represent a different Pakistan. A haunted Pakistan, a Pakistan which had come out of two-decade long war. These stories look at that haunted Pakistan through a different lens, he observed.

Usman especially mentioned Nayyer Masood and Khalida Asghar who inspired him to write such stories. He also praised work of nine artists who did illustrations of different stories in the book.

Earlier, the first session of the third day started with “Aleph Review: Journal Writing in Pakistan” with Editor Mehvash Amin, Senior contributing Editor, Afshan Shafi and Hassan Tahir Latif.

The 3rd session & 4th sessions of this one of the most celebrated and acknowledged literary festivals in this part of the world consisted of two back to back books launching events which presented introduction and discussions on the Book “Cheeni Kothi” and Urdu literary marvel. This session had the Kolkata based modern fiction Urdu writer Siddiq Alam and Nasir Abbas Nayyar.