KARACHI: The “Festival of Arts and deas” organised by the Sindh Madressatul Islam University (SMIU) concluded on Sunday after four eventful days of lectures delivered by foreign scholars and national experts and several other activities.
SMIU Vice-Chancellor Dr Muhammad Ali Shaikh said that the key purpose of the festival was to familiarize the youth with new ideas that could help them succeed in their future life.
He said that the festival was organised on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Pakistan’s independence, adding that the new generation had a great role to play to turn the Pakistani people into a modern nation.
A report about the details of the events held during the four days of the festival was also presented.
Among the various thought-provoking sessions held over the four days of the conference, the panel discussion on the “Development of Karachi as a megacity of Sindh” stood on top. Eminent development experts Arif Hasan and Yasmin Lari took part in the session in which they identified hindrances to Karachi’s becoming a jewel of Pakistan.
Arif Hasan said that the chief hurdle to Karachi’s becoming a truly modern megacity lay in the fact that the city’s matters were controlled by the market and not by politicians and the bureaucracy.
“The city’s important matters are being controlled by the market, while Lahore is developing because it is being controlled by politicians and bureaucracy as it should be,” said Mr Hasan.
He further said that a comprehensive planning was needed to develop the metropolitan city, adding that the citizens of Karachi really needed to come forward and own the city.
Enumerating the numerous reasons behind the destruction of Karachi’s heritage sites, Hasan pointed out the fact that the location of historical buildings was such that it was extremely hard to save them.
“Unless we get certain strong institutions, no positive change in the city is forthcoming. Meanwhile, the institutions which we had in the past have already become history,” he said.
He lamented that there was no master plan offered by the Karachi Development Authority, adding that certain legislations related to the issue had made the situation worse.
Heritage Foundation of Pakistan chief Yasmin Lari said that the city was saturated with ever-increasing population, while it had no effective means of transportation.
She called for the elimination of “mafias” to improve the public transport system.
She added that the supply of clean drinking water was an issue while the sewerage system had broken down.
“Trees are being cut, footpaths have disappeared and circular railway system was a thing of the glorious past,” she said.
She said that the city needed toilets, particularly for its female population. She lamented that the once-rich city was now riddled with poverty.
Lari said that most of the heritage buildings of Karachi were stone-built and needed heavy funds to get restored.
Also speaking on the occasion, former commissioner of Karachi and Federal Secretary for Planning and Development Shoaid Ahmed Siddique said that there was an even greater need for administrative accountability than financial accountability.
He said that many projects were pompously inaugurated but because of little follow-up, they became non-functional.
“This has been happening in Karachi. A number of projects have met the same fate in Karachi. Unless administrative accountability is not begun, the country cannot progress in real terms,” he said.
He further said that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was an extremely important project for the country because the construction of roads was the very foundation of a country’s development.
“Through this project, Pakistan will link with other countries of the world, and it would fetch wealth in terms of increased exports. CPEC will help increase the country’s GDP by 23 percent,” he said.
He rejected the claim that more Chinese than Pakistanis were employed in the CPEC projects.
In a session on women and gender issues in Pakistan, SMIU honorary advisor on cultural and gender affairs Mrs Shaista Muhammad Ali, Aurat Foundation’s Mehnaz Rehman and scholar Khalida Ghous spoke. They highlighted the need for the elimination of gender discrimination and said that anti-harassment laws helped to keep both women and men safe. They called upon the government to effectively implement the pro-women laws.
Sindh Board of Investment Chairperson Naheed Memon advised the youth present to start their own businesses instead of waiting for jobs. She said that expertise was much more important than wealth for starting a business.
Poet and educationist Dr Sahar Ansari also delivered a lecture during the festival, highlighting the creative and philosophical aspects of Mirza Ghalib’s Diwan–i–Ghalib, Quratulain Hyder’s Aag ka Darya, and Ashfaq Ahmed’s Zavia. He said that the Ghalib’s era was full of other poets and masters, like Ibrahim Zauq, Momin Khan Momin, Bahadur Shah Zafar etc, but Ghalib earned much more respect and fame as he had a greater imagination and had mastery in reflecting on his thought processes.
He further said that Aag Ka Darya covered the subcontinent’s history spread over 2,500 years, suffused with a fantastic style of narration. About Ashfaq Ahmed, he said that the author was inspired by Shaikh Sa’adi.
Oxford University Press Managing Director Ameena Sayyid spoke over the rampant book piracy issues in Pakistan. She said that piracy deprived writers of their rightful royalty and also cost heavily on publishers. She said that the habit of reading had not faded away in Pakistan, but since it was a country of many cultures and entities, standards vary vis-à-vis topics of books.
Around 40 sessions in total were held during the festival, attracting large audiences. The sessions included lectures by international and national speakers, panel discussions, screening of documentaries, photography and painting exhibitions and singing and quiz competitions.
Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai “Seven Queens” was also depicted in tableaus during the four days.