LAHORE: The Eighth Edition of the annual three-day Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) kicked off on Friday at the Alhamra Arts Center in Lahore.
The event began with the opening ceremony featuring the Founder and CEO LLF Razi Ahmed, the EU’s Ambassador to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara, Chairperson of the Lahore Arts Council Moneeza Hashmi, and Chief Executive Serena Hotels Aziz Boolani.
In the opening speech, Razi said: “LLF is the best platform to learn about our own culture. Unfortunately over a period of time, we have not given enough time to our own heritage. If we look at the countries across the globe they have used their heritage values for tourism purposes to generate revenue. Unfortunately, Pakistan has not taken advantage of its cultural assets and hoped the current government would concentrate on it.”
European Union Ambassador to Pakistan Androulla Kaminara said, “I am not literature critic but I am literature lover because it allows you to step into the shoes of other people. Europe and Pakistan are very close partners and for the first time, Pakistan and Europe signed a strategic engagement plan to identify cultural exchanges.”
During the opening ceremony, Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk said, “There is a tendency in literary reviews and generally speaking humanity to associate some writers with some cities. I’m one of those lucky writers. But once I was translated, everyone started calling me Istanbul. I merely lived in the city. I consider myself a visual writer. There is a writer and painter in me; when I paint, I’m like a guy singing in the shower but when I write, it’s painful. I can’t say there is democracy in Turkey apart from voting. There is a lot of authoritarianism; it’s not a good situation in terms of freedom of expression.”
During the session ‘Global Retreat from Multilateralism’ eminent diplomat Maleeha Lodhi explained, “Multilateralism is the acknowledgment that there have to be global solutions to global challenges and problems. In other words, you need international cooperation to address the issues we confront today. If I believe in anything, it’s that authoritarianism is not the answer; its consequences always catch up. I think it’s time to feminise multilateral institutions. We have given enough time to men and now we need to make them more inclusive.”
Speaking to the session eminent author Vali Nasr said, “Trump phenomenon is accelerating. The US is saying it doesn’t believe in multilateralism; if he gets reelected, the world is going to be different. Trump doesn’t see value in compromising with the rest of the world when you can strong-arm them. He basically says I can come out of deals, bully the Europeans and North Korea and put sanctions on Iran. He doesn’t care about alliances. What Trump really believes in is that America should pursue its interests full on without taking into account any other region’s interests.”
In the session ‘Speaking Truth to Power’ (Decades of Unwavering Journalism; Herald and Newsline), I.A Rehman said, “When I started writing for Herald, the only challenge was to be yourself. Although we had authoritarian regimes, we had space; if you wrote courageously, you knew what would happen. Today, one has to think about many more horrendous situations.”
Talking about his time at Herald, Zahid Hussain shares, “I joined in 1983. Razia Bhatti was the editor and I was a token male surrounded by five strong women. It was quite exciting; it was a period when Zia was ruling the country. We still managed to do a lot.”
Tehmina Ahmed says she came to journalism through activism. “For me, Newsline was the real experience. We were absolutely independent for 25 years with no model to follow.”
The session ‘Lahore: A Framework for Urban Conservation’ was moderated by Maryam Rabi and Masood Khan and Nayyar Ali Dada talked about the urban conservation, preservation and spirit of conservation.
Masood Khan said, “We’re trying to delink the Lahore Fort from the Shalimar Gardens so that they are two world heritage sites that are independent of each other.”
Speaking about the spirit of conservation, Nayyar Ali Dada says, “We’re looking for living tradition. Good tradition is one that can continue. Documentation or mummification is not good enough.”
On Saturday, the event will feature a talk on Kashmir by Arif Nizami, Mushaal Hussein Mullik and Nitasha Kaul. The talks titled ‘Terror in Kashmir’ will be moderated by Khaled Ahmed. Fatima Bhutto, Audrey Truschke, Mehreen Chida-Razvi and William Dalrymple will also feature on talks being held in the day.
The festival features among others Oyinkan Braithwaite, who was long-listed for the Man Booker 2019; author Musharraf Ali Farooqi, who will launch his latest book, The Merman and the Book of Power; novelist and poet Nitasha Kaul, who has written on the plight of Kashmir in Modi’s India; and Adrian Hayes, who will launch One Man’s Climb, a book about his journey to reach the summit of K-2.
It will also feature a three-day exhibition by Asma Chishty of Destinations Magazine showcasing the natural wonders of Punjab province, as well as a three-day interactive exhibit by the Citizens Archive of Pakistan.