The coverage of the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) was generally good. However, no sufficient coverage was given to the sessions related to Pakistan’s involvement in geopolitics, and evolving foreign policy trends. This was despite the fact that panellists, such as Prof Tariq Rahman, Ahmed Rashid, Zahid Hussain, Ikram Sehgal and American scholar Michael Kugelman, expressed their views on crucial international affairs.
After their presentations, interesting questions were raised by the audience which led to a sort of debate on a variety of issues related to the country’s foreign policy, which is a vital part of national existence as a whole.
In the past, some Indian scholars, such as Prof Rajmohan, the grandson of Mohandas Gandhi, Bengali intellectual Dr Ashish Nande, Lahore-born diplomat Mani Shaker Aiyar, Gutam Noulakha of the Economic and Political Weekly of India, Sindhi historian Saaz Aggarwall and many other luminaries had featured in such sessions. This time their absence was conspicuous.
The organisers might have invited some of the Indian scholars and media persons, but seemingly the extremist Modi government in India did not give them the permission to do so. This I say because the Indian government did not grant visa to me to participate in a conference held in Vadodra, whereas, a few years ago, when during the Manmohan Singh era, 2004-14, I twice attended conferences in India.
This demonstrates the myopic attitude and animosity of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government towards Pakistan and Pakistani scholars, and even towards Indian scholars and actors who have a positive perception of Pakistan.
One can hope that things may improve in the future and the organisers will invite scholars like Irfan Habib, Romela Thapar, S.D Muni, Ajay Behera, Saaz Aggarwall, who are all working in favour of better Pakistan-India relationship, apart from media persons and actors for participating in local events. Such individuals will act as a bridge between the peoples of Pakistan and India, and hopefully between the two governments.
DR MEHTAB ALI SHAH