Saturday, November 4, 2023, Islamabad: The 9th Islamabad Literature Festival, organized by Oxford University Press continued its second day. With a focus on sustainability, diversity, and the potential of human imagination, this literary extravaganza continued to inspire and enlighten attendees who arrived in scores from all over.
The day featured panel discussions, namely Verses in Play: Celebrating Tradition through Urdu Poetry; Pakistan’s Wars: An Alternative History; Destined to Fail Democracy and State Building Experiment in Post Taliban Afghanistan; and Other Days by Arshad Waheed.
Moderated by Yaqoob Bangash, the session saw Rahman present his main findings of his work tracing the history of wars in Pakistan, followed by a discussion on the economic implications of such events. Moeed Yusuf, while commenting on the cost of wars which is not just fiscal said, “The cost of war is that no one who has been born after 1995 has seen a peaceful day in their lives. These people are our future, and they will be weighed down by this trauma tomorrow when they come forward.”
Engaging conversations were held around some thought-provoking and extremely diverse themes including: The Dark Side of Journalism-Culture and Political Economy of Global Media in Pakistan and Afghanistan; Mahmil o Jaras: Collection of Unpublished Poems by Josh Malihabadi; Pakistani Prose and Verse Exploring Contemporary English Literature; Qaidi by Omar Shahid Hamid translated from English by Inaam Nadeem; Grieving for Pigeons Twelve Stories of Lahore by Zubair Ahmad; Shaping the Future of Learning; Ink and Empowerment: Women in Publishing; Lahore’s Lost Legacy Unveiling the Life and Contributions of Sir Ganga Ram; The Other In The Mirror: Stories from India and Pakistan edited by Sehyr Mirza; Hans Kar Jeeyo; The Lost Heritage and Dandelion Blooms: The Evolution of Islamabad.
The insightful session, The Dark Side of Journalism-Culture and Political Economy of Global Media in Pakistan and Afghanistan, moderated by Fasi Zaka highlighted the role of stringers and fixers in the last few decades in KP region. Syed Irfan Ashraf spoke about the impediments faced by Pashtun journalists while Afrasiab Khattak shed light about the importance of KP region as a periphery within a periphery. Hamid Mir also acknowledged the various issues and lamented about the coverage of many events in the post 9/11 era where the fixers risked their lives for foreign media outlets.
Moderated by Mina Malik, Ink and Empowerment: Women in Publishing, raised various issues about the journey of women publishers. Muniza Shamsi and Mehvash Amin shared their experiences with publishing, distributing works, and the role of libraries in supporting local writers.
A diverse panel featuring diverse speakers came together to discuss the power of literature to represent and celebrate a wide range of voices and perspectives. Democracy, bureaucracy and justice: Beyond colonial entanglements, AI in education: Empowering the mind, the path to development: India, Pakistan and Bangladesh at 75, by Ishrat Hussain, Fair Assessment: Education Ensuring Justice and Excellence in Irtiqa’s Urdu novel, “Investing in Humanity” “Capital: Combating Underdevelopment in Pakistan” was an important dialogue at the Islamabad Literature Festival 2023.
The discussion entitled “Democracy, Bureaucracy and Justice”, moderated by Mr. Khayyam Mushir, addressed various aspects, especially those lacking principles of good governance. today’s bureaucracy. Speaker Hamid Khan, Fauzia M. Mr. Sana and Mr. Zahid Hussain shared their views on measures to be taken to address these issues, referring to the socio-political situation in the country.
Saqib Ahmad, Managing Director, SAP Pakistan, moderated the session on “AI in Education” and said that while earlier the entire focus was on getting the right answers, in today’s fast-paced world, I said it’s all about asking the right questions. Right answer to get the right answer. Shahid Mahmood said that despite the resistance to AI, it has been around since his time in the late 1950s. Now it’s just that the pace has picked up significantly.
In the session ‘Fair Assessment: Ensuring fairness and excellence in education’, Andrew Coombe, Chief Executive of Oxford AQA, highlighted the importance of fair assessment and said that the purpose of the system is effective. He said the goal is to create a high-quality curriculum. Reliable and dependable are equivalent. Speakers agreed that assessment should be a stepping stone, not an obstacle, on the path to educational excellence. Equity in education means that each student’s different strengths and experiences are considered and valued in assessment.
The humorous session titled ‘Hans Kar Jiyo’ by Khaled Anam and Beo Zafar was an eye-opener. The duo wowed the audience with Anam’s trademark wit and Zafar’s stunning facial expressions.
The day ended with a screening of Sarmad Khoosat’s feature film Kamri. At the same time, a mesmerizing Mushaira was held, bringing together famous poets who enchanted the audience with their poetic verses. Iftikhar Arif presided over the Mushaira with Mehboob Zafar as the host. This dynamic collaboration took audiences into a realm of literary sophistication and artistic beauty, underscoring the festival’s commitment to celebrating diverse storytelling forms and cultural heritage.