Day 3: Here's what's happening at the Karachi Literature Festival

Day 3: Here's what's happening at the Karachi Literature Festival

Follow our live updates on to know who showed up, who ate what, and what we were most inspired by
Updated 13 Feb, 2017

We're at the 3rd and final day of the KLF.

If you missed out on the first two days of coverage, here are the events of Day 1 and Day 2, for live updates follow us here for Day 3.

6pm: It's a wrap for the sessions of KLF 2017!

We're calling it a day with Bobby Sager and Mohammed Hanif's keynote speeches and performances by Shayma Saiyid, Suhaee Abro, Saif Samejo and Sufi group.

Till next year, folks!

5.40pm: Quotable quotes from Murder, They Wrote

Photo: Dawn
Photo: Dawn

"Being a writer is like holding public office, everyone has an opinion [about you]. — Omar Shahid Hamid

"Conspiracy theories come true in Pakistan." - S S Mausoof

5.32pm: Memories and Reflections: Readings by Zia Mohyeddin

5.05pm: A packed hall listens attentively to Is Pakistan's Boom Town Still Booming?

Photo: Dawn
Photo: Dawn

This session about Karachi has attracted quite a crowd — not surprising, given its significance for all of Pakistan.

But will they get the answer to the titular question?

"It's not a boom town," says engineer and social activist Roland deSouza, "because it gives space to everyone who comes."

Architect/city planner Arif Hasan, on the other hand, sees a boom.

"In Karachi in 2004, there were under 400,000 motorbikes, now you have over 2 million motorbikes, this is a boom. There is a boom but at what cost."

With a burgeoning population taking over its expanse, Karachi sees its host of problems growing.

"Moving away thousands to make room for a few 100 rich people increases inequality," notes Roland.

5pm: Spotted in the book bazaar — discounts on art books and trending titles!

Photos: Dawn
Photos: Dawn

4.10pm: Quotable quotes from Cinema Across The Borders

Photo: @morket1ng/Twitter
Photo: @morket1ng/Twitter

"I followed Pakistani dramas on a channel in Bangladesh... but it's difficult to get [Pakistani] films there." — Shabnam

"There are no institutes for the aspiring filmmaker [in Pakistan]." — Nadeem Baig

"The work of an artist is to spread love." — Nadeem Baig

3.48pm: The Dawn of Freedom, The Pain of Partition

An all-woman panel consisting of Ayesha Jalal, Christina Oesterheld, Anam Zakaria, Urvashi Butalia and Sehba Sarwar argue whether it's written history or personal narratives that is the better means of understanding Partition.

Photo: Dawn
Photo: Dawn

The panelists have a slight disagreement about the relative importance of history vs personal narrative. Ayesha Jalal, of course, defends history.

3.38pm: Art and Enterprise for Conflict Resolution

"Nationalism binds us but it also blinds us and we should find other forms that can bind us," says moderator Amin Hashwani.

Photo: Dawn
Photo: Dawn

A tribute to Junaid Jamshed is played. The video charts how he moulded and transformed himself over the years.

Salman Ahmed is asked the inevitable question — given that JJ and him were on opposite ends of the spectrum, how did they keep their bond strong?

"Compassion," comes the reply.

"When we as artists what we try to achieve through poetry, film, art, we're trying to capture truth in all its hazy illustrations."

He recalls, "During Zia's dictatorship, there were no bands. But artists are rebellious and compassionate, so JJ and I thought why don't we write songs... People in uni told us not to quit our day job, but we were pit bulls. From the cultural collision of my upbringing in the US and his upbringing in Pak came 'Dil Dil Pakistan'... [Later, JJ] thought maybe pop music and rock music wasn't 'it', so he began looking deeper inside."

Pervez Hoodbhoy cuts in, "Art, literature, music are great as long as there is thought behind them about humanism. The problem is there is too much poetry, we're in the grip of the wrong kind of poetry. There's this man who wears shalwar kameez, has a big beard, hates women and sells their apparel, sure we mourn his death but there are better people who need to be remembered."

Salman Ahmad shakes his head in disapproval, jumps in to defend his friend.

"Pervez has one opinion and there are people who listen to his view. I respect your passion and the lens that you look through, but when you put down a cultural icon like JJ... he moved millions and millions of youth in Pakistan through his music, charitable works and apparel. There's a respect we should afford to Pakistanis who are doing something."

But it appears that there were many who agreed with Dr Pervez's sentiments.

3.30pm: Collector of Worlds

Bina Shah opens the session with a moment of silence for former Sindh education minister Dr Hamida Khuhro, who passed away this morning.

Photo: Dawn
Photo: Dawn

In this session, Bina is in conversation with Bulgarian–German writer Ilija Trojanow about his book Collector of Worlds.

"The only way to travel intensely is on foot, alone and without a safety net," says Ilija. "The travel industry today actually disallows travel and takes the fun out of it because its become such a comfortable experience."

Later on, he remarks about how writers can contribute to the historical documentation of a time or place.

"Novelists have more freedom so we can look at parts of history that have been overlooked or purposely written out," he said.

He also comments on a writer's struggle with research.

"As an author you're afraid of drowning in the massive volume of research. I was very afraid of expanding it; there are tough decisions you have to make, to narrow it down and not get seduced by eternal possibility."

Bina Shah asks Ilija to read out the erotic bits of his book, but nope. It's not happening.

Ilija goes on to explain his wanderlust.

"Since the age of 7, I thought change was normality and things staying the same was weird and I still do."

He advocates an alternate lifestyle.

"Automation is not a problem, it will free people from the shackles of meaningless, dangerous jobs. It's one of the driving forces that will make us change our society and economy."

2.45pm: Economy of Tomorrow: Towards Pakistan as a Good Society

The session first reflected on the Pakistan of today.

Photo: @mariamiumer/Twitter

The key to a better tomorrow, it emerged, is justice.

2.36pm: Stand up... and Laugh!

Photo: @OsamaHasan90/Twitter
Photo: @OsamaHasan90/Twitter

On the lighter side of KLF, viral sensation Syed Shafaat Ali entertained the crowd in the main garden with his popular impressions of political figures.

But before that, he revealed that he's worked out the secret to the success of the Karachi Literature Festival:

"Celebs come to KLF, girls come for them and then men come for the girls."

Yeah, who cares for ideas and intellectual stimulation?

2.32pm: Palestine, Syria: Where Doves Endlessly Weep

Laleh Khalili talks about the need to take a holistic approach to the understanding of the conflicts in Syria and Palestine.

"There are political grievances other than geopolitical or regional problems. I can't remember a more disparaging moment than this," she said.

A strain of hopelessness has entered the conversation.

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi says, "[Even after all this] endless human suffering, misery and bloodshed, there seems to be no solution in sight for Syria and Palestine... Syria did recover during the time of Damascus, but the question is whether it will recover now after Aleppo... Talking about stability, Palestine is worse. There is permanent, colossal tragedy that doesn't seem to end."

What will Trump's contribution be?

"There is some prospect of the situation in Syria moving toward some sort of normalcy," Qazi surmises.

1.40pm: Launch: 'Daddy's Boy' by Shandana Minhas

Shandana begins by explaining her thought process behind her book and says, human beings think in stories, not facts and numbers. So this was her thinking in stories. The book is set in election session in 2013, which was a particularly bloody year.

The book is about what was going through her head at that time.

In the session we learn that the protagonist is a Punjabi visiting Karachi for the first time. He has mother issues, fiance issues and is tasked with the legal process of getting his inheritance after being informed that his father has died the day before, not many years ago like he earlier believed.

When asked about the proliferation of literature about Karachi post 9/11, the author agrees that "It's become very sexy to write about Karachi."

When asked about writing racy scenes, she says: "It was difficult to write sexy bits when I was younger because you care about what people think; that my mother is going to read this book. But age brings maturity, if not wisdom, and I realise that my mother knows that sex exists, that's why I'm here, so it's okay."

"Comedy is natural to Pakistanis because comedy and tragedy go hand in hand," she later goes on quip.

1.40pm: Launch: The Pakistani Anti-Hero: History of Pakistani Nationalism through the Lives of Iconoclass by Nadeem F. Paracha

Our Culture Editor Hamna Zubair is the moderator for Nadeem's book launch.

"I think I'm making a change through writing that's what keeps me going there is that hunger to ask the right questions," says NFP.

The author says he disappoints a lot of people because he's not what they expect. Last year a lady at KLF asked him why he isn't catty anymore.

1.30pm: Launch: 'Love in Chakiwara and Other Misadventures' by Bilal Tanweer

1.00pm: Writers Lounge Is buzzing with people today!

Overheard in the crowd: "Mujhay phone silent pe karnay nahi ata toh bus ab call nahi karna session mein daant pitay gi wapis" (I don't know how to turn my phone on silent, so now don't call during a session otherwise I'll get scolded again.)

12.36pm: Security of Economics: What drives Foreign Policy

12.30pm: The New Generation of Creatives in Pakistan

In the session singer-songwriter Zeb Bangash says, "Hania and I had nowhere to go during Thanksgiving break in one college year and we recorded a song just for fun. Next thing we know, it was being played on the radio daily."

After facing a series of disappointments in the industry (as the industry was being 'Bollywood-ised', 'corporatised'), Coke Studio happened but Zeb had no expectations. She went off to Nathia Gali the day the her Coke Studio track was released. It was upon her return that she realised what a big deal their songs had become.

Talking about her start in the fashion world, designer Maheen Kareem says, "I was fortunate to come back to Pakistan at a time when fashion wasn't considered a cottage industry anymore. The fashion industry has its politics and cliques and horror stories, but as long as you lay low and concentrate on your work, you can thrive

For Maheen, when she launched her label in 2006, it was a shock to the system because it was all western (design). But luckily, the media opened up to global fashion and a niche market developed.

"I got a lot of attention because I only did western, even though I was told bridals and lawn is where the money is. There's enough space for all kinds off fashion now."

However, she feels that "as an industry, we need more government support. Students need investment to launch businesses. Younger designers creating brilliant work would be progressing faster and crossing borders. Marketing, production, quality all needs investment.

Giving the example of Dubai Maheen adds, "People fill their suitcases with our lawn. Our exhibitions in Dubai are a hit so there's lots of interest in Pakistani fashion."

Pakistani actor Mansha Pasha gives her take on the entertainment industry. "I started at an interesting time because there's a lot of interest in Pakistani film and TV. Actors more experienced than me have witnessed both the highest highs and the lowest lows of the industry."

Talks delve towards how it's like to be a woman in respective fields.

"Initially, when I joined the Pakistani industry, it was female dominated. I'm happy to see more men join the industry. India, China, Japan have fabulous male designers, why not Pakistan? It's good to see parents are encouraging their boys to pursue fashion. The worlds best designers are men," says Maheen.

Mansha adds, "The biggest challenge for women in the entertainment industry is their roles. We have cookie cutter heroines that have to appease to large demographics. She silently bears injustice in he life, which I find is boring for actors. Also it plays into a certain mindset of what a woman is."

Speaking on how the future can be better - balance between money and purity of art form, Maheen explains, "I see Indian industry and how they're liasing with western designers and I think that's the way forward. Pakistan is stigmatised as territory nation so we don't have tourism and no one sees our products."

"It's too early to insist that film is only artistic, it needs to be commercial because that's what will attract investment. But we need to carve a separate signature from India," says Mansha.

Fashion shows in Maheen's opinion "are part of a trade show."

"Although it's very glamorous. What happens in the west is that you show your stuff and the next day buyers come in and place orders. In Pakistan, there is a security issue so we don't have as many buyers come in."

12.15pm: The Birth Two Nations

"In a way partition began in 1947, we're just getting further away from one another," says Ayesha Jalal. "Conflict resolution is one thing but partition was conflict management."

She adds, "Partition is not an event that happened in 47 but a process. Pakistan was created as a homeland for Muslims but not in the name of Islam. It was about political power."

"You can criticize Jinnah but at least make the effort to contextualise him because otherwise you're talking about ideology and not history. However limited a victory it was for Jinnah it is still an achievement. Politics is the art of the possible."

Robert Long says, "Jinnah kept the definition of Pakistan vague and it came to mean different things to many people."

12.00pm: Partition: Drawing Borders in Blood

11.43am: Book Launch: 'Ajmer Sharif: Awakening of Sufism in South Asia' by Reema Abbasi

Introducing the book, Ameena Saiyid says, "It is not a coffee table book although it has 200 beautiful photographs. It's a wonderful look at Ajmer Sharif and its pilgrims."

And Reema Abbasi adds, "Living in a time when we need our heritage of unity. That's why I wrote this book."

"Mohiuddin Chisty believed that hunger is above any doctrine. In the age of genocides, we need to remember his message," she describes the content of her book. "Chisty's order of Sufism most inclusive of gender and creeds. In Sufi silsilas, this is the only one with female caliphs."

However, the research for the book was the toughest part. "Research for the book was difficult because everything was in Persian and the manuscripts in Aligarh Muslim University were turning to powder so they wouldn't let me touch or photograph them. They told me to take notes, I told them to get a visa for 4 years!"

The information was them translated from Persian to Urdu to English which in itself was a difficult process. "Made me think that this should be my last non fiction for a few years," Reema says with a laugh.

11.30am: Celebrating Faiz

Adeel Hashmi took the opportunity to recite poetry by his grandfather and master poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz.

11.13am: The Empress and her Munshi

Shrabani Basu explains that researching for her book was a challenge because after Queen Victoria died her son destroyed all the letters. However, she found some of Abdul Kareem's relatives which helped gather information.

She says he was a clerk in Agra jail when he was 24. He was recruited by the Queen along with Mohammad Baksh and was sent to Windsor to serve the Queen personally. Abdul Kareem managed to get the Queen's attention and she made him stay with her.

The research helped her discover that the Queen and Abdul Kareem shared a close bond after her taught her how to read and write in Urdu. She also found out that Queen Victoria loved chicken curry and daal and she would have it cooked in the royal kitchens often.

As per her research, the Queen's household didn't like the Munshi so they called the connection between them 'Munshimania'. In her memoir, the Queen wrote many things for Munshi and that's why her son burned all the letters.

When asked about the relationship the two shared, the author replied, "It was a maternal relationship. She writes to him as a closest friend in her letters to Abdul Kareem and I got to know about this through Abdul Kareem's diary which is with his family here in Karachi."

"Abdul Kareem had no children and he died 10 years after he returned to India after the Queen's death. So I tried finding the letters and what not and there was a time I found no one and then all of a sudden all these extended family members started coming out of no where with diaries and letters and it was lovely , they've been my hosts in Karachi it's been lovely and they helped me piece these things together."

And their relationship extend to Kareem's family. The author adds, "The queen had invited Kareem's family, his wife and since it was nice Indian family so his parents also showed up everybody laughs and his father was the first person to smoke in Windsor castle."

11.09am: Book Launch: 'Those Children' by Shahbano Bilgrami

"This issue a novel that challenges and explores difference between faith, sects, cultures and continents," Moneeza Shamsie introduces Those Children by Shahbano Bilgrami.

Bilgrami gives a brief summary of her book's plot: Farzana and her siblings are uprooted from their Chicago home and moved to Karachi after losing their mother to cancer. They escape from their new strange environment into a world of make-believe where they examine the inhabitants of their grandfather's home with their 'superhuman powers'.

"This book is not about politics or current affairs, but the basic building blocks of society, i.e. Family," says Bilgrami.

She mentions that although the "1971 war also crept into my book, but I'm not interested in political happenings but the emotional repercussions of those events."

10.10am: EACPE Video Competition: Making change in Pakistan: What works, What doesn't

The winners of the video competition have been announced, and although the judges, Sarmad Khoosat, Nadeem F. Paracha and Pervez Hoodbhoy, couldn't make it to the session they watched the videos beforehand and deliberated the three winners.

Winner: Faisal Raza's documentary on transgender issues won first place.

First runner-up: Javeria Wasim won second place for her documentary on pollution.

Second runner-up: Maria Rubab's documentary on Quaid-e-Azam University which highlights the unlawful takeover on the land came in 3rd place.


NN Ojha Feb 12, 2017 03:22pm
Any idea who are publishers of Reema Abbasi's Ajmer Sharif : Awakening of Sufism in South Asia. How can one get the book in India?
M. Emad Feb 12, 2017 05:25pm
Over 200 new books published on the 11th day (Saturday, 11 February) of month-long 2017 Dhaka Ekushey Book Fair and International Literary Conference which opened on 1st February.
javed qamer USA Feb 12, 2017 06:45pm
I would have loved to be there.