The recently concluded second edition of Adab Festival Pakistan took place from January 31 till February 2, 2020, at the Karachi Arts Council. The idea behind the festival is to address issues and challenges faced by artists in Pakistan and provide a platform for free speech and exchange of ideas. Free and open to all, Adab festival featured a series of activities including book launches, poetry and prose recitation, talks, interviews and film screenings, among other things.
Once Francis Bacon said, “Reading makes a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man”. The Karachi Adab Festival was meant to get together well-read people, people fond of conference and those who earn their living by writing. The variety of the topics and the stature of the panelists and moderators were all in all excellent. The festival, attended by both national and international speakers, discussed a wide range of issues such as literature, politics, governance, urban planning, international politics, conflicts, and so on. The session on Karachi’s urban planning, public spaces and garbage management, triggered an engaging discussion where Sindh Labour and Information Minister Saeed Ghani blamed the lackluster role of Karachi’s political parties and citizens. To a question about Sindh government’s failure in collecting garbage, he asked how a city could remain clean when its residents put their energies in littering it only to test the government’s efficiency. Architect Arif Hasan narrated the systematic destruction of the city through centralisation, corruption and ethnic division. At another session, panelists took up Sindh police’s history connecting it with the conquest of Sindh, a great game when Russia advanced downwards and the British upwards towards Balochistan, Afghanistan etc. Similarly, the British continuously worked to improve policing. In the 18th century, two committees were formed by the British tasked with improving the police force. How much efforts can be seen now to reform the police force?
The festival was not limited to national issues. Palestinian author Adania Shibli spoke openly about the spiral of ‘silence’ ruling the terror-stricken Palestinian territories. She talked about herself standing in a post office in the late 2000s quietly taking in her surroundings and goings on. Most people standing in line with her at the post office were Palestinians. Only the people at the desks were Israeli. “Standing there in line, I silently rehearsed in my mind how to speak when it is my turn to ask for my package,” she said, adding that she was going to speak in English. She said every Palestinian has to hide behind the cover of silence. “Silence is a phenomenon for every Palestinian in Palestine because once a Palestinian speaks in Arabic, they fear being discriminated against or even being attacked.” Now, the world is also maintaining an uncanny silence on the plights of Palestinians. And occasions like the Karachi Adab festival provide a forum to the people to break their silence.
The festival was not limited to national issues. Palestinian author Adania Shibli spoke openly about the spiral of ‘silence’ ruling the terror-stricken Palestinian territories.