January 22, 2019

In a city where there is a shortage of cultural events, a new literature festival is a pleasant welcome.

“Let a thousand flowers bloom,” said Ameena Saiyid at a press conference organised at the Karachi Press Club on January 1. The former Managing Director of Oxford University Press (OUP), who retired towards the end of last year after 30 years of service, was announcing her most recent endeavour – the Adab Festival, that she and her co-partner, writer Asif Farrukhi, had embarked upon. AdabFest for short, is a new literature festival that promises to further broaden the academic and cultural horizons of Karachi’s teeming millions. In a city where even five to six such events are not enough, another literature festival is a pleasant welcome.

Saiyid and Farrukhi will be launching their new initiative on the sprawling grounds of the Sindh Governor’s House on February 1st. No doubt the venue itself would attract thousands of denizens where the country’s founders themselves had made history. Spread over a three-day period, over 55 sessions are scheduled featuring book launches, talks, interviews, discussions, a mushaira / poetry, music, dance, theatre, comedy/satire, film screenings and a book fair – very similar to the KLF format that Ameena Saiyid and Asif Farrukhi had co-founded 10 years ago. For the very first AdabFest, the organisers are anticipating an audience of 200,000 from across a cross section of the metropolis.

Briefing the members of the print and electronic media, the organisers of the new festival announced that over a hundred Pakistani and international authors, intellectuals and media personalities have confirmed their participation. Kicking off the event on February 1st will be keynote speakers Dr Ishrat Husain (economist and former Governor of State Bank), Arfa Sayeda Zehra (educationist and Urdu linguist) and Vali Nasr (America scholar of contemporary Islam, an author, political commentator and diplomat who has served as advisor the US President and Vice-President on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Middle East and the Islamic world). The lineup of keynote speakers at the closing ceremony are Haseena Moin (dramatist, playwright and scriptwriter), Ahmed Rashid (journalist and best-selling foreign policy author) and Peter Oborne (British journalist, broadcaster and author).


At the press briefing co-hosted by Getz Pharma, CEO, Khalid Mehmood said, “We are partnering with Ameena Saiyid and Asif Farrukhi, who have an established track record of creating and inspiring many festivals throughout the country.” He also briefed the press about the Getz Pharma Fiction Prize which will be awarding at the festival’s inauguration ceremony. Recently, the AdabFest announced the Long List for the prize and the authors include A. K. Asif (Hell! No Saints in Paradise), Bina Shah (Before She Sleeps), Kamila Shamsie (Home Fire), Mohammad Hanif (Red Birds), Osama Siddique (Snuffing Out the Moon), Sheheryar Sheikh (The Still Point of the Turning World), Sabyn Javeri (Nobody Killed Her) and Zarrar Said (Pure Land).


Also featuring at the festival will be a film made by the winner of the EACPE (Eqbal Ahmed Centre for Public Education) Video Contest 2018 based on the theme of “Brighter Future for the Nation.”


Expressing his thoughts at the press conference, founder and director, Asif Farrukhi stated, “We want this to be a regular series of events located in as many cities of the country. We want to highlight and celebrate the depth and diversity of Pakistan’s many languages and literary traditions. Our literature and authors are the best news that is coming out of Pakistan and we want the world to be as excited about these writers as possible. Let the celebrations begin.”


The recently uploaded three-day Adab Festival programme covers an exciting diversity of subjects. However it would be interesting to observe what the the new festival in town would bring to the table that would make it distinct from the KLF, considering the co-founders and directors until last year were the same.

The writer is working with the Newsline as Assistant Editor, she is a documentary filmmaker and activist.