March Issue 2013
What do Shakira, George Clooney and Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan have in common with Ameena Saiyid, managing director of the Oxford University Press in Pakistan? Well, they have all been awarded knighthood of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government. Saiyid joined the ranks of the long line of chevaliers when Philippe Thiebaud, ambassador of France to Pakistan, officially presented this award to her at the recent Karachi Literature Festival which she co-founded four years ago. Such accolades are not unusual for Saiyid, who in 2005 became the first Pakistani woman to receive the Order of the British Empire. In fact, Saiyid’s career is full of many firsts. In 1988, when Saiyid was handed over the reins of OUP, she became the first Pakistani woman to run a multinational company. And in April 2010 she became the first woman president of the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI).
Her commitment to literature and publishing in Pakistan is evident not only from the literature festivals and book fairs OUP has hosted in the country but also by the many books — ranging from literary anthologies in regional languages to children’s textbooks — published under her supervision. With the Karachi Literature Festival growing in strength every year and foreign authors launching their books or participating as panelists, it wouldn’t be surprising if many such awards continue to come her way.
Zehra Nabi is a graduate student in The Writing Seminars at the Johns Hopkins University. She previously worked at Newsline and The Express Tribune.