High Commissioner opens Lahore Literary Festival at the British Library

Art and literature bring cultures and communities together: Nafees Zakaria
The High Commissioner, Mohammad Nafees Zakaria opened the fourth edition of the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) at the British Library in London on 26 October 2019. Razi Ahmed, LLF’s Founder and CEO along with his team put together an impressive show featuring some of the finest writers and opinion-makers from Pakistan, Britain and other countries. The well attended full day event attracted a large number of writers, poets, artists, think tank notables, students and media persons. In his opening remarks, the High Commissioner commended Razi Ahmed and his entire team on the initiative that brought together an august gathering of finest brains and great intellectuals. He hoped that LLF would provide a useful platform for public discourse and create mutual understanding between various cultures and communities. Mr Zakaria said being the cradle of ancient civilizations, Pakistan is rich in art and culture and the LLF sets the stage to promote Pakistani cultural heritage at the international level.
Mr Zakaria commented: “The LLF would develop strong linkages between the literary circles of our two countries. Such affinities, when developed, transcend many differences and are utmost necessary for cross-cultural understanding, tolerance and global peace, which is the need of the hour. “LLF is also aimed at satiating the appetite of our 1.5 million strong Diaspora, who have great love for their literature, poetry and art. The Festival can effectively connect them to their literary heritage; especially the young people who need to be connected to their cultural heritage. “Our Sufi poets have always fascinated the world with their Sufi ethos of love for humanity, hope and peace.” The High Commissioner also mentioned about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Indian Occupied Kashmir. He quoted the reports of international organisations on human rights abuses in of the Kashmiris by the Indian occupation forces.
Mr Zakaria emphasised that the issue should be seen from the perspective of human rights. He also highlighted the security implications of the conflictions for the region and beyond. There was an exclusive session on current situation in Kashmir and the ongoing siege in the Indian Occupied Kashmir. The session featured renowned author Mirza Waheed, historian Victoria Schofield and writer Sonia Faleiro. Mirza Waheed shed light on the history of past sieges in IOK but said the ongoing siege is the worst as the Indian forces have picked up children as young as 9 years old. Similarly, the whereabouts of the young people who were picked up remain unknown. He appreciated the voices being raised at the international level against Indian oppression in Kashmir. Victoria Schofield also gave perspective on the long standing dispute of Kashmir and emphasised on its resolution to end the sufferings of the Kashmiri people. Ms Faleiro, who moderated the session, gave the details of the repressive measures taken by the Indian Government since 5 August 2019.
Speakers included historian Ayesha Jalal, politician and former diplomat Sherry Rehman, authors Fatima Bhutto, Elif Shafak, artists Waqas Khan and Raqib Shaw, and former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger. The LLF featured a wide range of topics including literature, art, history, culture, politics, architecture of Mughal era, Curtains Up Kashmir: Mirza Waheed and Victoria Schofield in conversation with Sonia Faleiro, Tourism and Mountaineering in Pakistan, education and Global Impact of Pakistani TV & Cinema. In his vote of thanks, Razi Ahmed thanked High Commissioner Zakaria for his support to the LLF. The Festival concluded with Qawwali performance by The Saami Brothers Qawwal in the evening.

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