To celebrate National Book Day, an award distribution ceremony for the Best Book Reader of the Year was held on Sunday at the official residence of Minister for Religious Affairs Khursheed Shah.
With the host unexpectedly stranded in Karachi due to airline delays following the Shaheen Air scare at Karachi airport, the prime minister and other senior PPP members took over the hosting duties.
After welcoming guests in lieu of his missing colleague, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira asserted that the struggle against terrorism can never be successful without the contribution of intellectuals.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani recalled his school life and how he started reading. He said the first book he ever read was Abul Kalam Azad’s India Wins Freedom. He expressed admiration for late British PM Winston Churchill, who started his professional life as a journalist and was also a respected writer and orator.
He paid tribute to writers and intellectuals for helping strengthen democracy.
“Civil society and the media are so vibrant and strong that nobody can dare to do any unconstitutional act,” he said.
Gilani also paid tribute to books for helping him get through his incarceration in Adiyala Jail during the Pervez Musharraf regime.
Prominent short story writer Asghar Nadeem Syed spoke on behalf of Shah and thanked guests while saying the event was “like Valentine’s Day for books”. “It is a symbolic and meaningful day to promote love for books and reading.”
He said only those societies prosper and progress that give respect to writers and intellectuals.
The ceremony was part of the National Book Foundation’s five-day celebrations coinciding with National Book Day.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2012.