Sights and sounds: Karachi Literature Festival 2015

Celebrities, authors and public intellectuals throng the festival today

Anaam Afridi/Sundar Waqar/web Desk February 06, 2015


The 6th Karachi Literature Festival kicked off at the Beach Luxury Hotel on 6th February. .

You can view the programme here.

Make sure you don’t miss keynote speeches by authors Nayantara Sahgal and Zehra Nigah, and a dance performance by Nighat Chaodhry today.

If you can’t, however, make it or aren’t in Karachi, follow our live coverage for quotes, photographs and videos of the most anticipated event in the city.

Stay tuned.

And that's the end of our coverage of the Karachi Literature Festival.

British theatre director and producer Jude Kelly talks about why an outlet for expression is crucial to any society.

"Women's fiction began the first time a man asked a woman what's wrong and she said 'nothing'," Shandana Minhas says jokingly.

Young attendees tell us about their KLF experience.

Actor Bushra Ansari says, "Imran Khan is a really down to earth person but he has really bad taste in shoes."

Actor and director Rahat Kazmi tells us what he loves about the KLF.

Overheard: I only came here for the food.

Overheard: Seventy per cent of the speakers who were supposed to come cancelled after the Peshawar school attack.

Actor Meera makes a surprise visit at the session: Transaction or transformation in film and TV.

Overheard: Oh Meera is here, hope we'll get something to laugh about.


Sessions of the day

1) Kitab-e-Muntashir by Musadiq Sanwal

Reported by: Ali Raj

Writer Mohammed Hanif speaking at the session, recalls the former editor, the late Musadiq Sanwal, used to cram visitors in his one-bedroom apartment exactly the way the room at the festival is packed today.

"Sanwal and I came to Karachi together to see the lights. We were like a notorious couple."

Filmmaker Hasan Zaidi adds, "When Sanwal got to know of his illness he became even more strong and began penning his unfinished story down."

Further, Wasat Ullah Khan says, "Sanwal is Mohenjodaro to me. Still being discovered, still being unearthed. Such a man he was."

2) Can 'creative Pakistan' undo 'unstable Pakistan'?

Reported by: Anaam Afridi

Sherry Rehman speaking at the session says, "In Pakistan arts and culture have been harnessed by repressive regimes. A step away from that has seen the arts flourish (in the private sector)."

"Don't burden the arts with saving Pakistan," she adds.

Further, she says events like the KLF open us up to the multitude and diversity of narratives.

Ali Saleem aka Begum Nawazish Ali has some poignant words on change and transformation, says change is happening all around us and we just need to open our hearts to it.

"We should learn to distingusih between private and public life, it's no one's business what I do in my bedroom," he says.

"I wrote my first short story at the age of 13, but I can't bear to look at it now," says author Aamer Hussein.

Further, he says people just want him to write him about terrorists, veils and similar things because he's from this side of the world.

The session for former editor, the late Mussadiq Sanwal, is packed before it even starts. Doors have been shut and people aren't being let in.

The session is moderated by Hasan Zaidi while Mohammed Hanif and Wasat Ullah Khan are the speakers.


Kamila Shamsie on why she loves the KLF.

Indian writer and niece of Nehru Nayantara Sahgal says Pakistan is like home.

"So far, I have not found any difference," she says when asked what's different between Pakistan and India.

"Books are part of an entire culture," says Ritu Menon.


An attendee is transported back to his school days.

But first... Let me take a selfie!

People at the festival protest against the
issuing of permits to a Saudi prince to visit Balochistan to hunt the Houbara bustard, a bird supposedly protected by law.

Saudi Prince Fahd bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz led a hunting party to Balochistan last year that officials said killed more than 2,000 bustards.



Our coverage of day 2 of the Karachi Literary Festival comes to an end. We will be back tomorrow.

An hour-long session titled ‘He Sang to Our Souls’ at the 6th Karachi Literature Festival with Pierre-Alain Baud, researcher on Sufi music, and historian Nomanul Haq kicked off on Saturday with moderator Ali Sethi reading a few passages from Baud’s biography of the South-Asian giant of music.

Read more.

Commenting on Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's music, Ali Sethi says his music is 'freakish'.

"The reason why he became so famous worldwide is because there was none like him." he said, adding that "he was able to adjust himself to the audience."


Najam Sethi at the KLF recalled his meetings with former prime minister and time he requested Benazir Bhutto to let him take Asif Zardari to London. "She said on one condition, if I can handcuff him to you so Jugnu can look after him and you."

Najam Sethi at KLF. PHOTO: EXPRESS

With the World Cup 2015 to commence this month, Sethi was questioned on whether India or Pakistan would win.

"And the answer is, I'm not into match fixing," he says.

Overheard: "My friend is contesting elections and asked me to do him a favour. When I failed he said sir you can't put one puncture, how did you manage 35 punctures."

Sessions of the day

1. The world as the author sees it

Moderator: Sarah Humayun

Writer Benyamin speaking at this session informs that he very recently came to writing in this field but never sees the world as a writer.

"I met so many poor people and I realised that since no one is writing about their living conditions I thought it was my responsibility to do so."

"As a fiction writer I will not reflect life as it is because you need to add colour."


2. Can local cinema travel globally

Moderator: Hasan Ansari

Because: With TV series like the The Wire and Breaking Bad there is a global audience and market that is opening up.

Speaking at this session Meenu Gaur does not think that action is becoming the preferred genre of Pakistani cinema "but it is true that films are only being made in this genre," she adds.

"You can't release a film like Zinda Bhaag the same way you would release a film with Shaan. You have to come up with other ways to market indie films," she said.

Commenting on problems such a piracy, Gaur says that Pakistan needs to come up with ways to counter such problems.


Overheard: "Where is tulip (the hall?) tulips are in the garden.

The view at KLF this afternoon

Overheard: "It's so hot. I need an ice bucket challenge right now.

Fareshteh Aslam tells the whole truth

Author spotting at KLF

Overheard: "This place is so unimpressionable and disorganised"

"Kardar and Imran can be termed as the dictators of the Pakistan cricket team," Osman Samiuddin says at the festival.

Further views on cricket were shared by Nadeem F Paracha who said, "If Javed Miandad had not been vice captain in Imran's team, things would have been very different."

PHOTO: Tauseef Mallick/ EXPRESS

Overheard: "I wish Meera jee had a session"

"What gets you killed in Pakistan is journalism," says Mohammed Hanif.

He also believes that the basic process of writing is an ailment and a lifelong sickness.

PHOTO: HIRA SIDDIQUI/EXPRESSWhen asked about his advice for young educated students, Mohammad Hanif said, "My advice is the same as of Shehzad Roy, 'Lagey Raho'."

Overheard: Person one: "This is so boring!"

Person two: "So! It's literature, not stand up comedy trials."

Volunteers and their views

Overheard: "Last year's KLF was so much better."

David Weill impresses us with his Urdu skills

Overheard: "I only came for the food, and it is so disorganised."

Celebrity spotting: Anoushey Ashraf speaks about KLF

The young ones and their opinions

And now we speak to Mohammed Hanif

Overheard: "I didn't even know I was coming here. I don't want to be around intellectual people."

Sights and sounds at KLF

Overheard: "I have to work so hard, I don't have a sugar daddy."

And now, Ali Sethi sings for us

Overheard: "The best part about KLF is not attending the sessions."

Don't miss the book bank at KLF

Overheard: "Why are there books in this? I want coke!"

Be careful what you wish for

Is there someone you wouldn't want to see at KLF?

Some political faces at KLF

Bilal Tanweer, author of The Scatter Here Is Too Great, tells us what he loves about KLF.

He also tells us about the sort of people who should not be at the festival:

Overheard: "All these sessions are in English, how are we supposed to understand it?"

Our coverage for the day has come to an end. We'll be back with more, for the final day of the festival, tomorrow!

Our coverage for the day comes to an end. But we will be back for more tomorrow and the day after.

Ghazi Salahuddin, renowned journalist and member of the ‘I am Karachi’ consortium, addressed the participants urging members of civil society to play their role in bringing peace to the city, our correspondent Tauseef Mallick writes.

Salahuddin added that civil society is now in a battle on the cultural front and needs to fight to reclaim public space and promote art and culture.

Nighat Chaodhry is performing now.

"The last piece I'll be performing is very close to my heart," she says.


"The festival gives voice, visibility and readership to writers and authors," KLF founder and Oxford University Press Managing Director Ameena Saiyid says of the annual event.

We spoke to Ameer Hoti, a KLF attendee.

Model/actor Jia Ali spotted at KLF.

Overheard: "I had French fries, malai boti and coke. All for Rs250!"

Overheard: "I saw a book I wanted to buy, but it's for Rs12,000 and I don't have enough money."

More views from KLF.


Author Nayantara Sahgal, one of the keynote speakers, signing autographs.

We found classical dancer Sheema Kirmani at KLF. Here's what she had to say.

Another OUP truck; this one's smaller.

Designer Amna Zahid says she has been to the KLF five out of six years.

"This year is very important to me," she says. "My son, Asim Butt, is launching his book Rebel Angel."

'I am Karachi' T-shirts are being distributed for free at the festival.

Overheard: "There may be crime in Karachi, but there are also people all over who talk about literature, about life."


Zehra Nigah begins her keynote speech.

"Politics has intimately and painstakingly crept into private lives," keynote speaker Nayantara Sahgal says.

Sahgal says that it is especially important today for homegrown writers to be translated. "I am a fragmented person. And I am indebted to all those fragments that have gone into the making of me and my writing."

"I live in North India, which is a heir to Islamic heritage from Rajmahal to Roghan Josh," Sahgal says.

"Even language. When they were deciding the languages for India, Nehru looked at the 13 languages shortlisted and asked, 'Where is Urdu?'" Sahgal  adds. "He was told it is not a mother tongue. He replied, 'It is mine.'"

There is also a Police help desk at the venue.

Coca-cola has a Twitter board at the event.

"This is not my thing," says one attendee at KLF. "But I am looking forward to making connections here."

There's also good food at the festival.

Interesting find in the legal section.

"I've come [to KLF] every year since the first one happened in Carlton," festival attendee Javed Hasan says. "I like to see my favourite writers and speakers."

"I am looking forward to upcoming session 'Conference of Birds', and of course meeting people," Hasan adds.

More sights and sounds from KLF.

The Desi Writers' Lounge stall at KLF.

Here's a message from Papercuts Editor Afia Aslam.

Pretty crowded here at KLF.

And here's a map to help you navigate.

German Ambassador, KLF founder Ameena Saiyid and Ghazi Salahuddin onstage as opening ceremony begins.

"Last year 70,000 people attended the festival," Saiyed says addressing the crowd at the opening ceremony of the 6th Karachi Literature Festival.

"Each year the keynote speakers have been outstanding," Saiyed adds. "And this year the keynote speaker is Nehru's niece, Nayantara Sahgal, and Zehra Nigah."

An inside view of the Oxford mobile bookshop at KLF.

People have started pouring in to attend the opening ceremony.


Of all the sessions over the two-day Karachi Literature Festival, we are most excited about the 11 listed below.

Six sessions you cannot miss on Saturday

1. He Sang to Our Souls: Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

Pierre Alain Baud and Nomanul Haq

Moderator: Ali Sethi


Because: We can never get enough of the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Plus, the discussion with Sufi music researcher Pierre Alain Baud, closely associated with the late music maestro, will be insightful.

2. Book Launch:

Rebel Angel: Asim Butt

Nafisa Rizvi, Zarmeene Shah, and Amean J.

Moderator: Sabeen Mahmud


Because: Not everyone is familiar with the late artist’s work, but those who are would know not to miss this session and those who aren’t should definitely attend it.

3. The Satirical Pen:In Conversation with Mohammed Hanif

Moderator: Navid Shahzad


Because: Satire can only be learnt from Muhammed Hanif

4. Shayer e Awam:Habib Jalib

Asma Jahangir and Aitzaz Ahsan

Moderator: Mujahid Barelvi


Because: Mein Baaghi Hoon.

5. Freedom’s Niece: In Conversation with Nayantara Sahgal

Moderator: Salman Tarik Kureshi


Because: It would be unwise to miss Nayantara Sahgal, renowned Indian author, keynote speaker, niece of Nehru, cousin of Indira Gandhi, speak.

6. Presentation on Indus Raag: Music Beyond Borders


Because: They were almost nominated for a Grammy. Let’s celebrate.


Five sessions you cannot miss on Sunday

1. Mental Health in a Troubled City

Ayesha Mian, Naeem Sadiq, Haroon Ahmed, and Saadia Quraishy

Moderator: Murad Moosa Khan


Because: Karachiites know why.

2. From Other Perspectives

Argentinian, Dutch and Austrian Ambassadors

Moderator: Fawzia Naqvi


Because: Who doesn’t want to know what others think of you?

3. A Dramatic Presentation of the Stories of Manto

and Intizar Husain by Feryal Ali-Gauhar

Chair: Intizar Husain

Moderator: Asghar Nadeem Syed


Because: One word: Manto. Two more: Intizar Husain.

4. The Complete Performer: In Conversation with Bushra Ansari

Moderator: Nimra Bucha


Because: Everyone could use a laugh after a dramatic reading of Manto.

5. Can ‘Creative Pakistan’ undo ‘Unstable Pakistan’?

Jude Kelly and Sherry Rehman

Moderator: Peter Upton


Because: Because of the intrigue that is Sherry Rehman.



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