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Faiz festival

The three-day 5th Faiz International Festival concluded on Sunday providing a much-needed occasion to the members of the public to discuss issues pertaining to a better today and a safer tomorrow. Packed halls, appreciative audience and learned panelists provided the perfect ambience for making Lahore the City of Literature, as has been declared by Unesco. Lahore was among 66 cities on the list for 2019 as City of Literature of Unesco’s Creative Cities. Occasions like Faiz Festival make the city a breeding ground for ideas and innovation. The festival hosted writers, artists, performers, journalists and intellectuals from across Pakistan and discussed a range of issues such as literature, economy, politics, international relations and film.

The festival, organised by the Faiz Foundation Trust in collaboration with the Lahore Arts Council, discussed the works of famous composer Khayyam where moderator Israr Chishti and panelists Amjad Pervaiz and Arshad Mehmood discussed the career of Khayyam, both in Lahore and Mumbai. A not much publicised aspect of his Lahore life, that Khayyam was a pupil of Baba Chishti, surprised the audience. He left Lahore for Mumbai before the 1947 Partition and when he died, the great composer was honoured with a 21-gun salute and condolence messages from the prime minister and president. Similarly the philanthropist Khayyam was discussed as he donated Rs12 crore to a trust for the welfare of struggling singers. In another session, the work of towering literary figures – Altaf Fatima, Khalida Hussain and Fehmida Riaz – was discussed. According to them, Fehmida Riaz, mostly known as a poet, also wrote prose. Her poetic themes kept swinging from women’s issues to politics, history and the historic characters and folk heritage of Sindh.

Shrinking spaces for civic and journalists’ voices also came under discussion. There was consensus among panelists that journalism was never free in Pakistan and that the lost path can only be found if only the golden principles of journalism were followed. A panelist’s comment met with loud applause that expression cannot be gagged in the age of social media, “Why do you [government] try to do so?” Also, the powerful voice of all times – Asma Jahangir – was paid tribute to at a session titled ‘Asma Ki Awaz: There was also ‘White in the Flag’ where panelists from minority communities listed down her struggle, challenges and achievements for their rights.  *

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