LAHORE: The Alhamra International Literary and Cultural Festival 2015 (AILCF) kicked off on Friday at the Lahore Arts Council, where speakers, in the presence of large number of audiences, shed light on culture and literature. Three sessions were held on first day of the festival, in which the scholars discussed on the literature and cultural aspects of Pakistan. In addition to the sessions, Alhamra Arts Council organised bookstalls, food stalls and a number of singing performances in the open courtyard of the council. Charpoys were set up for the singers who performed songs of different languages, representing their regional backgrounds. In the inaugural ceremony, a number of literary and cultural personalities including fiction writer Bano Qudsia, writer Intezar Hussain, painter Mian Ijazul Hassan, legendry actor Qavi Khan, folklore singer Suriya Multani, columnist Muno Bhai, Lahore Arts Council (LAC) Chairman Attaul Haq Qasmi and LAC Executive Director Captain (r) Atta Muhammad Khan were present. LAC Chairman Qasmi said the festival gathered key personalities of the sub-continent to discuss, discourse and exchange ideas about the current state of literature in Pakistan. “International as well as local scholars and poets will make this festival an opportunity for people to interact with them and ask queries about literature of the country,” he added. In a session tilted “Lahore Aaj aur Kal’, Walled City of Lahore Association (WCLA) Director General Kamran Lashari said rising concrete structures are hampering the spiritual and cultural lifestyle of Lahore. “In addition to the metropolitan city’s demand of efficient transport system, our government need to save our historical sites too,” he added. On the occasion, two books were also launched by poets Ehsan Shahid from UK and Qamar Riaz from Masqat. Indian writer Keval Theer, in the opening ceremony, said in comparison to India, Pakistan is doing much more to promote Urdu language. He stressed to continue literary festivals where both countries intelligentsia could sit together and ponder on common grounds to enhance people-to-people contact. Ejazul Hassan on the occasion said, “The provincial government should invest and allocate more money for the promotion of arts, artists and literary figures. Only a comprehensive and coherent policy on arts would make the dream of cultural development into reality. Craftsmen and artists of all fields should be treated equally.” While addressing the audience, Intezar Hussain said that writers are playing an important role in countering the growing violence and terror in the society. Despite not having any proper movement of reformation, the artists are contributing consciously in reforming the society, he added. The festival will conclude tomorrow (Dec 13).