KARACHI: The KLF was back in full force over the weekend at its usual venue, the Beach Luxury Karachi, taking in the last of the remaining winter sun.
The three-day event drew large crowds, packed sessions and attendees from all walks of life, across all ages, drawing on Karachi's intellectual enthusiasm.
Groups of schoolchildren attended in droves, pointing towards the need of in-person events after having been in-and-out of classrooms for almost two years.
Author Victoria Schofield highlighted in the keynote speech that it was wonderful to be back in Karachi and return to events such as these.
After the KLF kicked off with opening speeches and welcome addresses, various sessions were held over the next two days.
KLF, noting 75 years of Pakistan, explored the theme of 'Separation, Belonging and Beyond' with many sessions focusing on identity, partition, democracy, foreign policy and others.
The sessions encouraged introspection this year, as thinkers and authors focused on Pakistan and its place in the world.
The session titled 'The Security Conundrum' featured Ikram Majeed Sehgal, Dr Salma Malik and Haider Nizamani, and explored the idea of Pakistan’s debilitating and limiting internal security crisis, alluding to the recent attacks in Peshawar and how to go about building 'functional relationships’ with neighbours.
Dr Salma Malik, alluding to the crisis in Ukraine, highlighted how “limited war is not possible”.
To conclude, Sehgal pointed to institutional corruption being the most detrimental factor in Pakistan’s progress.
Other notable sessions included Nadeem Farooq Paracha in conversation with George Fulton titled 'The Reluctant Republic Ethos and Mythos of Pakistan', and another with the venerable author and playwright Hanif Kureishi.
A discussion on higher education in Pakistan followed, where educators contemplated whether education is apolitical, (concluding that it is not.) Parents in the audience shared how school syllabi from the Zia-era to now has helped shape and politicise minds of the young generation, building their views on the Kashmir conflict, sectarian violence between India and Pakistan and much more, adding “What you teach in schools is what citizens become.”
A discussion on higher education in the country also ensued, with many parents in the audience adding how they would like to see higher education in the country to be reformed and become more competitive.
A music lesson with musician Bilal Maqsood followed in the next session, who emphasised the importance of the Urdu language, introducing a new project aimed at younger attendees, entertaining them along the way. “Music is a powerful tool, and should be used carefully,” on the use of music as a medium of instruction for children.
The third and final day of the festival also drew large crowds. Focusing on poetry and language, the day began with a session focused on Balochi, Sindhi and Punjabi poetry.
On the size and scale of the return of the 13th KLF, Raheela Baqai, Marketing Director at Oxford University Press, stated “We are proud to host over 200 speakers this year. Every room is occupied and holding sessions. We are very happy with the event and how it has turned out.”
Also among the sessions generating immense hype was the insightful one featuring the prolific Anwar Maqsood, who shared his lockdown musings in the form of original poetry with the audience. After sharing some personal verses, he moved on to incisive political satire, sparing no one, leaving the overflowing main garden of the Beach Luxury in fits.
That session was followed by a surprise last-minute addition with veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah appearing via Zoom in conversation with Shahzad Sharjeel.
Adding how he would have loved to attend in person, the conversation was a personal one, spanning Shah's love for the people of Lucknow, Hyderabadi food, the influence of Shakespeare’s plays in his work, adding stories of his family and their careers along the way.
The day ended with a closing note by Victoria Schofield and the organisers followed by a Qawwali by Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammad.