Book festival in Gwadar
LITERARY, film and theatre festivals are now very much an essential part of the cultural calendar of Pakistan’s metropolitan cities. Throughout the year, such events take place in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, where literati gather to discuss the questions of the day and artists display their work for the public. However, in the country’s secondary cities, such cultural activities are less frequent. Moving into the hinterland, they are practically non-existent. That is why it was heartening that a four-day Gwadar Book Festival, which ended on Sunday, was held in the Balochistan port town. Usually, Gwadar is in the news either for its role as a critical node in CPEC, or for the militancy that affects Balochistan in general. To see efforts in this town to promote cultural activities, therefore, is laudable.
Speakers from Karachi and Quetta attended the event; these included author Mohammed Hanif. As Mr Hanif rightly pointed out, while much of the media focus is on Balochistan’s troubles, the province’s cultural richness is not given equal coverage. While indeed the stories of violence and political problems cannot be ignored, Balochistan should not be viewed through a one-dimensional security prism. The province’s cultural activities, reflecting its people’s thoughts, feelings and aspirations, must be encouraged to allow the rest of the country to get a fuller view of what this complex, ancient society is all about. In this regard, the Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu secretary Fatima Hassan’s announcement at the book festival that the body would establish a Gwadar office must also be lauded. Other activities at the event, such as plays by children in Balochi and the screening of films by young film-makers from small Balochistan towns such as Jiwani and Pasni, also helped showcase the latent talent of the province. Cultural activities in Balochistan and cultural exchanges with other parts of Pakistan can play an important role in ‘normalising’ the situation in the province and building inter-provincial bridges, at least on the cultural front.