Mainstream media urged to refrain from using ‘divisive’ language | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Mainstream media urged to refrain from using ‘divisive’ language

Pakistan Press Foundation

HYDERABAD: Pakistan’s eminent Sindhi and Urdu language playwright Noorul Huda Shah has drawn attention of mainstream media to its use of “Karachi aur Sindh” and said it must refrain from employing divisive language.

Literary festivals could help do away with provincial parochialism in the country, said Ms Shah who, as a panellist of a session on ‘Grand debate on need of enlightenment and contribution of literature festivals’, grabbed all attention at Hyderabad Literature Festival-4 (HLF). The festival kicked off at Hyderabad Club on Friday evening with the main session that was moderated by Ayub Shaikh.

HLF was inaugurated by Sindh secretary culture Ali Akbar Leghari amid a tableau by children in the club’s lawns. A photo and painting exhibition was also opened by the secretary along with writer Shoukat Shoro and others while the secretary, Shamsul Haq Memon of Endowment Fund Trust for Preservation of the Heritage of Sindh, and Shaukat Shoro discussed the festival’s relevance at a brief inaugural session.

Noorul Huda Shah took her cue from Jami Chandio, who referred to what he saw as poisonous content in syllabus, and said that there was indeed short-sightedness in the syllabus. “Sindh was and is being presented as a conquered territory,” she remarked.

Alluding to federal ministers’ statements against Sindh, she said that their language remained unpalatable. “We are made to believe as if Sindh was non-existent before Arabs came here,” she said.

She praised organisers of KLF but said mainstream Urdu media must refrain from “Karachi aur Sindh” reference in its news content. “It has been noticed audience in Karachi is entirely different and KLF initially didn’t have space for Sindhi literature but then it was accommodated for which KFL management must be lauded,” she said.

“Karachi is Sindh’s heart and it can’t be talked of as a separate entity. HLF or KLF all testify to Sindh’s existence and whatever festival is organised in Karachi belongs to Sindh,” she said.

She said that youth had been fanaticised under a plan over a period of time. Festivals like this, she said, could help end provincial parochialism. “A maulvi is meaningless but we (too) need to give up issuing certificates of treachery,” she said.

She said that although rightists were generally grabbing spaces but Sindhi society was increasingly becoming more enlightened and moderate though Sindhi women still needed freedom.

She recalled that she was overjoyed seeing girls making merry in Ayaz Melo last month in Hyderabad. “Middle and urban classes are developing which shows where Sindhi society is heading to,” she said.

Noted analyst Jami Chandio said that enlightenment had been suppressed over the past 70 years. Even cabinets and elected houses were full of anti-people forces. “Our syllabus is just poisonous which reflects chauvinism,” he said.

He criticised corporate media and said it had nothing to do with enlightenment. There existed alternative discourse before the state became retrogressive. Festivals like this attained greater significance as they created common space for people, he said.

He said that this society did not give politics and books to its youth and recalled that siyasat per guftugu karna mana hai message was commonly written in hotels and other venues.

He, however, called for making such events more meaningful.

KLF organiser Arshad Saeed Humayun highlighted history of KLF and said that the forum offered an opportunity to youth to interact with literati and thinkers. Calling for alternative narrative to do away with intolerance in society, he said that message of mysticism was a strong tool for spreading religious harmony.

When he was asked why extremism was on the rise, Humayun retorted that society had taken time to become intolerant, it was otherwise an open, liberal and accommodating society. “We need to come up with alternative narrative,” he reiterated.

Architect Hameed Soomro disagreed with the narrative that sought to make Sindh intolerant. “We have been tolerant before Zia changed the narrative,” he said. Bhitai and Bulleh Shah needed to be taught in academic institutions and Sindh should contribute to promotion of secular ethos, he said, adding otherwise there was no option.

Nadeem Niaz, organiser of mother tongue language festival in Islamabad, said the festival he was associated with had changed scope of such fairs. “KLF’s theme revolved around English authors. Even Urdu didn’t get due space there,” he said.

Referring to Unesco’s recognition of 67 languages as mother tongues, he said: “It were we who mainstreamed the debate around diversity and identity”.

Telling the moderator why English language had strong influence, he said that one should not feel shy of writing or speaking their own language. “I speak Urdu and English in Sindhi accent because it is your hard work that matters and not American or English accent,” he said.