Literally, a literary festival, sometimes called as a book festival or a writers’ festival, is an annual gathering of authors and readers at a particular place to feature a variety of presentations and works by authors and some other events presented over a course of few days with the aim of promoting the authors’ works. It fosters the love of literature, improving the state and projecting a positive image of the society. A book festival, by no means, is a restricted experience rather it takes people away from the humdrum of real world by the magical spell of art, literature and aesthetics.
Every year, an uncountable number of literary festivals, whether small or big, are held around the globe including; the Chalke Valley History Festival, the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival, the Jaipur Literary Festival, the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature, the Adelaide Writers’ Festival, the Melbourne Writers’ Festival and many others.
In Pakistan too, every year literary festivals occur in almost all the major cities of the country. The Lahore Literary Festival (LLF), The Karachi Literature Festival (KLF), the Children’s Literature Festival (CLF), the Teachers’ Literature Festival and the Islamabad Literary Festival (ILF) are to name a few.
In Balochistan, similar events that have taken place include a Children’s Literary Festival in Turbat and the Gwadar Book Festival. Last year, in Quetta, the provincial capital and the largest city of Balochistan, the Fruit Garden of Pakistan, the city of the most hospitable people and the winner-champion of Pakistan Super League 2019 too initiated a literary festival named as the Quetta Literary Festival (QLF). The QLF is a two-day literary event that aimed to introduce the culturally rich city of Quetta to the contemporary literary, artistic and aesthetic dialogue. It also envisioned to rebuild the misconstrued image of Balochistan, as a war stricken, chaos ridden, ruined region of Pakistan. The festival also aspired to open the doors to the rich, and yet untouched, literary treasures and talents of the region. Also, it intended to provide a common platform to the sages, the thinkers, the literati and the literature loving public of Balochistan and Pakistan, at large.
The Festival brought to Quetta some of the finest minds and experts in their respective fields to inspire its inhabitants. The objectives of the festival, included the promotion of art, literature and aesthetics, the creation of mutually shared space for the artists, writers, journalists, thinkers, filmmakers, musicians, philosophers, publishers, promoters, art lovers, audiences and the readers as well as the formation and reformation of the general perception about Quetta and Balochistan. It also helped to bring the traditions and innovations together on one page and to conserve the valuable cultural norms and tribal conventions of the region, to give rise to tolerance and peace. QLF also helped to facilitate a dialogue between regional, national and international scholars and writers and thus, attempted to generate solutions of issues that affect Pakistanis specifically and humans, generally.
The debut chapter of QLF, scheduled on May 7-8, 2018 at Balochistan University of Information Technology Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), brought, for the very first time, literature, art and culture to Quetta, which was till then considered a troubled area of the country having all narratives of peace being ruled out. The festival openly conveyed the message that no intellectual activity can ever be suppressed by terrorism. Due to the presence of respected writers and artists, as well as journalists, participating from all over the country, it was well commended for its variety of subjects that kept the audiences engaged.
The second chapter of Quetta Literary Festival mentioned officially as #QLF2019 on social media, brought together numerous literary devotees from across the country in another two-day event held at BUITEMS, on June 17-18, 2019.
According to the Governor Balochistan and Chancellor BUITEMS, Justice (retd.) Amanullah Khan Yasinzai, the festival seemed to promote literature and art and a softer image of Quetta, nationally and internationally. Hundreds of people, including several renowned authors, intellectuals, analysts, lyricists, producers, actors, artists, journalists attended the occasion.
Over the period of two days, a variety of subjects were brought into discussion. Several books, of emerging writers, were launched and a short film entitled Manto by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, an internationally renowned producer, was screened in Asia Peace Film Festival. More than 40 book publishers, few of the most loved poets of Baluchistan like Qandeel Badr, Sarwar Javed and Sangat Rafique and some national figures like Syed Jamal Shah, Ayub Khoso, Hashim Nadeem, Zarrar Khuhro, Wusat Ullah Khan, Mubashir Zaidi and others aced the festival.
An exhibition of artefacts from the archives department, a session on toxic masculinity, named “Men for men; Toxic masculinity and its impact on men” by Rafiullah Kakar, George Fulton, Fasi Zaka, another session entitled “Zara Hutt Kay of Scams” by Wusatullah Khan, Haider Zaidi and Sadia Jahangir and yet another session called “Fierce words; the flip side of peace” by Amir Rana and Iftikhar Firdous were part of the festival.
In one of the sessions, Senator Raza Rabbani spoke while in another Dr Abdul Malik Bloch, the former CM Balochistan. Apart from these two, other politicians like Rahim Ziaratwal, Sana Baloch, Mir Dostain Jamaldini, Rashid Mehmood and Ghulam Ali Baloch also participated in the sessions. Journalists like Saleem Shahid, Syed Ali Shah and Yasir Pirzada also discussed the challenges and future of journalism in Balochistan at sessions in QLF.
The QLF was wrapped up by a musical concert where bands like Khumariyan and Error the Band performed. The Government of Balochistan, Serena Hotels, Defence Housing Authority Quetta, Ufone, Oxford University Press, Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan and United Nations Educational Cultural and Scientific Organization sponsored the festival.
Yet an infant, but undoubtedly the Quetta Literary Festival, which is considered the biggest book festival that has ever taken place in Balochistan, is rapidly becoming an annual and most awaited feature for the inhabitants of Quetta as it engages the youth in a much positive manner by bringing forward their unprecedented, unsurpassable talents and intellects. iI is not only the youth, but the whole society of Balochistan which is being reconstructed and portrayed softly in the eyes of the national and international media through the festival, since literature depicts and creates society and vice versa.