Original Articles

Comparing Karachi Literature Festival 2012 with Difa-e-Pakistan Conference

Source: Pakistan Blogzine

Related post: “I’ve been in a rickshaw”: Some critical reflections on the Karachi Literature Festival 2011

Two key events took places in Karachi a few days ago (12 Feb 2012): Difa-e-Pakistan Conference (DPC) attended by about 50,000 Jihadi-sectarian militants, and the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) attended by dozens of English and Urdu authors, journalists and other participants (estimated number 800).

Both of these events signify all what is wrong with Pakistan today. Both groups (DPC and KLF, barring very few exceptions) remain aligned with Pakistan’s powerful military establishment due to various reasons. The DPC are Jihadi-sectarian assets of a military state which wants to increase and maintain its influence in Afghanistan and other countries via proxy Jihadis. The KLF, with very few exceptions, comprises urban elites whose socio-economic interests remain dependent on the powerful class (security establishment) thus forcing them to maintain their silence on the ongoing massacres of the Balochs, anti-Taliban Pashuns and Shia Muslims by Pakistan army and its various agencies and proxies.

In other words, source of genocides of the Baloch, Pashtun, Shia is to be found at the right-wing DPC, source of silence on the genocides is to be found at the (fake) liberal KLF.

Both groups are aligned with the military establishment, however, DPC is much more transparent in its agenda than the KLF because the KLF crowds claim to be champions of social justice, reforms and human rights.

The reasons why we have the DPC militants in Pakistan today are to be found within the KLF. When authors become conveniently silent or selective moral on genocides and persecutions, societies become intolerant.

Between the KLF and DPC, we will choose DPC any day. At least they are transparent in their loyalties and agendas; don’t give us false hope. Otherwise, there is not much difference between KLF and DPC; both groups are generally silent on genocides of the Baloch, Pashtun and Shia, persecution of Christians, Ahmadis and other groups etc.

A leading Pakistani analyst frankly admitted: crowds don’t understand that source of DPC and KLF is essentially the same.

How many people at the KLF have written on the ongoing genocides of the Baloch, Pashtun and Shia?

By the way, does Mohammed Hanif’s recent, token column on missing Balochs (which he first wrote in English for Dawn on 11 Feb 2012 http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/11/the-baloch-who-is-not-missing.html and then also translated into Urdu for BBC to save himself from the trouble of writing two article on the Balochs) have something to do with his appearance at the KLF? A token article could save him from uncomfortable questions by a critical participant!

Are the usual suspects trying to repair their image? First Hanif wrote on Qadeer Baloch, then Hamid Mir wrote on the same topic on 13 February 2012: http://jang.com.pk/jang/feb2012-daily/13-02-2012/col5.htm

Both Hamid Mir and Mohammed Hanif are at least 2 years late. Jalil Reki was kidnapped 2 years ago, killed three months ago!

Such, once a year, token columns may also be seen as a hurried attempt for impression management. In the past, we have seen some other champions (e.g., Najam Sethi, Malik, Siraj Akbar, Urooj Zia etc) who sold the Baloch cause for personal gains. A few month ago, we saw another suspect (Omar Waraich) presenting three other suspects as anti-ISI journalists (Ejaz Haider, Hamid Mir, Najam Sethi).

Kudos to Mohammed Hanif and Hamid Mir on covering the (mis)deeds of Pakistan Army in Balochistan but like every other effort this too is too little too late. Do Hanif and Mir (and other champions) promise us that they will keep writing on the silent genocides as long as innocent people are being target killed by the Deep State?

Dear Mohammed Hanif, Hamid Mir and other rights champions at the KLF, Haji Jan Muhammad Marri Baloch was abducted today (11 Feb 2012) from Karachi. Write on him before it is too late!

An elite acclaimed film-maker at the KLF refused to make a documentary on Shia killing in Quetta due to fear of army. She is a rights champion!

At least one person attending the KLF wrote articles on “atrocities of Bahraini demonstrators” against “innocent Pakistanis” (mercenaries)!

At least two authors at the KLF routinely misrepresent all Pashtuns as the Taliban.

Review the #KLF hash-tag on Twitter to see that most of those attending or interested in this event are silent on genocides of Baloch, Pashtun, Shia, persecution of Ahmadis and other groups.

Imran Khan sent Tammy Haq to KLF while Ejaz Chaudhry was sent to DPC. That’s how world and the hereafter go hand in hand.

Dear KLF authors, perhaps writing on each Pashtun, Baloch or Shia target killed by the Deep State may be too much for you. Can you promise to write on ever 10 Shias, 10 Balochs or 10 Pashtuns killed respectively?

Or should we hope that Mohammed Hanif, Ayesha Sidddiqa, Raza Rumi, Nadeem Paracha, Tammy Haq, Fasi Zaka, Maliha Lodhi, Ahmed Rashid, Hamid Mir etc will write a token column on Shia genocide (or Pashtun or Baloch genocide) immediately before the KLF 2013!

Some pictures from KLF (Source)

How many of these people have written on the ongoing massacres of Balochs, Pashtuns, Shias?

Some pictures from DPC Karachi 12 Feb 2012


Brave Jihadi warriors of Difa-e-Pakistan Council

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  • I love Mohammad Hanif. His latest book Our Lady of Fatima Hazara deals with the ongoing silent massacre of Shia Muslims in Balochistan by ISI-sponsored LeJ terrorists.

  • Another attempt by LUBP to defame most credible names in Pakistani media and intelligentsia

  • You can’t discount the fact that the authors were able to sell hundreds of books (and gave away an equal number of autographs) through the KLF.

    What else does Pakistan want?

  • i am just speechless! Writers are not urban elites. Fehmida Riaz is not. We can disagree with writers. But intellectuals are not political workers and should not be judged like that.
    They are our fellow travelers

  • “All these years of plotting and planning in my office in London and it’s finally happening!” exclaimed a British Council official as she entered the garden at Carlton Hotel, the venue for the dinner hosted by Oxford University Press (OUP) and the British Council to kick off the third Karachi Literature Festival (KLF).
    Karachi’s old-money society walked in, in their evening best, exchanging notes on the day’s politics. Snatches of conversation revealed Imran Khan and Shahbaz Sharif were being discussed, while others remarked on how unseasonably cold Karachi is at the moment.
    The US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, and the head of the British Council, David Martin, were among the attendees along with a large smattering of authors, including Anatol Lieven, Ayesha Siddiqa, Ajmal Kamal, Ahmed Rashid, Muneeza and Kamila Shamsie, Mohsin Hamid and HM Naqvi.
    And of course, there was Shobhaa De – the woman who Kamila Shamsie thinks “may bring a touch of glamour to the proceedings” – sitting at a table with director Sahira Kazmi.

    As the evening wore on, there were speeches by German Consul General Dr Tilo Klinner and KLF founder Asif Farrukhi. Prizes were also announced for a competition in photography and creative writing organised by the British Council in connection with the celebrations of Charles Dickens’ work. The photography prize went to Awais Ali Sheikh and the creative writing prize to Syeda Hiba Ahmad.


  • The liberal elite in the audience seemed anxious to emphasize the good news. I suppose one could brag about the perverse development, the numerous billboards and air conditioned shopping malls, the Tedx conference, Hardees burgers, and the ubiquitous Pakistani hospitality. Wasn’t KLF itself evidence that Karachi was not run down, asked a chagrined audience member. No, stupid. I doubt Kureshi was taken through Rehri Goth. But what he saw are the effects of a neo liberal economy where weakening institutions and movements, unable to push for equitable wealth distribution, have resulted in a show of destitution. We are shabbier.

    The Carlton Hotel grounds, with manicured lawns, and ballrooms named the Maharajah, where the KLF is being held, was an area the fisherfolk of Karachi once traversed. I once asked Zubaida Birwani, a mahigir activist, why was there no protest when the Golf Club, the Carlton Hotel, the Marina Club, and the Creek Club were built on this strip of land that was next to a strategic body of water. She said they missed the boat on that, and what was more important were the present struggles for Bundal and Buddu islands, the destruction of mangroves, and the illicit power structures.

    There are issues that the KLF, as a whole, is unable to tackle at an institutional level, and problems it is complicit in – its corporate and consulate sponsorship notwithstanding. There are daily disappearances in Baluchistan. Seven parties protested against these and demanded accountability from agencies and the military at the press club just today. Drone attacks are prima facie illegal. The government no longer does rigorous inspections of safe working conditions in industries exposing workers to daily peril. However issues of the poor, the Baluch, the victims of drones (arguably political emergencies of a sort) have not permeated our consciousness, and therefore do not make their way in the discussion of and around literature and writing.

    KLF’s message was positive, yet politically indistinct, and lacking a sense of dissidence. And in between in the hallways, no red banners professing a cause. No large pictures of political prisoners who ought to be free.

    Ayesha Siddiqua questioned Anatol Lieven for his admiration of the Pakistani Military in light of its recent losses at Mehran. However, she allowed the discussion to stray into irrelevances and become depoliticized. What the moment necessitated was a sharp criticism of the military and its violations…

    I am not saying the KLF should turn into a literary version of the world social forum. Just that in times like these it would be good to see some protesters, some unified fighting for justice, some class based discussion. The Resistance from the parking lot should not be the bloggers and twitterati and those who did not make it to the podium, but truly the non elite, a good cross class representation. Literature perhaps would be nicer if it was connected to broader struggles, and struggles to literature. A place where struggles will transform, democratize, and radicalize and class rifts will be eliminated.



    the last session on minorities, where an audience member demanded to know why there were so few people in the room?

    Talk of minorities and womens’s issues is still accepted in these circles as legitimate discourse. These are significant issues and the sessions a good attempt.

    A state where women and religious minorities are truly equal and given equal protection of the law would be a radical state. The fact that this is acceptable discourse does not make it popular as evident from the audience member’s comment about the sparse attendance.

    Almost any type of cruelty can be justified for the larger good. But we as a literary society should find otherwise.

    As an institution, the KLF is not there because our liberal elite are not there – our book readers are not there – our literature is not there give or take a few exceptions..

  • This was as elitest as it gets. In Sindh and the rest of Pakistan, Shias are being killed like flies and yet this literary gathering FAILED to mention them. One would think that writers are more sensitive to what is happening around them; not this crowd!

    These elites are not the fellow travellers of political workers. The political worker stands in the blazing sun and biting cold and stands with labour unions; he or she is not partying with Richie Rich types at swanky hotels in elitest festivals which have no representation of the worker class. Most of the attendees are rabid PPP haters and many of them are MQM-PTI-Army apologists. So please spare us the apologies that many KLF attendees are “fellow travellers” of political workers.

  • Translate a few far left books, polish them up, get them editted and published and next time around you can dominate any literary festival by describing the ongoing mass murders in Pakistan.

    Or sit at home and continue crying into your keyboard.

    Also NFP was there 😀 Wish I’ld been at the KLF

  • A tale of two Pakistans

    The weekend that went by showed well the dichotomies and contradictions inherent in today’s Pakistan: a land (with apologies to Charles Dickens) of two separate societies — one apparently conservative, rigid and orthodox; the other presumably liberal, progressive and willing to change. Of course, it could easily be argued that the liberals in Pakistan are perhaps as illiberal as the extremists they deride, because like the latter they (the liberals), too, are rigid in their views, especially of those who disagree with them and have a different worldview. However, there is a crucial difference between those on the right and the left and that is in the degree of violence and force used by a group to thrust its ideology on others. This is something that usually those on the right of the political spectrum do, especially the ones allied with the countries religious parties. Those on the left, usually, may have positions that are as inflexible as the conservatives, but they do not use force to convince others of the validity and/or pre-eminence of their opinions/beliefs.

    Of course, one speaks of all this keeping in mind that this past weekend, the country’s largest city, Karachi, played host to two distinctively separate — in fact opposed — events. The first was the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) which was attended mostly by thousands of the city’s well heeled elite and had a smattering of international well-known writers and intellectuals in attendance. Such events provide the city’s English-speaking elite with some much-needed public space/platform to gather and perhaps, heave a collective sigh of relief that there are others around in Pakistan, like them, who share the same worldview.

    The other event that took place was the rally of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), which was held on February 12. It was attended by a moderately large crowd and this is worrying — certainly for the likes of those who would have attended the KLF — because its main components include the Jamaatud Dawa and the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan, now retooled as the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat. It also includes the likes of Ejazul Haq, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed and former ISI chief Hamid Gul, leading to a wide public perception that perhaps, the Council is an alternative platform through which the military sends signals to civilians.

    Let’s take a look at the agenda of the DPC. It calls specifically for a continuation of the ban on Nato trucks passing through Pakistan, vowing to stop them by any means necessary should the government permit them to operate. This is part of a generally anti-American agenda that centres on supporting both the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban as a legitimate resistance to the US. At a time when our relations with the US, whose aid keeps the country afloat, are at their lowest ebb, a group such as the Council taking on this role — as a defender of the nation — reinforces the suspicion that perhaps, it is part of a larger agenda, with a higher authority. On other key issues as well, the Council’s view is quite similar to that espoused by Pakistan’s hawks. For instance, one of its key points is that the decision to grant India the Most Favoured Nation status should be taken back, because India has always been and will always be Pakistan’s arch-enemy. Juxtapose this with the KLF, where several participants and attendees said time and again that India and Pakistan need to loosen their visa regimes so that travel across the border could become easier (one participant also mentioned that the Pakistan correspondents for both The Hindu as well as the Press Trust of India were denied permission to travel from their base in Islamabad to cover the festival).

    So the question arises; what can be done about these two Pakistans? In an ideal world one would want some kind of dialogue between the two sides, or at the very least, tolerance for each other’s opinions and worldviews. The media could play an interlocutory role in this regard, though much of it, presently, seems aligned with the right — or else it will just be a case of (which it is) preaching to the converted. And it is here that the country’s political parties, especially the PPP which is in theory a socialist left-leaning party, must take the lead in reclaiming public space for moderate ideas and worldviews.

  • People are now realizing that the radical elements are only promoting violence, so the individuals who were even involved with them are rejecting the mindset.

  • In Karachi, any reference to the ‘other side of the bridge’ is usually a euphemistic allusion to social class difference, between those who live on either side of the actual, Clifton Bridge.

    On February12, three major gatherings took place in the city on the same day – each soaked in socio-political symbolism and significance. Each was also a direct commentary on our collective class identities, national concerns and political disconnect.

    The Karachi Literature Festival was held in a private hotel in the suburbs near the sea and attended by the English-speaking elite. However, the Difa-e- Pakistan rally and the conference on Balochistan on Pakistan Women’s Day were, ideologically and literally, public events that took place on the ‘other side of the bridge’.

    The first one was a congregation of the holy men from forty religio-political parties at the Quaid’s mazaar. The second, was a public meeting organised by the Joint Action Committee at the Karachi Press Club, to commemorate Pakistan Women’s Day. February 12 is the anniversary that marks the police action against women who took out a pro-democracy/anti-Zia rally in 1983 in Lahore. The theme this year was to focus on Baloch women’s issues.

    Ironies abounded. The Literature Festival was mostly non-literary, the Difa-e- Pakistan Rally was about defence against imagined not real enemies, and Baloch people refused to attend the conference that women activists had organised for them.

    It would be interesting to offer a cost-analysis comparison of the events but one can only guess that the British Council budget for the hotel venue of the literature festival had to beat that of the Joint Action Committee one at the press club, especially since there were no celebrities and no tea at the latter. There is no accounting for budgetary sources or expenditures of religio-political events.

    Never mind, money and social class attendance. Everyone (who is honest) knows that the most important point of being part of the literati is to read and then be seen to be well-read. Where better to be seen than a festival of repeat English literature (since nothing new has really been written since the last one)? At least one can hear our English language authors read out what we have already read and then tell us whether they stood or sat, or read out their prose to themselves as they punched away at their laptops while taking in the Manhattan skyline or by the French Riviera?

    Clearly, we English-speaking elite are so stupid that we need the authors to refresh our memories, by having novelists read out excerpts from books written a decade ago and swoon at their throaty, larynx-filled renditions. Yes, readings are quite the legitimate literary activity but what has earned authors renown in this regard has been their ability to weave around their texts, the stories and connections that make their bodies of work, art.

    Embarrassingly rich examples abound of how readings have mesmerised audiences because they contextualise the writings, making one understand the history, political and personal connections that can make reception of reading, a live experience. But reading a random page from your old novel in a gravely voice just sounds pompous and reminds you of the Eng Lit teacher from ‘O’ levels who loved to hear her own fake British accent.

    .. it is now fully converted into one of those dull, predictable, heard-it-all-before and mediocre, Islamabad development conferences. More consultants than creative-artists, do not a literary festival make. Known for its candid exposes of sex, relationships and socialite gossip, the Karachi literature festival invited Shoba De to be its apt muse.


  • I am trying to recuperate after a hectic and thoroughly stimulating Karachi Literature Festival (KLF), which has evolved into a grand show of Pakistan’s writings and increasingly a space for the endangered liberals to gather and mollycoddle oneanother. The venue – a quiet hotel in the posh Defence – has been criticized for being inaccessible to many city dwellers who live in the ‘other’ Karachi[s]. Spotlight on English language is also an issue for many who think that ‘literature’ has been reduced to what is being said in the global language thus excluding the ‘vernacular’ languages.

    The last session that I moderated was a tough one. A motley assemblage of foreign journalists and writers were meant to speak on their experiences of writing and portraying Pakistan. Declan Walsh, Anton Lieven, Kishore Bhimani , Alok Bhalla and Stefan Weidner spoke about the challenges and presented their varied perspectives to a very enthusiastic audience. In fact there was insufficient time for questions despite the fact that at least a dozen queries and comments were entertained.

    The irony of KLF cannot be described better than Seth’s session. While he addressed a hall with two thousand mesmerized participants, a few miles away a coalition of extremist parties were holding a rally calling for eternal jihad against India. While KLF provides a great platform for moderate Pakistanis to congregate, this venue needs to enlarge. KLF is turning into a major marker of Pakistan’s vibrant resistance to forces that want to limit freedom and tailor our plural expression. It needs to grow and blossom outside the confines of liberal bubbles. I am sure it will.

    A grand show
    By Raza Rumi


    The lineup for the festival was impressive; KLF had managed to attract a lot of big names. Kudos to the organizers for attracting big names such as Vikram Seth, Hanif Kureishi, Shobha De, William Dalrymple, Anatol Lieven and local writers such as Kamila Shamsie and Mohammad Hanif. The program was well structured to allow up to six simultaneous sessions at a time over the course of two days. The festival also managed to attract a lot of interesting people to partake in the sessions as moderators and panelists. The sessions which had the maximum buzz were the ones with Shobha De, Hanif Kureshi, Anatol Lieven, William Dalrymple, Mohammad Hanif, Salman Ahmed and Vikram Seth. The biggest surprise was the packed house for the Satire/Comedy session with Nadeem Farooq Paracha, Beyghairat Brigade and BNN. It was a big shock when the conversation with Hanif Kureshi couldn’t even muster more than 50 people even though it was held in the main garden.

    By Shoaib Taimur

    Highs and lows



    The attendees at KLF this year seemed the outcome of a bus touring the posher parts of this great metropolis, picking up socialites and aunties from outside overpriced lawn exhibitions. The gaps in the crowd were of course filled by twitterati of all sizes and shapes. People who, let’s just say, know a litter less about books and writing and more about posing for the right picture. Last year we had a smattering of delightful poets and people from the Urdu side of our literatary divide. This year they seemed to have given the event a miss, maybe because the PR for this event didn’t seem to go too far past the Clifton Bridge.

    By Faisal Kapadia
    Better next time

  • A year old post: “I’ve been in a rickshaw”: Some critical reflections on the Karachi Literature Festival 2011 #KLF

    Dear #KLF champions and promoters: At least write a column each on every 10 Shias or Balochs target killed in #Pakistan. Will you, please?

    Who else but #KLF crowd is responsible for so much silence or misperception about target killings of Balochs, Pashtuns, Shias in #Pakistan?

    One ‘writer’ who has recently written a column on #KLF in TFT wrote an ISI-inspired blog in Dawn last year against Bahraini protesters!

    Dear Tweeples: If you see anyone promoting a “great” author or columnist, do ask: what have they written on genocides in Pakistan? #KLF


    Hey, you guys left out Faisal Kapadia from your list of sell outs. He is the same guy who instead of writing on the export of Pakistani mercenaries to Bahrain, wrote on how Bahrain’s democracy activists are “oppressing” Pakistani mercenaries.




  • The highlight of the day was when Ayesha Siddiqa took on Anatol during a panel discussion. The KLF organizers added more people to the panel as they realized that it could turn into a full-fledged spat. However their plans were foiled when Ayesha took him on head on with 3-4 questions which nearly left him speechless. His body language showed so much discomfort that I thought he was gonna walk out from there. Ayesha questioned him on his pro-army stance and he did try to justify it but was not so convincing. Let’s just say that Ayesha has given the term “tearing him a new one” a new meaning. Ghazali added something to support Ayesha’s argument when he said that the Pakistan in 2012 is a far cry from the Pakistan in 2012 post Salman Taseer’s assassination. He came up with this reasoning after talking to a LHC judge who justified it as he believed more in the law of God than the law of the land.