A mix of literature and politics in Quetta

PUBLISHED July 03, 2022


The Quetta Literary Festival entered its third season this year despite political uncertainty and public disorder. The two-day event was inaugurated on June 27, 2022 by Major General GOC 41 Salman Moin at BUITEMS University and brought together well-known scholars from Pakistan including Dr. Amjad Islamic Amjad, Arfa Syeda Zehra and Anwar Maqsood , who addressed a large audience at the opening session.

Highlights of the first day included breakout sessions on federal and regional development and the 18th Amendment in Pakistan, challenges faced by journalism in the province, writing, child liaison, art and l Islamic architecture, education for civilization and life. Lectures with a large number of contributors were also held on various other topics including the historical background of Balochistan, lagging development, higher education in Pakistan, Baloch handicrafts, political situation and events, music and society, conservation of the natural environment, making Pakistani films and cinema. There was a book fair with poetry readings in Urdu, Brahui and Balochi, as well as a special session with Anwar Maqsood.

The second day of the Quetta Literary Festival focused on discussions on Balochistan’s water crisis, urban backwardness, Quetta city issues, history of colonialism in Balochistan, Urdu literature, Barohi literature, the uniform national curriculum, the role of educational institutions in promoting regional languages. and cultural tourism in Balochistan. Discussions and dialogues also took place on volunteering for the betterment of society, the economic crisis and its causes, the role of women in society, women’s health and the benefits of vaccination.

Dr Qaiser Bengali, Dr Asim Sajjad, Dr Qaratul Ain, Toba Syed, Dr Sami Tareen, Sahiba Samar, Iqbal Nazar, Dr Taj Raisani, Abdul Rehman, Sikandar Bizenjo, Zia Khan, Ayesha Shahid, Hayatullah Durrani and other personalities participated on day 2 of the session.

QLF Highlights

One of the best sessions of QLF’22 was “Federalism, regional development and the 18e amendment in Pakistan” moderated by Dr. Hafeez Jamali with Dr. Asma Faiz, Dr. Asim Bashir Khan and Rafiullah Kakar as guest speakers. The session focused on whether promises have been kept on the 7th NFC award and the 18th Amendment in Balochistan and intergovernmental relations following the 18th Amendment. “The provinces have always complained that the federal government has no funds and on the contrary, the federal government points out that the provincial governments are lagging behind in the health and education sector due to a lack of will and ability or simply do not have the ability to handle the powers,” said Dr Asma Faiz.

“There are two types of rules that divide federal and provincial jurisdictions. One is autonomy, the other shares the rule. After 18 yearse The actualization of autonomy was transferred to sharing the rule, that is, provincial autonomy. But as far as Balochistan is concerned, they have achieved autonomy in health, education and social welfare, but autonomy in terms of alleviating people’s ethnic grievances has been less effective in due to the fact that the people of Balochistan have no control over the natural resources present here. Before [the] 18th amendment natural resource management was a provincial matter and after the 18th amendment it gained more prominence but before the 18th amendment this was not followed properly and its biggest example is the Sandak project which has was handed over to a Chinese company for 10 years in 2002 and the contract mentioned that after 10 years it would be handed over to the government of Balochistan, but the project was extended twice for five years each after 2012,” Mr. Rafiullah Kakar, a policy maker in the government of Balochistan.

Another interesting session was “The Political Economy Analysis of Underdevelopment in Balochistan” moderated by Ms. Saira Lehri with guest speakers Dr. Qaiser Bengali, Dr. Khalid Khan, Mir Saadat and Rafiullah Kakar. The main focus of the session was the neglect of Balochistan and the factors contributing to its underdevelopment. Dr. Qaiser Bengali has had various experiences throughout his career and was an advisor to the Chief Minister of Balochistan in the previous government.

“After independence, Balochistan supplied 100% gas to the whole of Pakistan, but the federation kept the price too low and [as a result that] people misused this natural resource and soon we had to look for new resources which we got from Sindh. For this reason, Balochistan now supplies only 15% of the gas. According to my calculations from 1969 till 2014 seven trillion rupees was transferred from Balochistan to the Federal Government and Balochistan never received its royalty properly. On the contrary, the inhabitants of Balochistan paid the market price for all food products imported from other provinces; however, the only natural resource they had was given in pennies to other provinces, which was the greatest example of neglect and discrimination,” Bengali said.

“[The] Interesting thing is that barite is produced in Khuzdar district in Balochistan from which barium is produced. Barium is used in X-rays in the hospital, and we export barite in large quantities, and then import barium again. Unfortunately, nobody even tried to use these natural resources to generate income,” he added.

The crowd cheered Mir Saadat when he compared the relationship between Baluchistan and the federal government as being like a plate of salad, likening it to mooli or radish on a plate of salad. “People don’t eat it until they have a digestive problem,” Saadat said. “Whenever they feel some kind of indigestion, they reach out to us for help and support.”

Other interesting sessions included ‘Celebrating Balochistan’s Sports Heroes’ and ‘Pakistan’s Higher Education’. The sports heroes session featured boxer Muhammad Waseem, Kaleemullah Khan, Shahida Raza, Agha Mengal, Nahida Khan Achackzai, Muhammad Azhar and Awais Khan as guest speakers who shared their long-standing struggles to achieve milestones for Pakistan . A common theme in their stories was that, as in other areas, they were not supported at the government level until they achieved some recognition for their self-funded travels.

While discussing general issues of higher education, Dr. Abdul Samad, who himself is a graduate of BUITEMS, shared his experience of going abroad for his PhD when he was lagging behind in the application and objectives. “I recognized that if we educate an undergraduate honestly, he won’t face such problems, which I did,” he said. Other panelists included Mr Saboor Kakar, Dr AH Nayyar, Mr Zahoor Buledi and Dr Fozia Ahmed and were moderated by Dr Faisal Khan.

Former Provincial Minister Zahoor Buledi spoke about the areas in which Balochistan’s education system lags behind other provinces. “The problem is that wherever we try to build a new university in Balochistan, political pressure starts to mount in other districts. Obviously, we cannot build 10 universities in 10 different regions of Balochistan at the same time. Secondly, now things have changed, mentalities have changed and the people of Baluchistan have to accept gender equality. We cannot create separate institutions for girls and boys. There are many separate primary schools for boys and girls which could not be upgraded due to lack of resources. If it was one coeducational school, we could have upgraded many schools to college level,” he said.

Book launches during the QLF

Students and other participants attended sessions on book launches, especially those of books written in the local languages ​​of Balochistan. On the first day of the festival, five different books were launched in different sessions, including “Pashtuns Image in the Orientalist Discourse” by Barkat Shah Kakar, “Conceptual Metaphors of Melancholy in Barahui Language” by Rabia Baloch, “Maati Zubanani Arzesht” by Yar Jan Badini, “Kuch Ishq Kiya” by Mohsin Shakeel and “Daryab pe Koza Ki” by Dr. Abdul Rauf Rafiqi. Nilofar Afridi Qazi also launched his book “Culinary Tales of Balochistan” during a group session moderated by Aqsa Gharshin.

The second day of the festival included the launch of the book “Sadai Nafas-e-Bagheecha-Sohraab Sepehri aur Muneer Niyazi ka Taqabuli Jaiza” written by Mustafa Shahid and Akbar Anjum. Dr. Arif Azad launched his book “Thinkers, Dreamers and Doers”, moderated by Mr. Rafiullah Kakar.

Poetry was also part of the QLF 2022; Brahui Mushaira, Balochi Maushaira were held on the first day and Hazargi Mushaira and Pashto Mushaira were held on the second day. Special sessions have been set aside to discuss volunteerism, cultural changes in Balochistan, gender equality, the water crisis and emerging filmmakers in Pakistan’s contemporary cinema. There was also a special session for political memoirs with Senator Javaid Jabbar.

Apart from intellectual sessions and book launches, QLF 2022 also featured an exhibition of theses by students from BUITEMS Fine Arts Department and a wildlife photo exhibition by Ashraf Khan and Mayan Khan. There was also a photography and art exhibition organized by BRSP. The first day also featured Rozi Khan’s Pashto comedy Shoq and the festival ended with another comedy session by Mustafa Chaudhry and Faisal Chaudhry, “Hansay tou Phansay”.

The special guest at the closing ceremony of the festival was Ahmad Farooq Bazai, Vice Chancellor of BUITEMS Ahmad Farooq Bazai, who played the best role in the festival and handed out shields to sponsors who supported the organization. In his address to the function, he said that BUITEMS has always played its part in promoting education and positive activities in the province while emphasizing the positive identity of Balochistan. He said the Quetta Literary Festival is a beacon of hope that will light the candle of peace and harmony in society. He said he hopes similar events will also take place in the future.

QLF helps to reinforce the importance of literature in public life. Although the festival is in its infancy, it is on course to overcome obstacles to become an even bigger success next year.

Mujtaba Javaid is a freelance writer. All information and facts provided are the sole responsibility of the author.

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