"The body seeks London, Lahore, Delhi, Islamabad. To my soul, the streets anywhere are the streets of Karachi"
-- from Harris Khalique's poem, The Streets, that he recited at the 1st Karachi Literature Festival
The Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) was launched in March 2010. Inspired by the success of the first two KLFs (2010 and 2011), the Children’s Literature Festival (CLF) launched at the end of 2011. The momentum begun in Pakistan with the KLF led also to the Islamabad Literature Festivals (launched in 2013), the Teachers' Literature Festival (launched in 2014), and many others. This momentum reflects the depth of Pakistan's literary and cultural roots, and the desire and energy here to celebrate the pursuit of knowledge, understanding, and creativity. In 2017, in celebration of Pakistan's 70th birthday the KLF will also be held in London in partnership with Bloombsbury Pakistan on 20 May at the Southbank Centre, in collaboration with the Alchemy Festival.
The KLF and ILF are directed by Ameena Saiyid, founded by Ameena Saiyid and Asif Farrukhi, and produced by Oxford University Press. They are open to all and free, and bring together authors writing in diverse languages and genres. They feature debates, discussions, talks, English and Urdu mushaira, a book fair, book launches, readings, signings, satire, theatre, film screenings, music, and dance. From 2014 to 2016, the KLF and ILF featured parallel art programming, and from 2010 until 2015 they featured parallel children's programming such as storytelling, puppetry, painting, singing, and creative movement.
KLF attendance rose from roughly 5,000 in 2010 to 10,000 in 2011, to 15,000 in 2012, to 50,000 in 2013 to 70,000 in 2014; 125,000 in 2015; and 175,000 in 2016. In 2010 we had 34 sessions with 58 speakers/performers; in 2011, 46 sessions with 104 speakers/performers; in 2012, 62 sessions with 139 speakers/performers; and in 2013 we had around 129 sessions with over 200 speakers/performers (individuals and groups) in Karachi. In 2015 we cut back on the number of sessions, but still featured over 200 speakers / performers. The 2015 ILF featured 171 speakers, 148 from Pakistan and 23 from abroad (India, United Kingdom, United States, France and Australia), who participated in 60 sessions. The 2016 ILF featured 58 sessions and 164 participants. The 8th KLF featured more than 194 participants and around 76 sessions.
Five literary prizes are awarded at the KLF. The KLF Pepsi prize goes to the best non-fiction book originally written in English by a Pakistani or Pakistan-origin foreign national. The KLF Peace Prize is a joint project of the KLF, the Consulate General of Germany in Karachi, and the Embassy of Germany in Islamabad: it goes to a fiction or non-fiction book that promotes peace, tolerance and international understanding, published in any language translated into English, and written by a Pakistani or a Pakistani-origin foreign national residing anywhere worldwide, or any foreign national who is a resident of Pakistan. The KLF Infaq Foundation Urdu Prize is awarded to poetry or prose book originally written in Urdu, published anywhere worldwide (or self -published) before December 2015, by a Pakistani or Pakistan-origin author living anywhere worldwide. The KLF Getz Pharma Fiction Prize promotes fiction written in English by Pakistani or Pakistani-origin authors living anywhere worldwide. The Italy Reads Pakistan Award consists of the acquisition of publishing rights by Metropoli d’Asia in Italian only, for fiction originally written in English or Urdu by a Pakistani citizen below age 45.
Additionally, the UBL Literary Excellence Award winners (since 2016) and the Eqbal Ahmad Centre for Public Education Video contest winners (since 2017) are announced at ceremonies held at the Karachi Literature Festival.
Each year, the speakers / participants have been outstanding, including, but not limited to, these keynote speakers: Shamsur Rahman Faruqi (2010), Karen Armstrong (2011), William Dalrymple (2012), Nadeem Aslam and Intizar Husain (KLF 2013), Intizar Husain, Kamila Shamsie, and Zia Mohyeddin (ILF 2013); Kamila Shamsie, Rajmohan Gandhi, and Raza Ali Abidi (KLF 2014); Aamer Hussein, Kishwar Naheed, Muneeza Shamsie, and Zehra Nigah (ILF 2014);Nayantara Sahgal (Nehru's niece), and Zehra Nigah (KLF 2015), Anatol Lieven, Ataul Haq Qasmi, Paul Harding, Zehra Nigah (ILF 2015), Fahmida Riaz, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Arfa Sayeda Zehra and Ziauddin Sardar (KLF 2016). This year’s keynote speakers at KLF will be Mustansar Husain Tarar, Ayesha Jalal , Bobby Sager and Mohammed Hanif.
See you at the Beach Luxury on the 10, 11, and 12 February! Don't register in advance: just turn up! And mark your calendars for ILF on 14, 15, and 16 April 2017 at the Margala Hotel, Islamabad.
"I attend a lot of Festivals, but I have to say that this one's sense of urgency and the desire of people to speak about literature, about politics, about their country, about their country in relation to other people's countries -- has been particularly urgent and necessary here. I felt a real buzz and a real excitement in this place. And if I wonder -- as all writers do every day when they get up and sit at their desk -- if I wonder what the hell we're doing this for, when you actually come to a festival like this and meet readers and meet other writers, you get a real sense that writing is important and that writers matter..." Hanif Kureishi in conversation with Susie Nicklin. Susie mentioned that Hanif had travelled back to Karachi after 25 years to attend the 3rd KLF in 2012.
"Different ideas and assessments emerged in every session. In a gathering of such gifted minds, the quality of discourse is sure to be high." Ghazi Salahuddin in The News, March 28, 2010, reprinted in Jahan-e-Rumi