Pakistan Mother Languages Literature Festival 2016 – 2018
Status: Completed Start Date: Feb 2016 End Date: Feb 2018 Geographic Coverage: Punjab Focus Area: Cultural rights SDG Goal: – Implementing Partner: SPO Funding Partner: FOSI, HBS, Government of Sindh
Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO) with the financial support of FOSI, HBS, Government of Sindh, Lok Virsa implemented this project.
The objectives of this collaboration were to;
Literature Festival aimed at mainstreaming the potential of literature and art in local languages which is as diverse as Pakistani society itself.
To promote critical thinking in local languages through interactive discussions, plays, poems, debates and songs so as to encourage presenters and participants to interact in their mother tongue.
The one of its kind festival started in February 2016 by bringing together over 150 authors, artists and researchers to celebrate the rich linguistic and literary heritage of Pakistan. The second festival in 2017 was held on 17-18 February and was equally successful in offering much more than the previous year’s festival.
The festival provides a unique platform to promote critical thinking especially among a young audience through cultural interaction and integration between representatives of culture, art and literature, predominately on the themes of peace, diversity & social harmony, human rights and democracy. The event, as is expected, leads to greater ownership and recognition by the Government and people of Pakistan especially children for mother languages, and encouraged the fostering of critical thinking in learning. The festival demonstrates the importance of mother languages at national level among a population from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The first festival laid the foundations of this process, and its continuation was further debated to promote critical thinking among the people in local languages. Pakistan Mother Languages Literature Festival is one of the unique initiatives to bring the languages and cultures of Pakistan together on one platform. Within two years, the festival has been successful in bringing the issue of promotion of mother languages into the mainstream debate in Pakistan.
This year’s festival showcased the talks and works by over 150 writers representing 15 Pakistani languages. A majority of the speakers and panelists were those who do not get such opportunities at the national level as their languages are not discussed and showcased on these forums.
This year 19 new books in various Pakistani mother languages were launched. These books represented a wide range of subjects and literary genres. One of the books launched included a novel in Khowar language, which is first-ever novel written in that language.
The festival has received due attention from the policy makers and legislators. Last year, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Parvez Rashid attended the concluding ceremony, where in his remarks; he acknowledged all Pakistani languages as national languages. This year, the recognition of the festival went beyond the Federal Government as Provincial Government of Sindh and Government of Gilgit Baltistan’s ministers for culture participated in the festival in their official capacity.
One of the key successes of the festival is a Public Hearing on the status of languages by the Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice, which coincided with the festival. The festival organizers were officially approached by the Senate of Pakistan to cooperate with the Committee to hold a public hearing. More than half of the invitees of the public hearing were panelists of the festival. The Senate Standing Committee on Law and Justice at that time was in the process of assessing a constitutional amendment bill to provide national languages status to major Pakistani languages.
The Chairperson of the Committee Senator Murtaza Javed Abbasi opened the public hearing by acknowledging the festival and cooperation of the organizers. The committee has now cleared the bill submitted by Senator Sassui Palijo and Senator Aajiz Dhamrah of Pakistan People’s Party, paving its way to be presented for vote in the plenary of the Senate. If approved from Senate, the bill will need to go to National Assembly. Even though it is still a long way, the very fact that the bill has attracted the attention of the lawmakers, who have sought the help of festival organizers, is a big achievement.