M. Fahad Ur Rehman
Recently I got the opportunity to attend Khudi’s annual Festival of Ideas in Lahore. Khudi is a progressive youth organization working for countering extremist mindset and for raising awareness about democracy. I had been following this organization on social media over the past few years and I grew to admire the remarkable work they are doing. Khudi works on various themes ranging from peace building, rights of minorities, gender issues and civic and political education. This time I applied for the annual Festival of Ideas and was luckily selected among limited number of delegates from across the country.
I occasioned a remarkable hospitality upon my arrival and the organizers cordially welcomed the participants. In the matter of few minutes I started feeling like a part of the event wholeheartedly. The developments of the first day of the three-day event clearly indicated that I was among a very well organized community and a team of devoted folks who were working continuously for the better service and management of every activity.
The orientation session started with a lecture of a leading intellectual and public figure Mr Javed Jabbar, who delivered a beautifully crafted lecture on the idea of Pakistan and the issues that we are confronting in the contemporary age. Mr Jabbar spoke in detail about our identity crisis and ways to face the challenges posed by it. By the end of this interactive lecture followed by very interesting questions & answers session, I had realized that the event is not going to betray any of the high ideals and anticipation which it portrayed; a 10 out of 10 from my side. After that we had a brilliant Mushaira, a session of poetry, featuring young zealous poets expressing their inner feelings through their splendid verses on romantic themes. As the Mushaira moved forward and veteran poets took the stage, I was fascinated to see that the notion of romanticism of the young poets was replaced by grave issues of life, suffering, death and the existential quests.
Following the dinner, rich cultural and musical performances were in line. These performances portrayed bright and vibrant cultural diversity of the nation with many participants donning their traditional cultural dresses. In the midst of all this, we got to listen to a phenomenal voice amongst us; a visually impaired gentleman showing the talent of his divinely gifted majestic vocal cords. The notion “when nature deprives you in one area and blesses you with so much more in other” was proven true by this talented gentleman. He was the star of night stealing the show from the rest and attracting the huge crowd towards his passionate rhymes and beats. Everyone was singing and dancing to his voice, a scene of profundity was experienced by the onlookers.
The cultural night ended with passionate dancing, representing major ethnicities of Pakistan including Punjabi, Baloch, Pashtoon, Chitrali, Gilgit Baltistani, and Sindhi. The beautiful sight was exceptional in its own accord giving a message of coexistence and peace where almost all the cultures of the land participated in the specific dance item with their brethren. Pashtoons dancing on the beat of Punjabi Bhangra music, Baloch dancing with Pashtoons in Attan, Sindhis and Punjabis dancing together and in the end the stage was full of every color and stripe of the beautiful plurality of the nation. If it was on my wish I would have stayed in this euphoric environment forever and just forget all the worries and agonies that we are facing in the contemporary Pakistan.
The second day was also a huge success starting from the main theme of conflict resolution with some leading intellectuals from the country in which some were those who had lost their loved ones to the gruesome militancy; Tahir Wadood Malik, an ex-army officer who had lost his wife and then the highly famous politician from Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa, Mian Iftikhar Hussian, who shared personal stories during his party’s rule in the province. The most emotional and inspiring part of his speech was when he shared his personal tragedy; the loss of his only son to the terrorists. This was a moment when many among the audience had tears in their eyes. Despite of all the controversies surrounding his party, all the allegations of corruption and bad governance, I experienced that everyone was hugely affected by his story and their sacrifices for the land to ward-off the terrorists.
Afterwards Mekaal Hasan, the renowned musician gave a frank talk on the ways music can play an effective role in combating the social evils and militancy. This session was animated by his band’s beautifully composed video songs. Later on, for their self-composed unique National Anthem theme, everyone stood up to pay love, respect and homage to the motherland which was yet again a sight that will remain in the memory for many days to come. The ecstatic environment created by their classical music was indeed a spectacle to enjoy.
The theater performance of the night was something which dazzled all the audience. Those who took it on a lighter note in the beginning including me, with the passage of time, grew more interested and became able to connect the dots of the contextual relevance of drama with contemporary Pakistan. The views of most of the audience seemed that nowhere in the country had they seen such a masterpiece and gem of a stage drama. The theme was based on bigotry, gender inequality, and intolerance that run deep in our male chauvinistic society.
Third day again started with a critical and in-depth panel discussion about the role of education in uplifting a society and the loopholes and discrepancies that are found in our educational curriculum, most of which is based on outdated and state-sponsored distorted facts.
The last discussion was about the position of Pakistan on the global stage which highlighted issues and problems that we confront internationally. The panelists shared the hopes and fears pertaining to topic and it ended in the same manner with a critical question answer session. Finally, everyone paid a huge round of applause for the brilliant team of organizers, who worked for a multitude of days, to make Khudi Festivial of ‘Ideas’ a reality. I would say despite of the fact that the whole auditorium was buzzing with the sound of the clapping they still deserved a lot more for their matchless efforts. I wanted the event go on, but then everything has to have an ending and so it ended with the final lunch and certificate distribution ceremony.
It was my first experience with Khudi and I would, without any doubt, rate this Festival as the best ever event I have attended. The way it instigated critical thinking, new ideas and paradigms for future thinking is simply outstanding. Furthermore the most crucial and significant aspect was its plurality. I have never had the opportunity to interact so well with my Baloch and Sindhi brethren. Knowing their views and the issues confronting their parts of the country was a great learning experience.
I would say that we need more events like this on regular basis in order to aware youth about new ideas and new ways of thinking. It is through such events that we can contribute towards a more responsible, vigilant, and critical-minded citizenry and make Pakistan a more peaceful, tolerant and prosperous place. And where no one is discriminated on the basis of caste, creed, gender, race, religion, political inclinations or any other affiliation, and where the value of human dignity based on universality prevails.
M. Fahad Ur Rehman is a freelance writer and a teacher belonging to Peshawar. He is also a student of International Relations and Public Policy at SZABIST Islamabad.