ISLAMABAD - Kashmir Solidarity Day, which is observed on February 5 annually, has now become a day of great national significance and is revered with great fervour and enthusiasm to show solidarity with Kashmiri people struggling for the their right to self-determination. National Institute of Folk and Traditional Heritage (Lok Virsa) has been observing Kashmir Solidarity Day in collaboration with Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit-Baltistan for the last several years. This year too, Lok Virsa organised a daylong Kashmir Cultural Festival on Wednesday at its complex here at Garden Avenue, Shakarparian. The festival brought Kashmiri artisans, artists, nongovernmental and government organisations working for the cause of Kashmir, and authentic Kashmiri cuisine under one umbrella to express solidarity with the Kashmiri people. The event was arranged with purely cultural and social perspective highlighting the contribution of Kashmiri immigrants who are trying to keep their identity and cultural traditions alive despite atrocities by the Indian forces in the Indian Held Kashmir. Lok Virsa became the focal point of cultural activities relating to the day. All social sector and community organisations, artists, musicians, diplomatic community were invited to participate in the festival. A wide of range of programmes were chalked out which continued throughout the day from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. The main features included Kashmiri artisans-at-work exhibition, Kashmiri folk arts & crafts exhibition, Kashmiri traditional cuisine, congregation of Kashmiri families, congregation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), puppet shows and several activities meant for families and children. More than 25 Kashmiri master artisans participated in the Kashmiri artisans-at-work exhibition. They included Zulfiqar Ali Ghazi in paper mache, Mukhtar Dar, Dilshad Qayyum and Munir Sheikh in gabba, Qazi Ali Muhammad and Arif Mahmood Sheikh in namda, Taj Muhamamd Tajal and Sher Zaman in carpet weaving, Nisar Ali, Abdul Waheed Rather and Gul-e-Zehra in Kashmir shawl, Ghulam Nabi Butt in stainstitch embroidery, Muhammad Amjad, Yasmin Bano, Rubina Zulfiqar, Muhammad Siddique and Mustafa in Kashmiri embroidery, Saleem Malik in wood carving, Muhammad Irfan Sheikh in walnut wood carving, etc.Kashmiri folkloric ensemble "Taleh-Ruz" (named after Kashmiri embroidery) comprising Bano Rehmat, Halima Bibi, Rubina Khanum, Rizwana Khan, Muhammad Altaf Mir, Ghulam Muhammad Dar, Ghulam Rasul But, Muhammad Akram But, Jeevay Lal, Amir Hussain, Anis Ahmed, Amanat Ali, Jalis Ahmed, Ch. Banarus, Raja Imran, Raja Anwar, Muhammad Sain and others also performed at Lok Virsa Open Air Theatre. Famous Kashmiri Gatka party from Muzaffarabad also performed throughout the day. Puppet theatre of Pakistan National Council of the Arts also presented performances at Lok Virsa open-air theatre.A large number of NGOs and government organizations working for the cause of Kashmir and social sector also set up their stalls and expressed solidarity with the Kashmiri people by way of displaying their products and banners bearing slogans in relevance with the event.Kashmir cuisine rista, roghan josh, tabaq mas, aab gosht and goshtaba, hot and mouth watering all washed down with Kashmiri green tea was served during the festival. Arts & crafts bazaar offered a variety of knick-knacks, gemstones, folk arts, crafts, trinkets, etc. were available on affordable prices.In addition to special programmes organised by Lok Virsa marking the occasion, Pakistan National Museum of Ethnology (Heritage Museum) also remained open throughout the day and entertain visitors of the festival. In order to ensure maximum participation of public in the event, Lok Virsa management granted 50% special rebate on museum entry ticket for Pakistani adults category. The event witnessed a great hustle and bustle. Even rain could not diminish the enthusiasm of visitors and people from all walks of life thronged with their families and friends to see the one-day festival.This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 06-Feb-2014 here.