Islamabad - The much-awaited Islamabad Literature Festival will kick start today (Friday) at the Lok Virsa featuring a line-up of around 165 authors, academics, journalists, and artists from country and abroad.

The 3-day literary event will last till April 17. The inaugural ceremony of fourth consecutive Islamabad Literature Festival will be held Friday at Lok Virsa Auditorium while former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Ahmed Rashid, and Masood Ashar will be the keynote speakers at the inaugural ceremony.

As many as 151 Pakistani and 14 international speakers will participate in the festival this year marking their vibrant presence in talks/interviews, panel discussions, mushaira, English poetry, dramatic readings, book launches, author signings, performing arts, Sufi music, book fair, art exhibition and much more.

The festival is free and open for all. According to the organisers, there will be around 20 book launches and 38 sessions at this year’s edition of ILF.

Some of the prominent speakers at ILF this year are Abdul Malik Baloch, Ali Akbar Natiq, Anatol Lieven, Anwar Masood, Arfa Sayeda Zehra, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Babar Ayaz, Barkha Dutt, Basharat Peer, Bina Shah, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, F.S. Aijazuddin, Fahmida Riaz, Fouzia Saeed, H.M. Naqvi, Harris Khalique, Hina Rabbani Khar, Jerry Pinto, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Kishwar Naheed, Madeeha Gauhar, Mujahid Barelvi, Munir Ahmed Badini, Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Mustansar Hussain Tarar, Nasim Zehra, Nasira Iqbal, Pavan K. Varma, Pran Nevile, Qaisra Shahraz, Riaz Khokhar, Riaz Mohammad Khan, Saif Mahmood, Salima Hashmi, Sarmad Khoosat, Sudheendra Kulkarni, Talat Hussain, Tariq Rahman, Zaheda Hina, Zehra Nigah, and Zubair Torwali.

The ILF 2016 is planned to feature exciting sessions, including A Tribute to Fatima Surayya Bajia;  A Tribute to Intizar Husain; Women’s Protection Bill; The State of Urdu Literature in Pakistani School and College Syllabi; The Past is A Foreign Country: How Does History Inform Fiction?; A Tribute to Jamiluddin Aali; Blind in One Eye: Cinematic Traditions and Pakistani and Indian Cinema; Media: More Independent, Less Responsible; Pakistani English Literature: New Books, New Writers, New Directions; Mera Paigham Mohabbat Hai: The Secular and Pluralist Tradition of Urdu Poetry; and  A Tribute to Nasreen Anjum Bhatti.

Other than interactive sessions some art and dance performances are also planned including A Tribute to Ismat Chughtai and Quratulain Hyder: Lady Changez Khan and PomPom Darling by Zambeel Dramatic Readings; dance performance by Shayma Saiyid; Aik Sham Anwar Masood kay Naam; and Mystic Sufi Night. This year, too, the ILF will also feature parallel sessions on art and an art exhibition curated by Art Now.

Oxford University Press has invited the people of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and the adjoining areas to attend the festival and attend the festivities. Sponsorship support is being provided by USAID-funded Pakistan Reading Project, Stylo, AAWAZ, Getz Pharma, Tapal, World Bank Group, Islamabad College of Arts and Sciences (ICAS), and Cinepax. Lok Virsa is the venue sponsor and Careem is the official transport partner of the festival.

ILF founder and OUP Managing Directors Ameena Saiyid have said the ILF has grown tremendously since its inception in 2013. Attendance rose from 15,000 in 2013 to more than 30,000 in 2015. ILF is not merely a local affair. Participants and visitors from all over the country will attend. The festival allows participants access to leading writers.