islamabad - The fourth edition of Islamabad Literature Festival started off yesterday on a positive note and with great fanfare.

The festival spreading over three days is bringing together an eclectic collection of intellectuals, writers, poets, artists, politicians and journalists across borders who will speak in various sessions.  A number of bookstalls have also been set up on the lawns and a food court has also been put up to treat the visitors.

The festival is being organised by Oxford University Press while this year it is being sponsored by Embassy of France, USAID-funded Pakistan Reading Project, British High Commission, and others.

Former Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar who delivered keynote address touched upon various topics from literature to foreign policy and political turmoil currently faced by the ruling PML-N due to Panama Leaks. Talking about the festival she said, “Such festivals are the need of hour and we have to understand their value for a democratic society. Literature, art and culture induce inspiration, foster hope, and analyse and reflect up on the right and the wrong.”

Calling for the need to hold such festivals in other cities in native languages she said the inclusion of Mushaira (poetic symposium) in a native language is a proof that the festival has started to become more indigenous.

The other visitors also upheld her views. These literature festivals have become elitist and selfies-capturing events as the medium of language used during the sessions only caters them, said a visitor, Kapil Dev. “These festivals should highlight literature of local languages and there is also a need of bringing writers, poets of other regional languages in mainstream.”

ILF Founder and OUP Managing Director, Ameena Saiyid while inaugurating the festival said, “It gives us an opportunity to learn about and come across new authors and books, discover new ideas, and respond to them if we so choose. 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.”

On its first day, a tribute to Ismat Chughtai and Quratulain Hyder was made in a session ‘Lady Changez Khan and Pompom Darling’ by Zambeel Dramatic Readings. In this session Asma Mundrawala, Mahvash Faruqi, Danish Faruqi and Fawad Khan participated.

English poetry was also discussed in a session ‘Springtime Voices’ wherein Harris Khalique, Azka Khan, Waqas Naeem, Risham Amjad, Mina Malik Hussain and Mehvish Amin participated while it was moderated by Lona Yusuf.

Former Foreign Secretary Riaz Ahmed Kohkhar and renowned journalist Ahmed Rashid discussed Jihad and descent into chaos in a conversation. A Potohari Mushaira was also included in the evening.

According to details, 151 Pakistani and 14 international speakers will participate in the festival this year marking their vibrant presence in talks/interviews, panel discussions, mushaira, English mushaira, dramatic readings, book launches, author signings, performing arts, Sufi music, book fair, art exhibition and much more. The festival is free and open to all. There will be around 20 book launches and 38 sessions at this year’s edition of ILF.