Islamabad - Speakers at the 3rd Mother Languages Literature Festival stressed the need to formulate a national policy for integration, protection and promotion of all mother languages of Pakistan and declare the mother languages as the National Languages alongside Urdu.

The panelists urged the parliamentarians to draft comprehensive legislation for mainstreaming the distinct regional culture, documentation of endangered languages.

Indus Cultural Forum (ICF)-a voluntary organisation of literary and cultural activists- joined hands with Lok Virsa and Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) in 2016 to arrange first of its kind and unique festival. This year festival is sponsored by Sindh government’s Department of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities, Foundation Open Society Institute (FOSI), Lok Virsa and Heinrich Boll Stiftung (HBS).

In her keynote address to the inaugural session, renowned Sindhi and Urdu fiction writer, playwright and activist Noorul Hada Shah said that culture is a source of human integration, social harmony and peace in the society that “we direly need during these defining circumstances.”

She said the call for promotion of mother languages will not harm the federation rather bring societies close to each other. “Languages are source of expression only, they lead to ultimate language, the language of love and co-existence. We should never consider diversity as conflict.”

ICF Chairman Niaz Nadeem shared the background and detailed programme of the two-day festival and highlighted that like every year, over 100 writers, poets and artists representing up to 20 languages are participating in the sessions. There will be over 20 sessions in addition to opening and closing ceremonies as well as musical evenings on both days. “We are also marking the 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and there will be dedicated session to pay tribute to Asma Jehangir. Over 20 new books of mother languages on fiction poetry and history will also be inaugurated at the festival.”

Acting Country Director of Heinrich Böll Stiftung Pakistan Jacqueline Wilk said she loved Pakistani culture, especially as student of the anthropology, “I have always been fascinated by the cultural and linguistic diversity of Pakistan. This rich heritage is a strength of Pakistan as a society at large and a distinguished feature of its past and present. However many people I met across the country are not aware of this diversity and the different shades of what it can mean to be a “Pakistani”. I am therefore glad and very excited about this excellent initiative of Mother Languages Literature Festival to be held here in Islamabad to celebrate the plurality of Pakistan”. She said the Heinrich Böll Stiftung is proud to be partnering with such a dedicated and committed group of volunteers like the Indus Cultural Forum and are looking forward to an excellent event.

Dr Saba Gul Khattak, proposed for establishment of Pakistan Cultural Fund for fund generation to be utilized for promotion and preservation of culture in Pakistan. She insisted for local resourcing for culture-related funds, and the governments should play their role as well. She said culture guarantees human rights, and education in mother language confirms proper learning for kids. ECO Science Foundation (ECOSF) and Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) have sponsored two fun filled days for youth and children to promote science culture. Society for Alternate Media and Research (SAMAR) have also supported in the organization of different aspects of the festival.

On this occasion, book stalls, showcasing books from different Pakistani languages, will also be established to provide easy access to literature in these languages. A great number of people from all over the country and abroad are expected to attend the Festival. The participants in the opening session paid tribute to Asma Jahangir, noted human rights activist who recently died, and observed one-minute silence.