Islamabad - The speakers at Mother Language Literature Festival stressed the need for policy-level and pragmatic measures for promotion and preservation of mother languages.

They were speaking at the first ever Mother Languages Literature Festival, which was organsied by Indus Cultural Forum (ICF) in collaboration with Lok Virsa and Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) and started off here at Lok Virsa yesterday.

The two-day festival also coincides with the International Mother Languages Day on 21 February (today), declared by UNESCO. More than 150 writers from over 15 Pakistani mother languages are participating in the event as speakers and moderators.

Speaking at inaugural session, Dr Tariq Rehman, a noted linguist said, “No matter how big or small our native languages are, we prefer foreign language as we have been ruled by foreigners in the past.” He said that local languages are dying everywhere, adding that 1782 languages have 74 % chances to die out or go extinct. “Like endangered species, languages are also endangered which are likely to go extinct in future,” Rehman added.

“We are rich in languages but we don’t have policies to keep them intact and alive. We need to put pressure on the government to make sustainable policies for preservation of languages.”

Dr Fozia Saeed, Executive Director Lok Virsa said one of the prime motos of the Lok Virsa is to promote different cultures. She added, ”We are transforming the institution into a public space where all culture and languages will get their due importance.”

Naseer Memon, an intellectual and writer, said that these languages are not the creation of any ordinance, but of historical processes and geography of the country. He stressed the need for “Zarb-e-Saqafat” for protection and promotion of languages and cultures.

Niaz Nadeem, event organiser, said that festival is aimed to promote Pakistan’s linguistic and cultural diversity as an instrument of social harmony, peace and tolerance; and, encouraging reading culture in mother languages. The festival will be an occasion to showcase a wide range of literary works in these languages.

Quoting example of Khushujo and Bendeshi, two local languages spoken in Swat region which are extinct now, Zubair Turwali said no efforts are being made for preservation and protection of endangered languages.

Barbara Toye Welsh, Chief of Party, Pakistan Reading Program (USAID), said, “We are working with the government and other organisations for language educations, adding we are helping the government in developing curriculum for mother language education.”

Vibeke Jenseen from UNESCO said that environmental changes have also caused loss to languages. She stressed the need for innovative strategies for survival of mother languages.  She said that there is no proper policy for survival of mother languages and there are no such proper institutions for preservation of languages.

Speaking at the session ‘One Message – Many Voices,’ Dr Salahauddin said that Hindko mystic poet Sain Ahmed played a crucial role in not only promoting the language but also in promoting education.

Ahmed Saleem, renowned Punjabi poet, praised ICF for holding first ever mother languages festival in Pakistan. His documentary on Bulleh Shah was also screened during the event.

Commissioner Larkana Akbar Leghari said realism has lasting impact on progressive movements; therefore there is abundant literature on resistance in Sindhi language.

The main attractions of the festival include discussions on various topics of languages, literature and culture, book launches, mother languages mushaira, mother languages musical evening, audio visual screening, cultural performances, book stalls, food courts, cultural exhibitions, mobile library, etc.

A large number of people belonging to different walks of life including writers, researchers, linguistics, youth, students and families visited the first day of the festival and appreciated the efforts of the organizers.

The youth took part in different sessions attired in colourful traditional costumes.

A cultural diversity show was also presented during the opening ceremony focusing on almost all mother languages. Lok Virsa Mandwa Film Club screened Balochi Film “Saawad” directed by Waheed Baloch on the occasion.

The first day of the event ended with a multi-lingual Mushaira (poetry recitations) in mother languages in which poets from 15 different languages recited poetry and amused the audience. The poets in Urdu, Kashmiri, Potohari, Balti, Punjabi, Seraiki, Sindhi, Torwali, Hazaragi, Shina, Wakhi, Gojri and Burushaski participated in the mushaira and shared their renderings with the audience.

The festival will continue till Sunday (today) with all its attractions.