LAHORE - In a surprise move, acclaimed poetess Kishwar Naheed yesterday refused to speak in a panel discussion to be held in India’s ‘Jashn-Rekhta Festival’.

The three-day festival celebrates the Urdu literature, art and culture through debate and panel discussions, poetic symposiums and Qawwalis.

This year’s festival was held in New Delhi, India where renowned Pakistan feminist poet Kishwar Naheed was invited as a panelist. But to her surprise, once she reached the venue, Naheed was told that she could not participate as a panelist rather has to attend the festival as a guest owing to rift between two nuclear armed neighbours.

In the wake of Pakistan-India tensions, the Pakistani artist took the plunge in her efforts to make things right for both countries. Upon finding out that she was only a guest at the event, she immediately cut her trip short and returned to Pakistan.

“I was invited by Sanjiv Saraf of Rehkhta Foundation at the festival. He told me that they were inviting me to the festival and I would have to come and recite my poems,” Naheed told The Nation.

“But when I reached the destination, I was told that due to the clash between both countries we are unable to let you sit with the panelists. After listening these words I simply left the festival and went to the railway station, took train for Amritsar and came back to Pakistan,” she added.

The poetess said artists should be given their due respect and must be allowed to spread love and harmony through their work. “Artists are an asset that belongs to the world and should not be restricted to the boundaries,” Naheed said, adding she is being humble on the incident and keeping a low profile.

Media reports quoted Rehkta Foundation founder Sanjiv Saraf as presenting his side of the story: “We took a considered decision in light of the prevailing atmosphere in the country not to have any Pakistani participation. But, since the purpose of this festival is to promote togetherness and bonding, we thought of inviting a few Pakistanis as guests.”