LAHORE - The waiting time of the literati of city was finally over on Saturday. The fifth edition of Lahore Literary Festival that was reduced to one day event was held at Faletti’s Hotel.

The holding of city’s premier literary event was in doubt due to the security threat in the wake of recent terrorism incidents in Pakistan and an accidental blast in DHA on February 23. The three day event was to be held from February 24 to 26. The festival was then reduced to two days and the venue was shifted from Alhamra Halls of the Lahore Arts Council to Avari Hotel. Later the venue was again shifted and the event was reduced to single day. 22 sessions were to be held at the festival but the last three could not be held due to security concerns. The festival closed unceremoniously one hour earlier.

There was no inaugural ceremony and the festival began straight away with the holding of sessions. The LLF had been going from strength to strength every year and the fifth edition was expected to surpass all expectations. Unfortunately with the change in security situation in the country and the changes in venues it disturbed a number of people. Still thousands braved the terror fear to attend the festival at different times throughout the day. Though there was no carnival like air that used to be there when it was held at Alhamra two years ago but even then in sobriety it brought together eminent writers, historians, artists, and opinion makers from across Pakistan and abroad. The thought-provoking sessions on the changing world scenario and literary trends were something that the people looked up to. The music, dance and food court serving traditional Lahori food were missing. Faletti’s Hotel had provided a food stall on the occasion that served many dishes, tea and beverages. People thronged the books stalls throughout the day. It was heartening to see that the culture of book reading has not fizzled out as lot of people could be seen buying the books of their favourite writers especially of those who were present at LLF.

The continuity of holding the festival was important. The panellists and moderators included Michael Palin, historian Margaret MacMillan, Alex von Tunzelmann, Katie Hickman, Pippa Virdeem, Max Rodenbeck, Nermeen Sheikh, Fasih Ahmed, Ahmed Rashid, Elke Falat, Julie Tieka, Muzammil Ruheel, Bethany Wratslaw, Qudsia Rahim, Mohsin Hamid, Dr Syed Adeebul Hasan Rizvi, Hameed Haroon, Molly Crabapple, Salima Hashmi, Zehra Nigah, Dwight Garner, William Dairymple, Danyal Mueenuddin, Teju Cole, Jeff Koehler, Eka Kurniawan, Gillian Solvo Nayyar Ali Dada, Arfa Syeda Zehra and FS Ijazuddin. Those who were missed at the LLF because they have left for their heavenly abode included Intizar Hussain, Nigar Ahmed,

LLF also witnessed the launch of Mohsin Hamid new novel ‘Exit West’. The writer talked about the book and his experience of writing it.

The three sessions that could not be held in the end were ‘The Edhi way out’ in which Tehmina Durrani was to talk with Qazi Shaukat Fareed, ‘Writings from the Arab maelstrom’ in which the panellists were Molly Crabapple, Nermeen Sheikh, Salam Kawakibi and Max Rodenbeck and it was to be moderated by Ahmed Rashid and ‘Up your Himalays in which Michael Palin was solely to talk.

LLF generated healthy debates on various issues confronting the world and Pakistan. The art, literature, architecture, history and the history in the making all came under discussion. Next year Pakistan will definitely have moved forward and we can expect LLF to be even greater event than it has ever been.

 fake news

They say human nature never changes. Even the advancement of technology and knowledge has not changed some aspects of human civilization. Even in the medieval age fake news were sent out by both state and non-state actors. This has not changed much as states across the world continue to control their populations by sometimes spreading false news while the non-state actors do so to create space and sympathisers for themselves.

The session ‘Today in fake news’ explored how fake news are still being used in different ways to control or influence the masses. Max Rodenbeck, Narmeen Sheikh, Ahmed Rashid and Qasim Nauman were the panellists. Fasih Ahmed moderated the session and opened the discussion by speaking about the 2016 US elections and how fake news were used by Donald Trump sympathisers to malign Hillary Clinton. Ahmed Rashid responded that now the Trump aides call them alternate facts. “Lahore blast at DHA was unpredictable because we don’t believe in real facts but only on alternative facts. It was simply blast. They made confusion out of it,’ he said.

Narmeen pointed out a survey that suggested that in 2015 Trump got more coverage than other candidates. “Of the 1,000 minutes Trump got 327 while Bernie Sanders could manage only 20 minutes,” she said and explained the dominance of media that played role in his win and his socio-path lies. 

Max spoke about Trump transition from virtual reality. “There is long history of fake news and states have been doing that for different reasons. In 1967 Egypt’s war with Israel the Cairo Radio was constantly saying that tanks of Egypt were rolling into Tel Aviv. Later when Egypt lost the war the broadcaster justified this by saying they deserved to win.

“Trump administration is acting like dictators. There are few press conferences and even from them journalists from some organizations are not invited. He is following the KGB doctrine. The same thing is being followed by Turkey now.

Qasim  spoke about the global crunch in media industry around the world and the challenge of social media. “Then there is very little accountability. For example when fake news of blast in Lahore was flashed none of them later apologised for the mistake,” Qasim said.

Ahmed said news of one’s own choice are projected through tweets and you cannot build a common narrative on them. “The counter terrorism operation is being run through tweets. Briefings that used to be regular are there no more. Even the prime minister has not held press conference for three years,” he said.

Narmeen said Trump is the first President of USA to use tweet as mode of communication. “When his travel ban order came people were already being stopped at airports. He tweeted “They are streaming in. We don’t know who they are?” Syrian refugees spent five years getting screened by officials before coming to USA,” she maintained.

Max was of the view that today it has become too easy to disseminate lies. “Modi app you have to download to participate in the surveys. This is method adopted to get public opinion. I hope we do not end up in a cartoon like world,” he said.