Day 2 at the Karachi Literature Festival

March 1, 2020

The “ills” of our times date back to the 1700’s East India Company!

In yesterday afternoon’s fascinating book launch “The Anarchy: The Relentless Rise of the East India Company” at the Karachi Literature Festival, William Dalrymple identifies the source of global corporate corruption and rot in society … The East India Company.

Darlymple’s style of delivery is OUTSTANDING!  He’s humorous, easy to listen to, succinct and energetic.  It was a pleasure to hear his two presentations yesterday and I hope we have the opportunity to hear more from him in future.  For a Saturday morning session, he had an excellent turnout.

Forgotten Masters – Indian Painting For The East India Company

Starting from “… a five room office, smaller than the Beach Luxury Hotel…” and 3% of global trade, the East India Company grew to cover almost 40% of global trade.  It was, pure and simple, in the business to make a profit.  CSR practices were never on it’s agenda … there being it’s eventual downfall.  It bought politicians, favors, influence and it’s own army of sepoys with the sole aim of emptying the coffers of South Asia and profiting from global trade – and it did this very successfully.

“Enlightening” would be the term I would use to describe William Darlymple’s book launch. 

As an aside, in the 8 years I’ve been a participant at the Karachi Literature Festival, never once have I found it to be an “elitist” event– and I don’t say this just because it’s being held at my family’s Beach Luxury.  Over the years I’ve heard this term over and over but I don’t believe this to be true of KhiLF.  There is absolutely NO VIP culture, you rub shoulders with people from all walks of life, speakers interact with participants freely, the entry is absolutely free and no one is restricted (bar time reasons) from asking questions … with one common objective of enhancing KNOWLEDGE.  For a city of 27 Million inhabitants, it’s an absolutely outstanding weekend!

… At the Karachi Literature Festival 2020 … The Political Character Of Pakistani Middle Class

February 29, 2020

This morning’s session at the KLF with Dr Asad Sayeed, Ghazi Salahuddin and Dr Huma Baqai (moderated very capably by Yasir Qazi), like a lot of discussions on Pakistan’s civil (and social) direction, was pessimistic … unfortunately and, I believe, rightly.

               Several questions emerged from this discussion –

  1. Where is the Pakistani civil voice?
  2. Who is the cause of the destruction/silencing of this civil voice?
  3. Why does the middle class – the backbone of any society – stay silent [numb] over atrocities that are committed in society over and over again … why do we not learn from history?
  4. Is there a capacity to change?

… and finally, what is the solution to fix our civil ails?

               For safety reasons 😊, I will not address the last question in political terms – however, one gentleman in the audience offered a solution – our universities do not address higher education topics like the Humanities, Social Sciences, Political Science, Investigative Journalism ….  While the entire fabric of social service in Pakistan rests with the private sector, no Degree is offered in SOCIAL SERVICE in Pakistan.  (If so, my daughter, would have undertaken her Masters in Social Works here!)

If universities are churning out only MBAs, Engineers and Doctors, there is no learning forum teaching how to address this apathy of civil society.

Dr Huma Baqai identified, correctly, that women will play a very large role in the coming years in shaping what our society will be like – that is good because if there’s any other solution, I believe it will lie in the female gender “fixing things”.

Lastly, my own solution lies with PRIMARY EDUCATION – we must bring civic studies, humanities, social service topics into our primary schools URGENTLY.  If ever there’s a chance of any change in the future, it lies with children just starting out in school and through their formative years.

If there’s “no capacity to change” – and whenever a section of society seem to “rise”, only to be then suppressed – what happens to our future?