IPA: With so much already on your plate, what motivated you to launch the Karachi and Islamabad Literature Festivals? What are you hoping to achieve?
AS: The main reasons for launching the Karachi and Islamabad Literature Festivals were to draw the public, especially students, to books, authors, and reading, to give literature the recognition it deserves, to project Pakistan’s rich literary traditions and to create a model that can be scaled up and turned into a movement. Of course, I can’t do any more but I was delighted when another group began the Lahore Literary Festival modelled on ours; that too was successful in drawing the public to books and authors.
I have had requests from academics in other cities of Pakistan to organize literary festivals. I’ve told them that local groups should organize such festivals themselves. They are welcome to use our model and I’ll be happy to share our ideas with them but they should own it. It was a kind of medium and long-term market development plan that has proved to be enormously successful.
Over 70,000 people attended the Karachi Literature Festival this year and books were sold in large quantities and authors mobbed to sign copies. The media coverage was spectacular. We launch about 20 books at these festivals and they draw a great deal of attention and media reportage. Now that we have developed a template and learnt the ropes, the organization has become streamlined and predictable and does not require much time and effort.