In Lahore, festival celebrating one of Urdu poetry’s greatest names sparks hope for its future

Speakers attend a session during a literary festival, celebrating Urdu poetry’s greatest ever names Jaun Elia, Jashn-e-Jaun Elia at the Al Hamra Arts Council in Lahore on May 28, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/abrarulhasan)
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Updated 28 May 2023
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In Lahore, festival celebrating one of Urdu poetry’s greatest names sparks hope for its future

  • Jashn e Jaun Elia was held at Alhamra, in Lahore, this weekend in remembrance of the late literary giant, featuring many contemporary poets, writers, and scholars
  • The event was organized by Ishqabad, which hopes to become Urdu literature’s biggest digital platform, and showcased the works of dozens of young people

LAHORE: A festival celebrating the late Jaun Elia, one of Urdu poetry’s greatest ever names, was held in Lahore this weekend, bringing together poets, writers, and scholars to discuss his life, work, and its lasting impact and marking the launch of a digital platform on Urdu literature.

Jaun Elia was born in Amroha, India, in 1931, as Syed Sibt-e-Asghar Naqvi. He was part of a prominent literary family and was related to famous Bollywood director Kamal Amrohi. Elia relocated to Karachi after the partition of the subcontinent. Known for his wit and unique delivery on stage, Elia passed away in 2002, though he remains an immense influence on modern Urdu poetry to this day.

Ishqabad, an Urdu website that organized the event, also launched an Urdu literature digital platform with the collected works of numerous writers and poets, and to provide younger artists a ready access to a worldwide audience.

Ishqabad is the labor of love of poet Abbas Tabish.

Tabish said there were three reasons he chose Jaun Elia as the central figure of his first literary festival at Alhamra, the city’s art center. “We’ve never had a festival dedicated to him before, he’s one of the greatest Urdu poets, and most importantly, I saw that he was very popular with the younger generation,” he told Arab News.

Tabish is hoping to ignite an Urdu literary revival with his website, and for Jaun Elia’s enduring popularity to be the catalyst. “There are people who’ve never read poetry before but still fall in love with Jaun’s work. There are young poets’ movements dedicated to him in India. Jaunism is real,” he said.

“We have a team of ten people working on the website. We want to include younger poets alongside all the classics, as you can see from the mushaira (gathering where Urdu poetry is recited) there is no shortage [of young poets] in Pakistan,” he added.

“Jashn e Jaun Elia” as the event was titled, hosted a Bait Baazi (poetry game) between university students of Government College and UET. Government College had its own separate session on Saturday, because many of the panelists at the festival are alumni, and the college has a history of producing contemporary poets, including Tabish himself.

Every panelist in the festival shared their own experiences with Elia. Poets Saleem Sagar, Wajih Sani, Kishwar Naheed, and Hammad Ghaznavi remembered him as a maverick who introduced a new way of writing and reciting poetry. “He was a rebel, a thinker, who made you think as well,” Sani said.

“Jaun Elia was my dear friend, he used to visit my house 8 or 9 times a month,” Anwar Maqsood, the renowned satirist and playwright, said. “It is sad to see so many of my literary contemporaries have passed away. But can the new generation produce its own Jaun Elia? That remains to be seen.”

Abbas Naqvi is very hopeful. He is a preeminent literary scholar with a focus on the life and works of Elia.

“Social media has given Jaun Elia a second life. You can see how popular he is with the youth,” Naqvi told Arab News on Sunday.

“Jaun resonates with everyone, during a mushaira, he would make people sit up and listen intently, such was his charm and charisma,” Naqvi said. “Jaun’s poetry was conversational. You might find the classical poets difficult to understand at times, but Jaun wrote in colloquial terms,” he added.

He went on to say that Elia removed the veil of too much respect in Urdu poetry, often using ‘tum’ instead of ‘aap’. The legendary poet also introduced the word ‘jaani’ into popular vernacular, Naqvi added.

 “He wrote for future generations, he wrote the way they speak now.”

Ammar Iqbal, born in 1986, always had an inclination for poetry, but the introduction to Elia in his mid-twenties was life-changing. He is now a well-regarded literary figure.

He was part of a panel titled ‘Jaun Elia and the younger generation’. He explained that Elia was an ideal figure of a poet, he didn’t care about appearances or pretensions. “His way of speaking, his mannerisms. He turned something that used to be read, into something that was to be listened to, live.”

Iqbal learned his own style of delivery by watching Elia’s videos. Now he has an Instagram poetry account with 20,000 followers.

Fatima Mehru, another young poet, born in 1990, shared the stage on Sunday with such luminaries as Kishwar Naheed and Harris Khalique. “It has been an honor for me to share the stage with such gems,” she told Arab News.

Mehru’s work is featured on Ishqabad alongside some of the greatest nazam writers Urdu has ever seen. “I was invited to last year’s Lahore Literary Festiva,” she said, expressing happiness to see that “there were poets even younger than me at the mushaira on Saturday.”


Peshawar residents, led by PTI lawmaker, storm grid station to restore power amid heatwave

Updated 8 sec ago
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Peshawar residents, led by PTI lawmaker, storm grid station to restore power amid heatwave

  • The electric supply company says the protesters ‘forcibly switched on nine high-loss feeders’ in the area
  • It mentions losses due to power-theft, non-payment of dues, lodges police complaint against the lawmaker

ISLAMABAD: Residents of Peshawar in Pakistan’s northwest, led by a provincial lawmaker from former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, stormed a grid station on Saturday and restored electricity themselves to protest prolonged power cuts amid scorching heat.
Power outages are not uncommon in Pakistan during the summer months when the demand on the national grid spikes sharply due to the widespread use of air conditioners and desert coolers. These seasonal surges often lead to prolonged power outages, which fuel public discontent, particularly during the intense heatwaves that have swept across Pakistan in recent years.
While the blackouts can sometimes be part of the official load management strategy, Pakistani authorities have also pointed to power theft in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as a significant issue, occasionally leading to complete shutdowns of electricity.
“If our electricity is cut off, everyone’s electricity will be cut off,” Pakistan’s Geo TV quoted the PTI lawmaker Fazal Elahi as saying after the incident.
The Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) said Elahi and other protesters entered the grid station and “forcibly switched on nine high-loss feeders” in the area.
“Losses due to power theft and non-payment of dues on these feeders are more than 80 percent,” it added.
Local media also reported that PESCO had filed a police complaint against the PTI lawmaker, who said protesters were only demanding their rights.


Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20

Updated 25 May 2024
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Jofra Archer stars as England beat Pakistan in second T20

  • Skipper Jos Buttler, who smashed 84 off 51 balls, was the star of the England batting
  • Babar Azam praises Pakistani bowlers but says that the team could not finish well

BIRMINGHAM: Jofra Archer claimed two wickets on his long-awaited return to international cricket as England beat Pakistan by 23 runs at Edgbaston to move 1-0 up in the four-match T20 series.
England captain Jos Buttler won man-of-the-match after he smashed 84 off 51 balls to set the hosts a target of 184.
But it was Archer’s return that caught the eye as he made a case for selection in next month’s T20 World Cup in the United States and West Indies no harm.
The fast bowler has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
On his first international appearance for 14 months, and first on home soil since 2020, Archer bounced back from an expensive first over, which went for 15 runs, to finish with two for 28.
“I thought Jofra Archer was brilliant,” said Buttler. “You could see his emotion taking wickets for England again but we need to temper those expectations because he’s not going to be the same straight away.
“I’m really pleased with the whole bowling group.”
Muhammad Rizwan was removed in the first over by Moeen Ali and Reece Topley took three wickets for 41.
Buttler was the star of the England batting with three sixes and eight fours.
He was ably supported by 37 from Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow’s 21 but England failed to build on the platform given to them by their skipper.
Five wickets fell for just 25 runs as Pakistan battled back with Shaheen Shah Afridi the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-36.
“We got them to a par score, our bowlers bowled very well and we had our moments when we were batting,” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam.
Fakhar Zaman’s 45 from 21 balls gave the Pakistan chase some impetus, but after he departed the pace of Archer, Topley and Chris Jordan ripped through the tourists’ tail with four balls to spare.
“We didn’t finish well. We had a small partnership, myself and Fakhar but we didn’t get any other 40 or 50 partnerships that England did,” added Azam.
England lead the four-match series 1-0 after the first match was washed out on Wednesday.


Pakistan’s investment body to set up six country-specific desks, including one for Saudi Arabia

Updated 27 min 14 sec ago
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Pakistan’s investment body to set up six country-specific desks, including one for Saudi Arabia

  • SIFC reviews progress related to trade and investment with friendly nations in a meeting presided by PM Sharif
  • The meeting also evaluates progress on the privatization of state-owned entities, instructs timely implementation

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif instructed Pakistan’s top investment facilitation body to set up six country- and region-specific desks, including one solely focused on Saudi Arabia, while presiding over a meeting on Saturday that concentrated on progress related to economic collaboration with friendly nations.
Last year, the country established the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military hybrid body designed to oversee foreign financing, to help overcome its prolonged economic turmoil that has forced successive administrations to seek financial assistance from global lenders and close allies.
Pakistani officials have primarily focused on Gulf countries since the inception of SIFC, briefing governments and businesses about investment opportunities available across various economic sectors in their country, including areas like agriculture, mining and information technology.
Following the announcement of a $10 billion investment from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) during Sharif’s daylong visit to Abu Dhabi on Thursday, Pakistan expects to receive substantial investments from the region.
“The prime minister has announced that the SIFC will have a China desk, a UAE desk, a Saudi desk, a Qatar desk, a European Union desk and a United States of America desk,” Federal Minister for Information Attaullah Tarar told the media after the meeting.
“The prime minister has formally announced these six desks to promote trade and investment,” he added. “It was a historic meeting whose fruits will become visible in the coming days.”
An official statement issued after the meeting said the SIFC appreciated the recent upsurge in trade and investment related engagements under government-to-government and business-to-business frameworks, directing concerned ministries for efficient follow-ups.
It instructed the participants to make every effort to transform the commitments received from friendly countries into tangible projects and economic dividends at a fast pace.
The meeting reviewed progress on the privatization of state-owned enterprises, expressing satisfaction over the ongoing process and urging the timely accomplishment of various milestones in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.


British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation

Updated 25 May 2024
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British-Pakistani opera singer receives royal honor for recording national anthem post-coronation

  • Saira Peter says she is privileged to contribute her voice to British government’s public events, citizenship ceremonies
  • She also recorded ‘God Save the Queen’ in 2018 and received acknowledgement and gratitude of Queen Elizabeth II

ISLAMABAD: A British-Pakistani Sufi Opera singer, Saira Peter, announced in a video message circulated on Saturday she received a letter of appreciation from Buckingham Palace for recording the British national anthem, “God Save the King,” following the coronation of King Charles III.
The British king’s coronation took place last May at Westminster Abbey in London. The event brought leaders and high-profile personalities from around the world and marked his official accession to the throne after the passing of Queen Elizabeth II in September 2022.
Upon receiving the recording, performed in the soprano vocal range, the highest of the female voice types in classical singing, the king sent Peter a letter conveying his good wishes and sincere thanks for her public services.
She also received a signed photo card from him and Queen Camilla.
“I want to share with all my followers how excited I am to receive a letter and card of appreciation and gratitude from His Majesty King Charles the Third,” Peter said in the video, where she mentioned she was Pakistan’s first opera singer. “This arrived in response to my civic service of recording the British national anthem, ‘God Save the King.’”
“Being British-Pakistani, I feel so privileged to contribute my skill and voice to the British government’s public events and citizenship ceremonies,” she added.
Peter informed the British national anthem was recorded at the request of UK Government offices at Hastings Town Hall in East Sussex. The recording is now used across her adopted country for official government events.
Previously, she recorded “God Save the Queen” in 2018, making her the first Asian and the only Pakistani officially invited to undertake the task. Peter also received acknowledgment and gratitude from the late queen.
Born in Karachi, the opera singer told Arab News during her visit to Pakistan last year she used to sing in church choirs and began her Western classical journey, learning from Paul Knight, a disciple of Benjamin Britten, in London in the early 2000s after her family moved there.
Peter’s father, Zafar Francis, pioneered the Noor Jehan Arts Center in London, which was opened by British superstar Sir Cliff Richard in 1998.
She is the director of the performing arts center and teaches both Western and Pakistani classical music there.
She said her work in Britain was projecting “a positive image of Pakistan.”


Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20

Updated 25 May 2024
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Skipper Jos Buttler the bedrock as England set Pakistan 184 to win T20

  • Buttler smashed 84 off 51 balls, but his team failed to build on that and lost 5 wickets for 25 runs
  • Shaheen Shah Afridi took 3-36, as Pakistan try to build on their 2-1 win against Ireland this month

BIRMINGHAM: England captain Jos Buttler smashed 84 off 51 balls as the hosts set Pakistan a target of 184 to win the second T20 international at Edgbaston on Saturday.
Buttler was ably supported by 37 from Will Jacks and Jonny Bairstow’s 21 but England failed to build on the platform given to them by their skipper.
England were 144-2 with five overs to spare before Bairstow departed.
But five wickets fell for just 25 runs as Pakistan battled back to give the tourists a chance of chasing down the target.
Shaheen Shah Afridi was the pick of the bowlers, taking 3-36.
Jofra Archer will form part of the England bowling attack in his first home international appearance since 2020.
Fast bowler Archer has been beset by elbow injuries since his starring role in helping England win the 50-over World Cup in 2019.
However, the 29-year-old’s return could be a timely boost ahead of the T20 World Cup in the United States next month.
“Excited for Jofra, long road for him but looks great and looks fit,” Buttler said before the match.
Haris Rauf and Shadab Khan have been included for Pakistan, who are looking to build on a 2-1 series win over Ireland earlier this month.
The first T20 of the four-match series was washed out on Wednesday.
England: 1 Jos Buttler (capt/wk), 2 Phil Salt, 3 Will Jacks, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Liam Livingstone, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Reece Topley
Pakistan: 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Saim Ayub, 3 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 4 Fakhar Zaman, 5 Shadab Khan, 6 Azam Khan, 7 Iftikhar Ahmed, 8 Imad Wasim, 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Mohammad Amir