Mehr Khan Williams in Youlin Magazine:
The vibrancy, color and cultural diversity of Lahore came to New York for two days over this Spring weekend at the Asia Society, the premier American institution which promotes a deeper cultural understanding and partnership between the United States and Asia. In a burst of dance, music, literary and policy discussions, the Lahore Literary Festival event in New York sought to showcase an image of Pakistan as a complex society with pluralistic values and an ancient and rich literary and intellectual tradition. A tradition that is alive and thriving in Pakistan today. An image which reflects the very real aspirations and lives of Pakistanis but one which is seldom reflected in news coverage in the United States, where Pakistan is often associated with terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism. Amidst all of the stimulating discussions and the joy of listening to great poetry and stirring music, both modern and devotional, there was also a moment of silence to honor the Pakistani human rights activist Khurram Zaki who was killed in Karachi on Sunday, when four men on two motorbikes sprayed Zaki with bullets as he was lunching with a friend at a road side cafe.
…The festival opened with a dance performance by Ammr Vandal against a backdrop of street life on a screen and followed by innovative songs by Zeb Bangash, and her creative band from Brooklyn. The music was Pakistani rendered in many languages and the band played on diverse instruments including the harpsichord. It concluded with the Qav'vali performance by the Saami brothers. Before the start of the sessions on Day 2, Azra Raza accepted the Lifetime Achievement award on behalf of Sara Suleri who could not travel to the conference. One of the most interesting sessions was on “Urdu Literature— Binding South Asia” with Tahira Naqvi, who spoke of the ground-breaking work of Ismat Chughtai, Frances Pritchett who spoke of Ghalib and his poetry and Arfa Sayeda Zehra who spoke in Urdu and reminded the audience of the relevance today of the work of Saadat Hasan Manto. The session was moderated by Dr. Azra Raza, who urged the audience to re-acquaint themselves with some of the best literature in the world produced in Urdu and now also available in English. In this session, Arfa Sayeda Zehra’s contribution received a standing ovation.