A three-day Swat Cultural Festival organized by Sustainable Development Society (SDS) was held on May 30, 31 and June 1, 2014 at Mingora. In the festival there were different events. There was Mushaira on peace theme001 on day first. The second day started with a round table discussion on “Culture: Challenges and Opportunities” at morning and later music night was held. On last day there was political dialogue on” Role of Political Parties in promotion of Peace”, which participated by local political leaders from JUI, ANP, PML, AWP, PTI, QWP, NP, International Marxist Tendencies (IMT) besides other small political and left groups. During and around the festival there were lot of opportunities for interaction and networking. The festival was attended by politicians, academies, literary personalities, lawyers, intellectuals and social and political activists from all over the country but mostly from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Also local activists attended the festival in large number. Besides discussion on culture and role of political parties in promotion of peace there was lot of entertainment opportunities. There was art and craft exhibition where local originations/artisans not only exhibit their products but also demonstrated their skills. Representatives of various social, political and literary organizations and movements including Aman Tehrik, Tribal Development Network (TDN), Pakhtun Ulasi Tehrik (PAT), Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN) Pakhtun Awareness Movement (PAM), and FATA Lawyers Forum, Pak-India Peoples Forum for Peace and Democracy, Swat Hotel Association, Pak-Afghan Peoples Forum, Anjuman-e-Taraqi Pasand Musanifeen attended the festival. The festival not only provided a forum for serious discussion on culture and role of political parties in promotion of peace but also for networking and interaction among different civil society organizations and movements. Theme of the Mushaira (poetical gathering) and musical nights was peace and the poets mainly touched upon the issues related to peace. Prominent poets from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA narrated their poetry. Besides guests, the Mushaira and music nights was attended by larger number of locals not only from Swat but its surrounding district such as Shangla, Buner and Malakand. There was political consensus on peace and establishing law and order situation in the country in general and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in particular. All political and religious parties express their willingness for joining hands for the peace but no consensus on its methodology and process for achieving it. Most of the local politicians appreciated SDS effort for brining political parties with different political ideologies on one platform on such an important issue. In the political dialogue ex-senator Maulana Rahat Hussain from Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), Shams Buneri, provincial leader of Awami National Party (ANP), ex-MPA Qaimoos Khan from Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), Fanoos Gujjar, Chairperson Awami Workers Party (AWP), ex- MPA Saleem Khan Advocate from Qaumi Watan Party ( QWP), Mukhtar Bacha, Provincial President National Party (NP). Sardar Soran Singh, MPA from Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (PTI) regularly attended the other events but due to some urgent matters could not attend the dialogue. Dr. Ijaz Khattak, International Relations Department, University of Peshawar moderated the session and Dr. Sarfraz Khan, Director Area Study Center, University of Peshawar and Dr. Shafiq Rehman were the key note speakers. Two former high court judges Shah Jehan Khan and Sher Mohammad Khan also regularly attend the festival. JUI’s ex- senator comments that a peace talk with banned militant outfits is illegal and Taliban’s activities are not Islamic were widely appreciated. While discussing the culture, the speakers highlighted the role of culture in peace and called for the promotion of cultural and cultural activities for cohesion and harmony. There was criticism and call for giving up those traditions which contains some elements of discrimination and rights violations such as honor killing etc. Most of the speakers did not out rightly opposed or rejected the Jirga but proposed reforms such as inclusion woman as a member in it. Some of the speakers were very critical of influence of some Arab religious ideologies, which in their view polluted our culture by introducing some extremist views and violence in it. They said that attack on women, children and elders; desecration of shrines; humiliating the dead bodies; bombing the worship places and religious rallies and gatherings etc. are not part of our culture and such trends were the influence of Arab culture. In the result of extremist and violent ideologies and activities, Pashtun culture which was known for its tolerance and religious harmony now faced with growing trends of intolerance, religious and sectarian hatred and violence. There was consensus that for counter the menace of extremism and terrorism culture is one of the best tools and there is a need for more efforts for widening the cultural space. Among others prominent Scholar of international repute Parwaish Shaheen; Dr. Nasir Jamal, VC Kohat University of Science & Technology (KUST); Dr. Khaliq Ziyar, Poet and Intellectual; Azra Nafees Yousafzai; Poetess and peace activists; Mohib Wazir, poet and writer; Nisar Shah, intellectual and political activist; Dr. Khaliq Ziyar, poet, literary critic and intellectual; Naseer Memon, Executive Director Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO); and Arif Jabbar Khan, Country Director Oxfam Pakistan spoke in round table on culture. Participants’ comments/ Social Media Coverage The event widely mentioned and commented frequently and the participants posted various posts and comments prior, during and post event. Here are some comments from FB. “Thank you for this rare opportunity to meet so many good Pakhtun and some others at one place, interact with them for three days. It was both entertaining and intellectually a very enriching experience. Thanks to all of you….SDS” Dr. Ijaz Khattak, International Relations Department, University of Peshawar “SDS ….we are very much thankful to you for inviting us the wonderful event. It was one of the best experiences of my life, In short I will say u did it very fruitfully. Samandar ko kozay mein band karna ka kaam app nay kar diya.!” Muhammad Juniad Mandoori, Young activist and district coordinator at Voice Of New Generation and CEO of Right to Education. “It was really a great moment of joy and gratitude to be ……in a 3-Day “Swat Cultural Festival” organize by Sustainable Development Society (SDS) in Swat. This event not only provided us an opportunity to learn from top Pushtoon researchers/writers, but it also created an opportunity to meet with like-minded people in large number. The process of such efforts must be continued. The experience was so unique; especially the late night sessions had become addictive”, observed a senior journalist Muhammad Shafiq associated with Mediotek, Islamabad “The speakers …… concluded that .. such activities will prove supportive in the promotion of our cultural values, peace and will equip people to face challenges they are confronting”, remarked young activist Muhammad Sulaiman Yousafzai . . “Swat Cultural Festival was really a success story of working for peace in Conflict Area. The team behind this successful event made this miracle happens in extremely unfavorable conditions. The dedication and commitment of Sustainable Development Society led by Iftikhar Lala is remarkable. The festival was not just an event of festivity but was also an opportunity of serious dialogue among the civil society, political leaders and other stakeholders. The stakeholders deliberated in depth to reach to the root causes of crises in Swat and FATA in particular and in KP and in the country in general. The event also provided with a platform for different parties with diverse ideologies to agree on solutions with the commitment to bring back the peace and normalcy in the region. Hope SDS shares the findings with all of us and continues its tireless efforts towards sustainable development of society”, remarked a well-known consultant Ali Ahmad Jan from GB but currently based at Islamabad. . “The event of Swat Festival …. was a great successful event arranged by SDS. …..Overall result was a success story developed by the political, civil society and famous poets and literary person who took part with zeal and dedication and contributed in confidence of the people of district Swat, Shangla, Malakand and Dir” Alamzeb Khan, coordinator Pak-Afghan Peoples Forum.
The purpose of the cultural festival is to provide joint plate form to people across religious, sectarian, cultural and ethnic groups for social and cultural interaction. Provide opportunity to people across different identities religious, sectarian, cultural or ethnic including men and women, persons with disability, transgender for joint celebrations of through common cultural practices such music, theater, poetry, child performances, traditional story telling etc. Promote common values among people across different identities including men and women, youth persons with disability, transgender through positive cultural practices and inheritance. SDS held a cultural festival in Mingora, Swat; all segments of the society, participated in the cultural festival. Inside the festival there were three different segments “AMAN MUSHIARA”, Cultural folk musical show and Exhibition. People of different folks of life were invited, like members of SDS Pukhtoon Khwa Humanitarian Network from whole province and across the province, different political parties’ representatives, lawyers, media persons, singers, local activists, minorities of Swat, district administration of Swat, PARSSA/ PDMA Administrator of Malakand division, poets, scholars, reputable representatives of well known organizations, common citizens, SDS board of directors etc. Highlights of Event The cultural festival was started with a Mushaira organized by SDS-PHN network. Metrist form overall Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and especially Malakand division were invited and participated in the program. Like, Shamas Buneri, Aimal Khan Khattak, Jameel Marghuz, Zahir Shah safi, Abdul-Raheem Rohani, Aziz Manerwal-AVT Khyber, Iqabl Shakir, MAL organization, Pervaish Shaheen,- poet and scholar, Dr. Khurshid Ahmad Khan- poet and Cardiologist in UK, The topic of Mushaira was “Aman (PEACE)”, verse on peace situation. Versifier presented wonderful and hurt touching verse and capture the overall peace situation of the country and especially in KP province in their poems. Inside their distinct lines, everybody seems to be demanding for peace, love, tolerance and harmony in the society. Through poetry, they disseminate the message of love, peace and tolerance and situation in the country “WHAT HAD HAPPENED, WHY, BY WHOM, and WITH WHOM”. People heartedly appreciated and enjoy their poetry. At the end of Mushaira Mr. Pervaish Shaheen, poet, scholar, professor, and director of “Languages researcher and Gandhara research project center Swat had a historical speech in concluding remarks. In his speech capture the overall peace situation and heritage of pushtoon culture. After Mushaira, and enormously knowledgeable speech of him, a folk musical program was started. Mr. Ejaz Durani program specialist of SPO and member of SDS board started the folk music program as an anchor and with Mr. Shoukat Sharar of swat co-anchor of the music program. The music program was arranged in White Palace hall, due to security concern and to mitigate security risk. The white palace hall is very big hall, having huge capacity to accommodate people at once. As when program proceeded people of surrounding start approaching the white palace and once the space was limited in the hall, people stand outside and watch and enjoy program from the hall windows. Mr. Iftikhar Hussain, Executive Director opens the program by presenting beautiful pushtoo song in his glorious voice. Mr. Iftikhar along with his social activities has very good sense of humor and as well found of singing. People adore and enjoy his beautiful song. After his song, local singers belong to CBO’s Charbagh, presented the tremendous performance. People enjoyed their songs by singing with them in one voice and by some dances on their songs. After local singers, Mr. Zafar Iqrar a well know singer of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa belong from Malakand district along with his group come to stage. People give him warm welcome with long clapping and a standing ovation by his fans / lovers. He bloom the environment with his beautiful and glorious voice, people on their seats and near the stage dances “RUKS” on his songs. Different kind f songs were singing by Zafar Iqrar, like, pushtoo “TAPPA”, “MISRAY”, “RUBAY”, “AMAN SONGS”, “INQILABI SONGS”, “GHAZAL” etc. The video is also available in SDS digital library. In between the intervals “Dr. Khurshid come on stage and brief on “PUSHTOO MUSIC especially the historical background of “TAPPA”. He also sing some “TAPPA” and also tell historical background of each “TAPPA”, that who tells this to “whom, at what date and why”. The program goes till 2 o’ clock. Day to was fix for exhibition, different type of stalls were arranged by different people. Like, stall of Salampur “KHADDI”, vary much famous shawls hand made woolen, local handicrafts, famous swat stones “SWAT FAMOUS ZAMROOD’ stalls, embroidery stalls, Swati woolen topi, “PAKOOL” stalls etc. Females group was also invited to arrange the stalls, especially handmade embroidery stalls. Huge rush were over observed on the stall and people took keen interest in these stalls. The people visiting stalls were given briefing by the stall facilitator one by one in every stall. People took great interest in these stall and appreciated their work. People also purchased different items from stalls. Impacts: It was very good event, especially in Swat tense context and environment. Such types of events are extremely essential for the people to get together, share their views and left behind worrier and distress. Such type of events provides opportunity to people to come out from tense environment, which was unfortunately arise due to last insurgency, catastrophe of flood and current situation of overall country, our province and especially of Swat and Malakand division. Although there is peace but people are still in trauma and fear on their mind and faces. This event not only gives entertainment to people, but it also works like an energizer to them. People participation, open speeches on overall peace situation, singing, recalling traditional practices (heritage) are the positive and encouraging signs not only for citizen’s but also for organization and citizen-first project future objectives and activities. Such types of event are necessary to promote common values among people across different identities through positive cultural practices and inheritance.