Arts Council Pakistan celebrates the youth of Pakistan

By Maliha Rehman

Asim Azhar performing on the first day and Ali Azmat scheduled to close off festivities on the last day. A galaxy of other musicians also scheduled to perform, including Ahmed Jahanzeb, Sahir Ali Bagga, Wahab Bugti and Natasha Baig. A slew of competitions connected to different genres of art – and all of it for free. While devising the plan for its annual Youth Festival, the Arts Council of Pakistan (ACP) was evidently trying to keep the youth very happy.

It is rare that A-list musicians, usually performing in concerts with hefty ticket prices, can be seen live on stage for free. Mohammad Ahmed Shah, President of ACP, points out that the entire point of the Youth Festival is to celebrate Pakistani culture and arts with the spirit of inclusivity.

The ongoing festival in Karachi, which started off on the 23rd of January and wraps up on the 29th of January, has attracted in large crowds. “We have observed that most of the attendees are not from the elite upper classes,” says Shah. “Perhaps the free for all entry dissuades some people from attending. We are aware of the security precautions that need to be taken and we have consistent security on standby. I have been organizing this festival for 16 years now ever since I became President of the Council. I am well aware of all the planning that is necessary.”

He continues, “We really appreciate how so many people, from different genres of society are coming to visit the festival with such eagerness. At the Arts Council, our purpose is to promote a plural, inclusive society. A man with a torn sandal is just as welcome here as one wearing designer shoes. Art has no boundaries.”

Aside from the live musical performances, a number of youth-based competitions take center stage at the Festival. From essay writing in English and Urdu, to declamations in English and Urdu, singing, dancing and painting competitions among others, potential participants had to register in order to compete.


“The biggest crowds gather to see the dance competitions,” says Shah, “and the largest number of registrations were for the singing competitions. It’s because everyone thinks that they can sing! We shortlisted the participants through auditions but even then, the semi-final has 35 singing performances!”

What does ACP gain from investing time and effort into the festival? “We are a not-for-profit government organization. We gain when we promote art and culture to everyone who wants to visit the Arts Council and our various festivals,” claims Shah.

After concluding the festival in Karachi, Shah has three day events planned in Lahore and Gwadar, followed by literature and cultural events in Azad Kashmir, Peshawar and Gilgit. “We are going to be going to universities for engagement. Every region has its own unique languages and cultural activities and we are going to include them in our event schedule. A number of renowned personalities will be accompanying us to some of the events, including Anawar Maqsood, Zia Mohiuddin, Sahir Ali Bagga, Asim Azhar and Ali Azmat,” Shah counts off the names of personalities that include veteran scholars as well as happening young musicians.

“Then, we plan to visit four cities in the U.S. and then, Toronto, London and Dubai. A number of artists will be going with us. Right now, Anwar Maqsood, Zia Mohiuddin, Bushra Ansari, Fareed Ayaz and Abu Mohammad qawwals and some classical dancers are on board while there are others who will join us.”

ACP’s plans are ambitious. Should the government remain invested in the goals set by the council, it could be hoped that ACP’s long event calendar will come to fruition.  The ongoing Youth Festival Pakistan and the enthusiastic response that it has received makes one optimistic. A celebration of art for the public, all-inclusive, without cost is the need of the hour, creating an atmosphere of positivity in these difficult times.

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The MNR flavor comes to Karachi!
Arts Council Pakistan celebrates the youth of Pakistan