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Two Pakistani writers miss Kerala literary fest

Saturday, October 02, 2010 03:34:17 PM, IANS

Thiruvananthapuram: The third edition of the Kovalam Literary Festival that began here Saturday will be attended by only one Pakistani author - instead of three invited - because of delay in home ministry clearances and outbreak of violence in Pakistan's Punjab province.

The union home ministry had cleared the visit of writer Ali Sethi and H.M. Naqvi to Kerala Sep 29, almost a month after the organisers of the festival moved the government to clear their visit.

Pakistani citizens are usually allowed to land in three Indian cities - Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai - according to home ministry norms, organisers of the festival said.

Young Pakistan-based writer Ali Sethi, the author of "The Wish Maker", was unable to cross the border at Wagah checkpost in Punjab Friday afternoon from where he was to arrive in New Delhi via Amritsar and fly to Thiruvananthapuram Saturday night.

The border at Wagah was sealed at 3 p.m. Friday after a lawyers' strike in Pakistan turned violent, resulting in a crackdown by the police on protesters at Lahore.

"Sethi arrived at the border in Lahore at 2 p.m. but the police stopped him. Had the home ministry cleared their visits earlier, Sethi and Naqvi would have been here. The government sat on the clearances. We had moved heaven and earth to get them," journalist-cum-culture activist Binoo John, who organised the festival, told IANS.

"They were keen to come to Kerala," John added.

Ali Sethi is the son of Lahore-based editor of Friday Times Najam Sethi.

Naqvi, the author of the acclaimed novel "Home Boy", based on the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in the US, could not "fly to India in a day's time" because he was at that time in the US.

"We were not sure whether his visit would be cleared till the last moment," John said.

Mohammed Hanif, the author of "A Case of Exploding Mangoes", will fly to India early Sunday via Dubai as he holds a British passport.

The high point of the festival that began at 9 a.m. Saturday was the felicitation to noted Malayalam writer O.N.V. Kurup, the winner of the Jnanpeeth award in 2010, and upcoming Dubai-based Malayalee writer Saheera Thangal.

The focus of the two-day festival is on "Writings from Pakistan".







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