Lahore book fair opens to rave reviews
By Shoaib Ahmed
LAHORE: Over a hundred publishers from around the world unveiled more than 100,000 books on every topic under the sun at the first ever Lahore International Book Fair, a significant educational and cultural event on the city’s calendar. The fair opened at Expo Centre, Fortress Stadium, on Thursday.
Many intellectuals, writers, publishers, booksellers, students and others visited the 200-stall fair, which will continue till March 7. Entrance to the fair is free and there is plenty of parking space.
Prominent publishing houses from the United Kingdom, United States, India, Bangladesh and other SAARC countries are participating in the fair. Apart from books the fair offers educational toys and stationary items. Moreover, the stalls have been designed beautifully and the entire fair wears a festive look.
Punjab Governor Khalid Maqbool and Daily Times Editor Najam Sethi, who is also the Lahore International Book Fair Committee general secretary, inaugurated the fair, which is sponsored by Unilever, TCS, Union Bank, UNICEF and Babar Ali Foundation. Indus Motors has sponsored a car for the event, which will be auctioned at the closing ceremony.
Talking at the launch ceremony, Maqbool said that the fair was the first of its kind in the history of Lahore. “It’s a personal honour to be here,” he said. He welcomed foreign delegates and praised them for participating in the fair.
The governor said that spring was the ideal time to visit Lahore. “Lahore has become a centre of attraction, not only for the region but for the world. Even before partition, Lahore was a centre for publications and to date holds that distinction as more than 80 percent of books in Pakistan are published here,” he added.
“Such fairs are a bridge between the past and present,” the governor said. He praised Sethi for his efforts in making the fair possible. “You have set a great tradition,” he said while addressing Sethi.
Speaking on the occasion, Sethi said that the event had been organised in less than two months. “We received enormous encouragement from all quarters for the event,” he said. “People showed great generosity towards the event.”
“I want to thank my friends and colleagues in the media who helped us organise this fair. My thanks go out to Hameed Haroon, Arif Nizami and Majeed Nizami, Zia Shahid and Mir Shakeelur Rehman, all of whom extended great support from the print media as well as the FM 89 and 100 radio stations,” said Sethi.
Sethi also thanked Maqbool and Lt General Shahid Aziz, the Lahore corps commander, for their cooperation.
Many publishers have travelled all the way from India to participate in the book fair. Sethi also thanked Prof Bipan Chandra, the National Book Trust of India chairman, and Anand Bhushan, the Federation of Indian Publishers president, for participating in the fair.
He expressed his gratitude to the Pakistani high commissioner in India and the Interior Ministry for providing non-police-reporting visas to all the Indian participants. The governor was given a pack of 400 to 500 books to distribute amongst children.
Zubair Saeed, the Pakistan Publishers and Booksellers Association (PPBA) chairman, welcomed foreign delegates and local publishers and said that the day was historic for the publishers of the country. He said that the event would be made a regular feature in Lahore.
At the end of the ceremony local publishing houses Sang-e-Meel and Al-Faisal were given awards. The governor gave shields to the organising and management committees of the Lahore International Book Fair. The chairman of the National Book Trust of India was also presented a shield.
The hall where the inauguration was held was packed to capacity. Gopi Chand Narang, Ahmed Faraz, Amjad Islam Amjad, Dr Saleem Akhtar, Faqir Ijazuddin and Qudoos Mirza were among the prominent literary figures present at the fair. A couple of vice chancellors from universities in the Punjab also attended.
By the evening, thousands of visitors had flocked to the fair. Families, women and children were also a common sight and all booksellers reported brisk sales.
“This is a mega event and we expect hundreds of thousands of visitors to attend, which will prove that Lahore remains the centre of literary, educational and cultural activity in Pakistan,” said a Pakistani publisher. “We are very impressed by the organisation of the fair and more impressed by the flow of visitors from the public,” exclaimed an Indian publisher.