The Alhamra Arts Council in Lahore, Pakistan, on Tuesday went back on its decision to cancel the Manto Festival, an event dedicated to writer and playwright Saadat Hasan Manto, after protests against the cancellation, The Express Tribune reported.
The festival, scheduled to be held from January 14 to January 18, was cancelled on Monday after government officials reprotedly said the writer’s works were vulgar. “Punjab ministry officials oppose holding the event because of the nature of the writer’s work,” a senior council official told the daily on Monday on the condition of anonymity.
However, on Tuesday, the council claimed the festival has been postponed and not cancelled. “Manto was a great writer and we appreciate his services in the field of literature…we neither cancelled the festival nor objected over his work,” said Alhamra Arts Council Director Arts and Culture Zulifqar Ali Zulfi. The event will now be held in February.
Painter Salima Hashmi, journalist Hussain Naqi and several other prominent Pakistani figures, as well as the Anjuman Taraqi Pasand Musanifeen – an organisation of progressive writers – had protested against the cancellation of the festival at the Lahore Press Club on Monday. They held posters that read: “Us progressive writers, poets and activists are with you, Manto”, The Express Tribune reported.
Last year, the country’s Central Board of Film Censors had banned Indian director Nandita Das’ film Manto, claiming that it was “against Pakistani ideology” and did not subscribe to the “correct version” of Partition. Some activists had also started a petition addressed to Prime Minister Imran Khan, urging him to get the ban lifted.
On Monday, Das tweeted to thank the protestors who had demonstrated against the ban on the movie. “Beyond borders, the fight for freedom of expression is the same,” she said. “Thanks to all those in Pakistan who are working to free Manto. Thanks to everyone who has taken to the streets to protest against the ban on Manto in Pakistan. I am there with you in spirit and so is the entire Manto team.”