In a last-minute change, eminent Pakistani television and media personality Moneeza Hashmi was withdrawn as a speaker at the 15th Asia Media Summit which concluded on Saturday in New Delhi.
She is the daughter of Urdu poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz, who is celebrated on both sides of the border for his stirring Urdu poetry.
Ms. Hashmi was supposed to speak during the inaugural day of the two-day summit, on May 10th, at a session on ‘Should all good stories be commercially successful?’ along with three other speakers, including popular actor-turned-writer Twinkle Khanna. Her name, however, was missing from the final list of speakers released by the Government of India.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting were the co-hosts for the summit along with Asia Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development (AIBD).
The organisers here have completely denied any knowledge of this last-minute change. Director General, Press Information Bureau Sitanshu Kar told The Hindu that he was not aware of the development.
The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), which was helming the summit in Delhi, too said that they were not kept in the loop. “We were the co-hosts and the work was divided between us and AIBD. We had sent suggestions on the speakers list but it was AIBD’s call finally on whom to pick,” IIMC Director, KG Suresh said.
Over 200 foreign delegates participated in the summit, spread over two days, and there were 54 speakers who spoke on various issues. But there was no speaker from Pakistan.
The government sources claim that after the reports, they too tried to get a clarification from AIBD, but haven’t yet heard from them. The AIBD did not reply to the e-mail sent to them. A senior government official said that many last-minute changes were made to the speaker’s list.
This is the first time that India hosted the summit. The Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development, Kuala Lumpur, comes under the UNESCO umbrella. It is an inter-governmental organisation servicing countries of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-ESCAP) in the field of electronic media development.
Not the first such snub
This, however, is not the first time that Faiz’s daughters – Moneeza and Salima Hashmi - have faced such a snub in India. In February this year, both were invited for an event in Lucknow to celebrate Faiz’s birth anniversary on 11th February.
“Only Salima got the visa, which came two days before the event making it impossible for her to come. One needs to ask why this government is humiliating Faiz’s descendants like this,” General Secretary Nationalist Congress Party and author of Celebrating Faiz , DP Tripathi said.