LAHORE - Uncertainty surrounds the holding of fourth edition of the Lahore Literary Festival (LLF) scheduled for February 19, 20 and 21, and all of it is due to security concerns.

The confusion began with a tweet on the official account of Punjab government saying that Lahore DCO and CCPO have requested the event organisers to postpone #LLF due to security threats received by the home department.

But a contradictory tweet made at the same account later read: “Good news for Lahore: Lahore Literature Festival will be held as per the schedule #LLF 2016.”

This was immediately followed by another tweet: “DCO Lahore has directed the security authorities to facilitate Lahore Literature Festival management in making this event secure.”

After that, the earlier two tweets were deleted and two more tweets appeared: “Before you start trending this really silly trend of Let Lahore Live, try to look around the events been taking place”; and “Human lives are more important for us and providing security is our primary concern. Foolproof security has to be ensured for every event.”

No tweet appeared after that.

Lahore District Coordination Officer (DCO) had cancelled permission for holding of LLF on January 30, 2016. That was even before the holding of Karachi Literary Festival, which was successfully held this month.

There was no official handout or press release issued by the Punjab government or City District Government Lahore. However, the Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah in a TV programme said the festival would now be held for two days.

The unconfirmed news of postponement of the Lahore’s premier literary event spread shock among people. For three years LLF was held very successfully. The organisers were of the view that the festival would be held as per schedule.

“It is very good event that shows the face of real Pakistan where people are progressive and tolerant. It is a platform where we show our achievements in arts, music and literature to the world. As far as I know, it would be held as per schedule. If the NOC has not been issued until now, it may be issued tomorrow morning,” Member Board of Governors of LLF, Nayyar Ali Dada told The Nation.

However, chairperson of LLF Organising Committee and Board member Nusrat Jamil could not be reached for his comment despite repeated attempts. Sources in the Lahore Arts Council (venue of the event) said NOC for the festival has not been issued and this was the reason that the guards did not allow some people related to LLF to enter the premises for putting up their stalls.

“It is a big international event and there is very little time left to set up all the stalls and equipment. It would not be wrong to say that even if they get NOC tomorrow it would be very difficult for them to organise and prepare the venue in such a short (period of) time. In the last three years they would start making preparations at the venue at least two to three days in advance,” sources said.

LLF features panel talks, book launches, recitals, performances, screenings and art exhibitions. World renowned writers, novelists, artists and musicians are taking part in the event. The literary stars have arrived in the city from across the country and the world.

The panelists this year include writer Nancy Dupree, Lucy Peck, BN Goswami, Rachel Holmes, Ali Akbar Natiq, Asghar Nadeem Syed, Attiya Dawood, CM Naim, Fahmida Riaz, Hamid Ismailov, Haji Noor Deen, Javed Majeed, Marion Molteno, Mick Conefrey, Mohsin Hamid, Ned Beauman, Rana Dasgupta, Reza Deghati, Sorayya Khan, Zehra Nigah, Mahesh and Pooja Bhatt, Ian Stephen, Alexandera Pringle, Anita Anand, Kate Leiper and Zukiswa Wanner. Indian actress Sharmila Tigore and many other panelists have already arrived.

This year LLF had planned to hold five parallel sessions at any given time, spanning fiction, film, music, architecture and urbanism, poetry, history, travel and more. The free evening performances include AR Gurney’s Love Letters with Rehana Saigol and Imran Aslam, and the selected works of Ghalib by Zia Mohyeddin.

The LLF will also showcase the works of British-Pakistani artist Anwar Jalal Shemza, to coincide with the launch of a new monograph on the late artist. All people who are regulars at the LLF are hoping that the government may beef up the security and allow the event.