ZAB Media Festival 2023: Here’s How SZABIST Celebrated Diversity & Creativity!

With its legacy of over 17 years, ZAB Media Festival 2023 turned out to be yet another inspiring event that celebrated diversity and encouraged change in the media landscape of Pakistan. Held at the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) in Karachi, the festival brought together distinguished guests, insightful panel discussions, captivating film screenings, and soulful dance performances.

The theme of the event this year, Colours of Society, highlighted the importance of embracing diversity in Pakistani culture. Throughout the festival, attendees were urged to fearlessly tell their stories and pursue their passions, with a strong emphasis on the role of art and media in promoting social change and breaking down barriers.

The festival left a deep impression on everyone who attended, inspiring them to make a positive impact in their communities. Here’s all that Diva saw…


Day 1: Embracing Diversity Through Art

The event kicked off with a powerful speech from the Head of Department Syeda Mehwish Zara Zaidi, who officially welcomed guests to the festival and emphasized on the theme of the year. She spoke about embracing diversity in Pakistani culture, and then opened the dais for the Vice President of Academics, Dr. Altaf Mukati to say a few words, who afterwards, welcomed the iconic Pakistani classical performer, Sheema Kermani for the keynote speech.

Sheema Kermani, the legendary founder of Tehreek-e-Niswan, spoke about the significance of diversity and the role of art in bridging cultural divides.

“Art crosses boundaries of culture, religion and worlds,” she remarked.

Highlighting the need for Pakistanis to embrace their rich cultural heritage and be more accepting of each other, she also spoke about the importance of women’s rights and the struggle for equality in Pakistan.

Her soulful dance performance to ‘Dasht-e-Tanhai’ by Faiz Ahmed Faiz left the audience spellbound.


Day 2: Breaking Down Barriers and Navigating Media Careers

The second day of the festival kicked off with an engaging panel titled ‘Fanning the Flames,’ which discussed censorship in Pakistan and the need for a better censorship board. The panelists featured actresses Yasra Rizvi and Amar Khan, filmmaker Qasim Ali Mureed, and media scholar, Dr. Fatima Anjary, who moderated the panel. They presented different viewpoints from left to right wing and engaged in a lively conversation that garnered several laughs from the audience.

Shahnaz Wazir Ali, the President of SZABIST, also spoke about the importance of freedom of thought and the role of education in promoting it.

Following this, advertising guru Adnan Syed gave an enlightening masterclass on the art of selling and marketing, titled ‘The Art of Selling Dreams.’ Syed, who has masterminded some of Pakistan’s most popular ad copies kept the students intrigued.


The day ended with a panel titled ‘Professionalizing Passion,’ which discussed the challenges of pursuing a career in one’s dream field and the obstacles it entails. This panel featured SZABIST alumni who have made it big in the industry. The panelists included Sajeer Shaikh, Afifa Akhtar, Alice Peter, Maria Mahesar, Alina Nabi,  Seraj Us Salikin, and Hussein Kamil.


Day 3: Finding Home and Bashing Stigmas

The final day began with a panel titled ‘Navigating Cultural Stigma: Advertising Unconventional Products in Pakistan,’ which discussed the importance of marketing and advertising in breaking societal taboos and the need for openness in Pakistani society. The panelists included the popular actress Mathira, marketeers Atifa Fatima and Safaa Altaf, filmmaker Murtaza Shakir, and actress Kaif Ghaznavi, who moderated the panel.

Later in the day, the audience was treated to a screening of ‘Sindhustan,’ a documentary by Indian filmmaker and stylist, Sapna Moti Bhavnani, about the struggles of Sindhis and Sindhi Hindus during and after the partition. It discussed the challenges of identity and the significance of art and culture in discovering one’s roots and identity.

The festival ended on a humorous note with a panel called ‘The Chatty Chuckle Crew,’ which featured comedian and podcaster, Shehzad Ghias Sheikh, media personality and journalist Amber Shamsi, and podcaster Daniyal Sheikh with Sajeer Shaikh as the moderator. They discussed the influencer and podcasting lifestyle and what it means to get ensuing security threats in a country like Pakistan.

The festival finally came to an end with Rhythmic Revival, a drum circle performance for the students and faculty whose efforts made the event possible, as they all enjoyed a highly charged drumming session.

Truly, ZAB Media Festival 2023 was a resounding success, with engaging and thought-provoking discussions, inspiring students and attendees to make a positive impact in their communities.

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