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An interview with Gilles Pascal, Director AFK (Text and Video)

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NPTV:  Tell our audience about your early life.

GP: First of all Good Day. I was born in Montpellier, which is a city in the south of France. I had my primary, secondary and university education in the same city. This region is very dear to me. Both my parents were government servants. I spent perhaps not my best years but my youth in this city. I did scientific studies. At the end of my studies, I passed the competitive examination for becoming a teacher. I started as a primary teacher and then underwent training to become a trainer for teachers. I had a long career in education. It is 7 years since I converted to a career in francophony and in the Alliance Française network across the world.

After university, I passed the examination for entering what they call in France Teachers Training Schools which are the training centers for the future school teachers. I underwent both educative and practical training for becoming a primary school teacher. After having been a teacher for 17 years I became a master-trainer for training future school teachers. I served passionately. Teaching is something for which I have great passion. I remained in this career for a long time, about 25 years with motivation and passion because I am attracted by imparting education to children, helping them to acquire competency and knowledge.

NPTV: Whey you opted to be in culture?

GP: I started my career abroad quite a long time ago. I first started with Africa. I worked as a teacher in Nigeria. I worked for a French company. We had a school for children of French expatriates. I remained there for a few years. Then I worked as a teacher in China. After I returned to France for quite a long period, because my children were also studying in France. Then I chose to work abroad again. I worked in Mayotte which is a French territory near Comoros in the Gulf of Mozambique between Madagascar and South Africa. I worked there for training teachers at a university institute.

Then I wanted to remain in the Indian Ocean region. I went to exercise the functions of the director of Alliance Française in Madagascar in a city called Fianarantsoa.  In the language of Madagascar, it means the city where we learn good things. Madagascar is a country which is constituted of different ethnic groups. When the last queen governed the country from this city she gave it this name and the population had to be taught good things in order to behave as the dominant people. It is a city where there is a big Alliance France. It is practically the only cultural center of this city. Moreover, it imparts French language training to a large number of Madagascan people of all ages, because the Madagascan students have to undergo university education in French.

Therefore the Alliance Française of Fianarantsoa like all the Alliance Française of Madagascar has a role to play for the future of the young Madagascans. Then recently, about eight months ago I was named Director of the Alliance Française of Karachi. I am very happy to be in Karachi. Alliance Française of Karachi has exceptional premises. It has a real cultural influence in this city. I want to work for maintaining this influence, to develop it and to develop the teaching activity also. It should be known that all the Alliance Française across the world are not French establishments but associations under local law.

The Alliance Française of Karachi is a Pakistani association. I say that because what is important to understand is that an Alliance Française is at the service of its members.  The Alliance of Karachi is at the service of its members who want to learn French, participate in different workshops whether artistic, photographic, related to painting and sports, French expression, or who come to participate in cultural activities organized by Alliance Française. Certainly, we are here to promote Francophone culture, but one of our main missions is to promote cultural exchanges, to promote alongside Francophone cultural expression the Pakistani cultural expression as well as that of other countries.

NPTV: Why did you opt to come to Pakistan and how is your experience so far?

GP: I had not applied to come to Karachi. I had applied for other countries, but in the ministry of foreign affairs in Paris I was given a presentation on the Alliance Française of Karachi and it was proposed to me to come to Karachi. When I discovered this Alliance, I quickly accepted with great interest. Because I came to know of its activities and the premises that it possesses and the potential that it has to develop a cultural program of quality. I am here for nine months and I am very happy with my life here. I tell my friends and relatives in France who ignore what the life is like in Karachi, who always have apprehensions regarding security, that I am safe here and everything is all right. I invite all who want to discover Pakistan to come to Karachi. I have already invited my family members who came for vacations and who also came for cultural activities. I continue to do that. We need to recruit teachers from France and we succeed in recruiting them. We tell them that the life in Karachi is pleasant we feel good here.

I have a contract with the ministry of foreign affairs which is now called the ministry of Europe and foreign affairs. Normally, I have to remain here for four years. We will see what happens during these four years. During these four years, I hope to continue developing the Alliance Francaise. My mission is to develop the Alliance Francaise for all the staff whether teaching or administrative, to develop their motivation and competency. Karachi is a city of 25 million inhabitants. It is mainly an English speaking city. But we should be able to teach French to a great number of young and less young public. What I want first of all is to develop the teaching of French by increasing the number of teachers and students and then to continue to implement an open cultural program. We are going to continue to invite artists from France. But we are also going to develop a partnership with local festivals, to make it possible for local artists to perform at Alliance, not only the known and recognized artists. The mission of the Alliance is to facilitate the emergence of new talent and make it possible for the young artists to perform, the Pakistani artists to perform and to help in the cultural creativity of the people of Karachi.

I am interested in music indeed. I was born a little before the sixties. My youth was dominated by Rock and Pop music. I was never really a musician but I was tempted to be one when I was young. Music was always something important for me. I am not a specialist of classical music but I can appreciate the classical music. Working at Alliance I always take pleasure in listening to the artists who perform.  I always did a little photography. I am not an artist but the photography was present in all moments of my life. During about 10 years I was also press correspondent so I indulged in photography and editing. This is something which never quit me. I always kept a camera with me. I always took photos although with digital cameras we tend to take photographs all the time even if we don’t see and print them. Photography is a very important art for me.

I took lots of photos in Alliance when my family came here. For the moment I am waiting to discover outside of the city. But I did not get an opportunity to go outside the city. I am in a hurry to discover the surrounding rural areas and this vast country. I went to Islamabad by air but I am frustrated to have never been able to cross the country for discovering the landscape, the villages, the cities and the people who live there.

NPTV: Have you any plans to explore Pakistan?

GP: It is planned. But there are also lots of things to do at Alliance.  It’s true that sometimes one can regret to never have time to see the country in which we live and work. Surely I plan to visit the northern areas of Pakistan. I have a colleague and friend who is Director of Alliance Française Islamabad. He is of Pakistani origin. I won’t say he made me discover the mountains but we went to the foot of first hills of the Himalayan range. The project would be to discover them really.

Lahore is also a city which I would like to know and visit. Everywhere I will take the time to visit. It will be a very enriching moment.  Meet the people also and not only discover the landscape. Not only visit but know the people also and have exchanges with them. Since I was young and I worked in foreign countries it was always motivated to meet people, discover their culture and not only the landscape and the cities. It is true that by discovering other cultures we enrich ourselves enormously. Indeed I would like to discover the different cultures of Pakistan, certainly, the landscapes which I am told are magnificent but also the people.

The mother of my children has passed away but we have passed on to our children the desire of traveling and discovering other things than the country we find ourselves in. I have children who have always traveled. The youngest of my daughters is living in London for 7 years. I think that our children have picked up this taste of travel, discovery, and exchange.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Arts & Literature

Iftikhar Arif emphasizes on promotion of book reading!

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ISLAMABAD: Renowned poet and scholar Iftikhar Hussain Arif, expressing concern over the declining book reading trend, Friday underlined the need to change the education system altogether to create love for books among the youth.
“Book reading habit is dying down rapidly not only in Pakistan but all over the world,” Iftikhar, an author of five well published books told the MEdia.
“It is natural that novelty attracts people everywhere in the world. We see old and worth following trends are forgotten and replaced with the new ones. But that should not have happened in the case of reading habits,” he opined.
He said with the emergence of electronic gadgets, books had lost their charm in society. “Electronic books (e-books), mobile phones and computers had taken the place of reading and communication.
“I started reading and collecting books since my childhood and still my thirst for reading books has not quenched. Though e-book has halted the progress to promote book reading and damaged the business of book industry, but still it is unable to break the bond between genuine readers and books,” he added.
Despite the fact that access to e-books is quite easy in Pakistan as money is not involved in it and it is also easy to carry them around. “Yet it is also a reality that you remain unable to create bond between the reader and the book,” he observed.
Iftikhar, who has widely traveled abroad, said that in the past book corners were seen in every street in foreign countries, but now they had also vanished there. Now you only find some great bookshop and publisher names, he added.
He believed that defective education system was one of the major causes of decline in the book reading trend. He also observed that the drastic changes in cultural values and adaption to new and easy ways to get success were other major causes to put a dent on this trend.
“We see students carrying heavy bags and gaining enormous knowledge, despite that lack of critical thinking and wisdom can be noticed. We put stupendous burden on young shoulders that they seek freedom and comfort in weightless gadgets. It is their short cut to get quick knowledge without an exhausting research,” he lamented.
“They do not feel the need to go through different books to complete their assignments. What they do is simply to get the required and desired material from the Internet. We need to change the education system altogether and create love for books in young minds during early years of their lives,” he opined.
When contacted, Zohaib, a bookshop manager told APP that e-books had badly affected their business. “We generally see a number of people heading towards restaurants to order expensive meals or deals, but they rarely visit a store to get a new book.
“Nowadays it is only at the start of an academic session that we see people rushing in to our shops to buy syllabus books only,” he added.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Arts & Literature

Seminar on Intellectual Property Rights held

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ISLAMABAD: A seminar on “The Role of E-Libraries & Awareness on Intellectual Property Rights” was organized here today in collaboration with Oxford University Press.
The resource persons were Dr. Midrar Ullah Chief Librarian, NUST University Islamabad and Dr. Atta ur Rehman, Chief Librarian, International Islamic University Islamabad. The chief guest at the seminar was Program Manager, E-Libraries Punjab, Ms. Aqsa Ghazi.
Dr. Midrar Ullah addressing the participants informed how the writings of an author could be saved. He also went on to tell what rights, a writer has on his inventions and creations. The invented thing can be a book, movie, song or a picture, he added. All such inventions cannot be copied without the consent of the developer. Speakers also told the participants that the public property like the pictures of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Allama Iqbal, Minar-e-Pakistan and others could be copied.
Dr. Atta-ur-Rahman reiterated that the public awareness of intellectual property rights was very important. Sher Afzal Malik, Chief Librarian, E-Library Rawalpindi speaking on the occasion said public awareness on intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs and symbols. IP is protected by law, for example, patents, copyright and trademarks, which enable people to earn recognition or financial benefits from what they invent or create.
By striking the right balance between the interests of innovators and the wider public interest,  the IP system aims to foster an environment in which creativity and innovation can flourish, he added.
A video was shown for the awareness of intellectual property rights. Regional Director, Oxford University Press, Fayyaz Hussain Raja told the participants about the rights of intellectual property and the efforts of Oxford University Press.
Program Manager, E-Libraries Punjab assured the Oxford University Press administration of their full cooperation apropos holding seminars in E-Libraries across the province.

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Arts & Literature

The first-ever Directory of Calligraphers compiled

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ISLAMABAD: National History and Literary Heritage (NH&LH) Division has completed the process of compilation of the first-ever Directory of Calligraphers with introduction and achievements of calligraphers from across the country, as a part of its effort to revive the ancient glorious Islamic art.
This directory will help give recognition to the calligraphers and their artistic endeavors and boost their morals to further achieve excellence in their profession, an official from the division told APP.
The official said that the process of compiling the directory has been completed after collecting information about calligraphers from across the country and will be published and launched soon.
The calligraphers residing in far-flung areas will be able to get opportunities to showcase their work at different platforms through the help of this directory.
It is pertinent to mention here that the division, since its establishment, the division has taken several measures to revive the neglected art of calligraphy which include an arrangement of a national and an international calligraphy exhibition last year and establishing first-ever Calligraphy Institute at National Language Promotion Department.

 

 

 

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