Do Pakistanis Read? (And the Missing Libraries of Pakistan)

Posted on April 26, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Books, Economy & Development, Education, Society
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Adil Najam

I have often wondered – and seriously – if Pakistanis read?

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No, not whether they can read. Illiteracy being what it is in Pakistan, there are many – too many – who obviously cannot. But this question does not pertain to them. This is about those who could read if
they chose to do so. But who often do not. The question, of course, is “why not?”

I realize that I risk sounding either arrogant or uncouth by having phrased the question as I have. Of course, there are many many Pakistanis who do read and read voraciously. Some of them actually write and comment on this very blog. And, quite certainly, there are many many more individuals who not only read but are amazingly – even spell-bindinglywell-read. I can say in all honesty that some of the very best-read and the most widely-read individuals I have ever encountered anywhere in the world have been Pakistanis. People who always amaze me not only by the breadth of their interests but also by the depth of their intellect.

I am sure there are such amazingly well-read individuals in all societies. But the point I wish to make is not about individuals. It is about society. The question is whether we as a society place importance on the joys of reading? Whether we place premium on the intellect of the well-read? Whether we honor and cherish those who are well-read?

My own sense is that, as a society, we do not. And that is a pity.

We can joke that in our language (Urdu) we do no “read” the newspaper; we “see” the newspaper. Akhbaar daikha, as opposed to Akhbaar paRha! But the problem is much more than just a joke. It amazes me no end how many of my “learned” friends will actually provide expert commentary on books they have not read. They will give you elaborate critiques based simply on the title or something they overheard someone saying on TV. Indeed, many will start their critique by telling you that they have not read the book and then go on to pontificate on exactly what it is saying and why that is right or wrong (see, for example, some of the comments here or here).

Note, for example, how our conversations (and comments on this blog and elsewhere) are always made with great airs of authority – for example, we don’t say “many people like this movie” we say “99 per cent people like this movie.” No one will ever ask how you came to know that it was, in fact, 99 per cent and not 98 or 89; nor why a wretched 1 per cent did not like the movie! Yet, our assertive and authoritative discourse lacks not just evidence but also reference. We can be prone to inventing facts and numbers to support arguments that we instinctively consider to be true. Yet, we do not seem to quote sources or even ideas too often – except, of course, the Quran (which so many of us so routinely misquote to mean whatever we want it to mean), the hadith, and messers Iqbal and Jinnah.

The exception, I should add in fairness, is poetry. That we do quote and most often quote properly will full reference. But there, too, the habit of reading poetry seems to be on the way out. One hopes that one is wrong in getting the feeling that the traditions of reading Urdu books – whether they be by Quratulain Haider or by Shafiqur Rahman or by Ishtiaq Ahmad – is also disappearing.

Our resident apologists will soon make the argument that there is too much poverty in Pakistan for people to be able to afford reading. But it is not the poor we are talking about. The rich in Pakistan seem especially loathe to read. Then there will be those who will shout out that reading is itself a Western conspiracy and an imposition of all outside ideas should be resisted. This crowd is best ignored entirely. But there will also be those who will argue that books, and therefore reading, is no longer needed because the internet has now arrived. To them, all I can say is please just read some of the comments on many of our posts and decide for yourself just what good the internet has done to either reading or writing!

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By the way, as an aside, some commenters on this blog have suggested that I should stop writing posts and, instead, only write headlines; since too many commenters here obviously never read the full post and comment only on the headline – or, sometimes, just the pictures in the post. I must confess that this irks me too. However, the very fact that some readers would make such a comment proves that there are those who do actually read what we write. And that is enough incentive for us to keep doing so.

But enough of a rant from me. As I noted, I think the above is true in general but not true in particular. It bugs me so much, I think, partly because of my own professional training but also because I sometimes see myself slipping into the same quagmire.

Nadeem Ul HaqueBut the real reason for this long rant was to introduce a wonderful op-ed in The News (24 April 2008) by my friend Nadeem-Ul-Haque (formerly and currently of the IMF and in-between of the Pakistan Institute for Development Economics) which highlights the problem and, maybe, its cause much more eloquently than I have been able to. The op-ed is titled “No Libraries, No Books” and laments the state as well as lack of “real” libraries in Pakistan. There are, in fact, many nice libraries in Pakistan, but not too many functional ones.

Passages from Nadeem’s hard-hitting and heart-felt article are worth quoting extensively:

Libraries have been the hallmark of growing and progressive civilisations. Even in Sumer libraries of clay tablet writing have been found. Classical Greece and its love for books and learning gave us civilisation. Even the Persian Empire had libraries in Persepolis when Alexander attacked. Roman emperors too set up libraries to be remembered all over the empire. Then there was the famous library of Alexandria which till the early middle ages held most of human knowledge…. Civilised governments have built these repositories of knowledge as national monuments to show how important learning and knowledge is. These grand buildings and their large holdings will remain through history as testaments to these great civilisations many eons from now. Most serious countries have not only large national libraries but also large networks of local public libraries.

… In our history, we have built lovely official residences such as the President’s House, governors’ houses, the Prime Minister’s House and many other buildings, but no libraries. We have built many polo grounds and golf courses, but no libraries. Lahore, an ancient city of culture, now has more polo grounds than libraries. Lahore even has more offices for the chief minister (four in all) than libraries. Of course, the Chief Minister needs office space more than our children need libraries.

A search for libraries on the internet reveals only university and organisational libraries in Pakistan. When you go to university and organisational libraries, you see what a sorry state these are in. They hardly have a collection and are operated like bureaucracies with severe entry limitations and on a short working day, mostly during office hours.

We have no public libraries, beyond what the British left us. The Quaid-e-Azam Library in the old Company Bagh in Lahore (now Bagh-e-Jinnah) is nothing but a bureaucratic enterprise with severe entry limitations and hardly a serious collection. It even does not boast a website in the year 2008.

Our national library did not even get space on the main Constitution Avenue. It is tucked away behind the prime minister’s office as if we were ashamed of it. As its website puts it, it is in a plot of 500 by 100; a little over an acre is all the government could afford for a library. It took us 46 years to come up with the concept for a national library. Even today the National Library has 130,000 volumes, 555 manuscripts, 45 reels of microfilms, 48,000 microfiche cards, 845 magazines and 135 newspapers. What a testament of our great civilisation! I might add that this collection does not even compare to a reasonable sized public library in a civilised country.

In Pakistan I witnessed our bureaucracy and the Planning Commission in this game called “who can spend our development money the fastest on pet projects?” I saw many strange projects like megabuck universities contracted to unknown consortiums, bureaucracies setting up mango-pulp and football-making plants, textile cities, garments cities, and so many others. I asked and wondered why we cannot have projects for community libraries. Why can we not dedicate, say, about Rs50 million for a library in the top 20 cities of our country per year. That is only a billion a year. Not a large sum of money when you think of the vanity projects, VIP trips and the sums required to maintain our VIPs.

But then I was reminded of who demands books in Pakistan? When I go to my rich friends’ houses, I see no books. A million-dollar household with a hundred-thousand-dollar sports car outside has no books. Rich people who spend thousands of dollars on a dinner do not even spend 100 dollars annually on books. None of our political manifestoes even mention libraries. So perhaps the government is right. There is no demand for libraries in our country.

What Nadeem-ul-Haque is saying here is worth thinking about. But before anyone can think about this – or anything else – they will first have to read. And therein lies the challenge. The demand for libraries, after all, comes from the desire to read.

86 Comments on “Do Pakistanis Read? (And the Missing Libraries of Pakistan)”

  1. Daktar says:
    April 26th, 2008 2:07 am

    Love the piece and very important topic.

    Enjoyed the article you quote from Nadeem Ul Haq. Specially this part:

    “Lahore, an ancient city of culture, now has more polo grounds than libraries. Lahore even has more offices for the chief minister (four in all) than libraries. Of course, the Chief Minister needs office space more than our children need libraries.”

  2. Safdar Jafri says:
    April 26th, 2008 2:38 am

    Good pitch. Lack of reading habit has been generated by the overall degeneration of the society. We are talking about the rich and who can read of course as you have focused in the article. Our culture has degenerated in the sense that people only tend to do things that have tangible and/or monetary returns. Reading outside the curriculum does not even bring an appreciation or applause in Pakistani society. You see a lot of private institutes sprouting throughout the country. But what they teach and encourage the students to read is for passing and scoring high in th exams and then focus on landing a lucrative management etc. job with a well-paying company. When that becomes the ultimate goal in a society, then the culture and passion for reading on wide range of issues goes out of the window. People simply do not see the positive aspects and have not been introduced to the positive aspects of being well-read.

    I also believe that the media has also failed our society on this account. Media in countries where people read voraciously encourages intellectual discourse which in turn requires background reading and understanding of the issues. For instance, VOA TV is constantly debating the issues that matter. Media is Pakistan, perhaps owing to its newfound sense of liberation has gone haywire. They hardly focus on the issues that require indepth reading. If you look at the most of the content of our TV channels as well as radio and print media, you will find that a large part of their time and space is dedicated to petty political tussles, crimes and then to soften the tone, glamor. We hardly even focus on the health issues and issues of cleanliness and intellectual growth. These are absolutely non issues to our media that reaches the entire society. Perhaps, the government needs to step in to rectify this.

    Finally, and most importantly, Pakistan as nation has only deteriorated since its independence from the British. There may be some superficial achievements in the economy but our social fabric has very clearly deteriorated. When I look at the dramas and media productions of 1970s and even those that came out during the repressive era of General Zia, I find the intellectual level and quality to be of much higher than what is being churned out by the country’s media today. I am sure a vast number of readers will agree on this. We have become a country with crumbling social fabric, held together I do not know by what (This would make an interesting mooting point). Of course, reading, which is a sign of strong culture, goes out of the window in this mayhem and consistent deterioration. A country that tops the list of Failed States, reiterated by Noam Chomsky in his recent interview with a Pakistani TV channel remind us that what we are facing is an overall degradation and deterioration as a society and lack of reading culture is simply a part of this overall slide.

  3. April 26th, 2008 3:32 am

    In 2006, I made a comment on Karachi metroblog:

    Since there is 0% chance of availability of pirated books so I guess that only 0.x % people will pay attention.

    What I guess that particular 2% population of Karachi who have both plenty of time and money would visit the venue, out of them 1% will be those who would actually buy books and rest of them would be those who would be visiting the venue first time or just to give company to their pals so that they can show off to their other buddies that they visited a

  4. Dr Muhammad Farrukh Nawaz says:
    April 26th, 2008 4:04 am

    After traveling all around and seeing beautiful man made cities still i feel myself belonged to Lahore.I used to go to Jinnah library during my earlier years to study and prepare for medical professional examinations.I always liked the atmosphere and was masmerised with this beautiful building.It was difficult at that time to get its membership.I do always feel sorry for myself why i did’t read other non-medical books.Now i wish but again there is no time.
    So for libraries are concerned there were many in Lahore including Dayal Sing,Punjab Uni. old campus and Public etc.But i think numbers have not gone up.Population has increased and also the illetracy.Those nations which drift away from education also go down.Lahore used to be called city of colleges and gardens.There are more colleges now but are they truly serving the purpose?Reading starts from childhood which lacks in our culture and main reason is inseurity regarding our future careers.We do need to open our minds.

  5. temporal says:
    April 26th, 2008 4:13 am


    good one:)

    and we are ….allegedly… people of the Book…

  6. jalal says:
    April 26th, 2008 5:06 am

    An interesting article l well researched. I recently read a quotation “The one who DOES not read books is no better than a person who CANNOT read books”.

    I also remember my father in good old days when he encouraged me into reading even trash in the beginning by saying that once one develops the habit of reading anything, in fact is in the making of reading serious books.

  7. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    April 26th, 2008 7:19 am

    @ “Do Pakistanis read” ? well, perhaps not at all, the
    stuff imposed on them, monotonous, one-sided manuels,
    perpetual ” negationist fixed, Politics oriented ideas.
    Non of the twelve books attracts any ” litrature lover “.

    NO, unfortunately the others are reading and speaking
    on ” behalf ” of Pakistanis, even in their homes.
    Sour paradox, Media,TV Channels have become
    barometers, temperature is very very low !!!!

  8. April 26th, 2008 8:51 am

    Great piece! But then only the converted will read it! That’s the real pity.Nadeem ul Haque has hit upon the serious disconnect in the value system of our society at home and abroad.

    There was a time when some of us growing up in Pakistan soaked up every book that we came across to make up for our distance from the rest of the world. A friend of mine recalls reading every single book in the Rawalpindi Club Library over the summer holidays. A one-room library though it was, it was still a major challenge. He is now the author of some 29 books himself and monographs himself.

    When General Musharraf’s book came out I spent two weeks in Pakistan and during my travel heard any number of commentaries on the book. Each time I asked whichever group I was sitting with “Who has read the book?” The answers were astounding. Most had not read it and relied on word of mouth or newspapers articles to talk about it with great authority. Regardless of the intrinsic quality of that book, it was an important piece of work, since it was the first hand account of the head of state and government and gave a useful insight into his thinking. The most amazing thing for me was that in my two weeks of informal surveys, I encountered only four persons who had actually read the book.

    I write this with some trepidation as I prepare to set out on a book tour of Pakistan and India in May for my own book on the Pakistan army. No prize for guessing where people are more likely to buy and actually read the book.

    What can we do to change things for our children? I recall how my wife and I used to take our three girls every month to the local bookstore in Alexandria VA and gave them the run of the place to select the books they wanted. Each was allowed four books every month. We’d collect all their choices in a corner of the bookstore and sift through them to bring them down to the four books they were allowed. They argued for each book and wanted to go home with more than four books. But we stuck to our rules. This bred in them the value of books and reading. Each grew up with a personal library and each reads now. Even as adults they ask for books as gifts.

    What if all parents, who can afford it, adopted this approach in Pakistan? We might help produce a generation that would read and produce more books.

    Why not also open traveling free libraries for the countryside? As US AID ponders how best to use its money in Pakistan for the future, it might adopt this approach. But allow NGOs not the government to run these libraries.

    Why not open a donation system to build up the National Library and the Jinnah Library? Any number of us would donate collections for that cause. The only thing I would demand in return is security of the collections and free and open access to the stocks. As a start, this would mean shifting the National Library to a more visible and accessible location.

    I suggested this approach for the Jinnah House that we had proposed in Washington DC at the site of our former embassy. But there were no takers, even though I and my friend, whom I referred to above, offered to donate our personal libraries to set the ball rolling with some 500o volumes. The government had other more prosaic uses in mind.

  9. hassan says:
    April 26th, 2008 9:13 am

    This exactly is the problem with our society,you may find a dozen books in the house of a retired government officer,that he may have read during his life,(only if he is a little inclined towards reading),but with the new generation you can forget that.

    I am 23 ,and speaking from what i have seen so far,i can hardly think of any of my friends who reads good books(i am not including harry potter type stuff) and i have graduated from one of the best universities of Pakistan.

    Full points to the author for bringing up this issue!

  10. Qureshj says:
    April 26th, 2008 11:09 am

    Excellent points we should all think about.

    By the way the comments on this one have been excellent and should be posts themselves.

    I guess the commenters you mention never READ this!

  11. MQ says:
    April 26th, 2008 11:49 am

    Without detracting anything from the post I would say that, in the absence of any empirical evidence, I am not sure if the number of book readers in Pakistan (as percentage of its literate or educated population) has decreased or stayed the same over the years.

    It is true that we don

  12. Owais Mughal says:
    April 26th, 2008 12:09 pm

    Computer and the Internet revolution has also played a role in the demise of traditional paper book libraries. It has also played a role in the demise of reading habits. Now everything has to be for a rich visual experience e.g. computer games which have taken readership away from traditional libraries.

    Reading has been reduced to text books only.

    Good post Adil bhai.

  13. mycuppatea says:
    April 26th, 2008 12:18 pm

    Making new libraries might not be the answer. The ‘conversion’ should begin as soon as possible, perhaps at primary school level. I remember hearing about schools back in 80′s where they had a summer reading list included in the homework and you had to a short book review for each one. I don’t see how adding ONE novel which you can finish in 3 hours anyway in some course would induce the habit of reading in kids of first and second year.

    Teachers too should take some responsibility on themselves and try to ‘convert’ students into readers. As I see it, even getting someone to read Sheldon and Rowling is the first step. Many of my friends started from there and ‘graduated’ to greener pastures on their own.

    The issue exists but we can at least start doing damage control, can’t we?

  14. April 26th, 2008 12:28 pm

    I must confess that, beyond the nostalgia of times gone by, I agree with MQ’s assessment. I do think that reading Urdu poetry has gone down, but books overall have gone up. There are more publishers (OUP does excellent works), more books and more bookshops. And they seem to do good business. I don’;t even care about “good” books and “bad” books, since that can be very subjective and the habit of reading and books as a basis of argumentation is what I am talking about.

    Individually, there is clearly a market and the market has probably grown (as it should since both population and literacy has risen). But that is NOT my point. My point is about the societal level. Reading, I think, is still a “niche” even an “eccentric” activity. To be seen to be reading, especially in public, marks you as “special” (in a god or a bad way, depending on who is doing the marking!).

    In fairness, that “akhbaar daikhna” is in fact a deeply held habit. Get on a plane from Islamabad to Karachi and everyone will pull for a newspaper and read it all the way. Now, scan around and see how many have books they are reading? Do the same on a flight from Boston to Washington, DC. The result is different (more books; most fiction, many non-fiction, some “good” some “bad”). This is not to suggest that reading newspapers is bad. Far from it, it is wonderful (especially if you ‘read’ it rather than ‘see’ it). [But it does lead to arguments that remain "in the moment"].

    My point is not that things have become either better or worse. My point is that there really never was and is still not, a culture of enjoying, discussing, debating books – really, ideas – beyond some narrowly constrained religious ones. By the same token, the phenomenon of a lack of libraries that Nadeem Ul Haque laments is also not a new phenomenon per se.

    All in all, I agree things might not have been as good in the past as we seem to believe. Things may even have improved. But the situation is no where near satisfactory at a societal level.

    P.S… Note to self: Ask Shuja Nawaz to do a post on the idea of public libraries donated by private individuals and ask MQ to do a post on who is reading what, and why ;-)

  15. Maudood says:
    April 26th, 2008 12:58 pm

    I read when I am curious and interested about something. Wikipedia defines curiosity, “as an emotion that causes natural inquisitive behavior such as exploration, investigation, and learning, evident by observation in many animal and human species”.
    Do we cultivate that in our children? We probably should!

  16. Umar Shah says:
    April 26th, 2008 3:13 pm

    While there are no locally setup public libraries that I saw growing up in Karachi, I saw several places where one could buy books instead of borrowing them because they were so cheap. There are so many places that have used books available (and I am not talking about text books) on the streets of Karachi. I have also bought books from thelas or rairi’s (moving book stores)There also used to be ‘shops’ that rent out books and magazines. I am not sure of those still exist. In the good old days when murder and mayhem was quite low in Karachi one could go to PACC or the British Council to quench one’s literary thirst. So its not as bad as one might think. There is a faint light still visible at the end of this bleak tunnel.

  17. sidhas says:
    April 26th, 2008 3:55 pm

    In Karachi, Nazimabad where I grew up. We had two good Public libraries Ghalib and Usmaniya and many home/shop run libraries (where you could rent books). Usmaniya library’s had newspaper section and children section where kids would spent time reading children’s stories till 4pm. Heck there were young, beautiful, and disciplinarian libarians who spoke English ( I do not know if I am exaggerating) .

    Three decades later, this is what I observed and I would like to carry out an empirical research on topic of readership and libraries but to share my observation, now the library in Pakistan is equivalent to Newspaper Reading because that is the only section where you have access to material without asking somone for it that too if there there libraries have any books.

    Here is a list of very few libraries that I visited in past years:

    1. Usmaniya library has lost its children section and adult section. The only section left is Newspaper section. I visited there twice but found it a haunted and depressing. Not a single soul was there except chowkidar.

    2. Ghalib Libray has a treasure locked up in book shevles. The library opens some odd hours (if I remember correctly there timing are 5pm-7pm) but mostly used for teaching calligraphy work in the noon/afternoon hours.

    3. I went to Kaliqdina Library and Hall during 1995, The books were stacked in one corner of the hall like a huge pile of garbage. The only room that was open was a small room used for reading newspaper.

    4. Last year, I went to library near Liaqat Hospital (do not quite remember the name of the library). The library building houses many section but to get a book you have to ask a librarian. I thought that was a pity. Good thing was that there were many students occupying the room and studying but I dont think they were studying for fun.

    5. The library in Karachi university is huge as most of the folks from Karachi would know and they have a reasonable budget but to get a book you have to go through the hassle that you would want to avoid. If I remember correctly, they house there books in the basement or ground floor where there are lost in dust.

    6. The worst and near to my heart is that the home/shop run libraries are no longer to be found.

    7. It is a pity that kids no longer are exposed to ‘dastane Amir Hamza’ and/or “Umro Aiyar ki Aiyariyaan”, or ‘khoeqaf ka jinn’ tilismaat… One would forget about Harry Potter much as I love the movies, the books and the imagination and imagery that you would find in Alif Laila comes no where near.

    Great topic. With ATPs help, I would love to sponser a empirical research on state of our libraries not just in Pakistan’s Urban areas but in Rural areas and for this I am willing to cough up money provided I get a good research article that become basis for next step to shore up support for libraries and their maintenance.

    My objective is to see a place where kids come to read books whether it is in english or Urdu (Dastaane Amir Hamza or Harry Potter), does not matter.

  18. Razi says:
    April 26th, 2008 5:16 pm

    A sad state of affairs indeed. As I had commented on an earlier post on similar lines,….. one would find several video outlets in a single neighborhood (renting out nothing but crap)….but you will not find a library in an entire locality.

    Besides the American Library and the British Council, Karachi used to have a decent number of libraries such as Liaqat National Memorial Library, Ghalib Library etc. I personally believe that over the years, there has been a drastic reduction in reading books. One may blame it on the electronic media however I feel that it has a lot more to do with the deterioration of the level of intellect.

  19. April 26th, 2008 5:58 pm

    Agree 100% with you Adil sahab, very pertinent blog.
    do u think setting up a book bank would help?

  20. Eidee Man says:
    April 26th, 2008 9:23 pm

    Good post, Adil. I apologize for Pakistan’s poor all the time, but not this time :-). One example we can look to is Iran; their people read voraciously and take great pride in literature, learning, etc.

    I really liked Stanley Wolpert’s “Zulfi Bhutto of Pakistan” and have plans to read his book on Jinnah over the summer (after exams!)….thanks for reminding me.

  21. PakAm Muslim says:
    April 26th, 2008 10:20 pm


    I read an article in National geographic magazine, i think it was some issue in 1983. The article was on Cordoba, Cordova. (a city in S Spain on the Guadalquivir River: the capital of Spain under Moorish rule). It mentioned, when Christians took the city from Muslims, there were SEVENTY (70) libraries in the city.

  22. April 26th, 2008 11:48 pm

    @Sidhas: I also was born and grew up in Nazimabad No.1 area and was used to go Usmani quite often. Unlike you my experience with librarians over there was not so good plus there were several books who were not organized properly. Library people were rude and always had excuses NOT to give some particular book by saying “Issue huwi hui hay” rather search in shelves.

    on other hand Taimuriya Library North Nazimabad is still in good shape. They also have bigger place than Usmania Library and it has always been wonderful experience in studying over there. Librarians are good too and always helpful to search a particular book. I remember when I was studying Pakistan Studies in 1st year of engineering, I was given a topic for essay. I got all my reference books in Taimuriya which I could not find in Usmania.

    In the presence of gadgets like new Amazon Kindle, library culture will die further.

  23. Owais Mughal says:
    April 27th, 2008 12:07 am

    Taimuria in North Nazimabad is a good library. I remember going there in mid 1980s to read latest ‘Cricketer’ (editor Hanif Mohammad) and ‘Akhbar-e-Watan’ (editor Munir Hussain) magaiznes. In those days i had a hobby of writing down scorecards of all the ODIs of Pakistan in a register (full size notebook). And Taimuria library used to get latest cricket magazines which ofcourse published the scorecards of Pakistan’s ODI. This was before the days of or Internet, by the way. So the only way to maintain Cricket Statistics was by writing them down and use calculators :) Excel Spread sheets were not invented yet.

    One had to reach Taimuria libarary early in the morning otherwise all seats were taken by Degree Students preparing their notes etc etc.

    I also remember getting Chemistry books issued from Taimuria during my college days.

  24. Owais Mughal says:
    April 27th, 2008 12:29 am

    A very good library of Karachi which has sadly met its demise was the Liaqat National Library on Stadium Road. It was one of few libraries in Karachi which kept records of older newspapers on microfilms.

    I read few years ago that the library got sewrage problem few years back and most of their collection got wasted. Later on Sindh Government took control of the building and turned it into offices. The library ceased to exist since 2005-06.

    During my days of ‘alam-e-junooN’ when I used to collect Cricket scorecards from all over the city. As I said in an earlier message this was before internet days and the only way to do research then was to go to libraries.

    At one point in time, I had collected all the scorecards of Pakistan from 1974-1985 period. my only missing scorecards were Pakistan’s very first ODI’s of 1973.

    So one morning I went to Liaquat National Library. I was very sure that being one of the largest libraries in the country,
    they may have old Cricketer magazine copies. So I walked up to the front desk lady and asked her in an excited and loud voice:

  25. Aqil Sajjad says:
    April 27th, 2008 12:30 am

    A good post on an important topic.

    A few quick thoughts.

    In our school, we used to have a weekly library period and as a result, all the students would go to the library and browse some books. Everyone would also get a book issued. Such a library period may not be a bad idea for promoting reading habits in schools.

    Giving students a reading list over summer with the assignment of writing reviews would be a much better way of assigning summer vacation homework.

    Having properly functioning societies and regular debates in schools can also encourage reading and promote the habit of researching various issues. Promoting a reading culture is as much about raising the level of the discourse as the availability of libraries.

  26. Aqil Sajjad says:
    April 27th, 2008 12:34 am

    Islamabad certainly has more bookstores than it once used to, but I think the growth has been rather slow considering how the city has grown. The growth in food outlets on the other hand, has been much more rapid.

  27. Owais Mughal says:
    April 27th, 2008 12:45 am

    @ Umar Shah
    The mobile library business of ‘reRhi/Thelaas’ is still thriving in Karachi. I saw whole mobile markets of used books in Hyderi market, Karimabad Chowrangi, Tariq Road, Urdu bazaar area etc. Karimabad used book market is there since early 80s and now it holds more than 40 book ‘thelas’ as well as newspaper hawkers etc. On my trip in 2007, i was able to buy several ‘safarnaamay’ of Mustansar Tarar at 50% of the listed price.

  28. Owais Mughal says:
    April 27th, 2008 12:50 am

    In Childhood one of our aim used to be to open a ‘mohalla’ library and make some quick money. Few friends on the street used to pool their books and then come up with a library name and start renting them out at 25 paisa a day or something like that. Most popular of these books used to be ‘Ishtiaq Ahmed’s novels. Ferozesons books were very popular too. Also the Hamdard’s ‘naunehaal’ magazine :)

    The library names were not creative at all. I remember one was called ‘Khalid-Arshad-Hafeez-Adnan’ library :) Obviously named after the boys who had pooled their books for the business. These libraries never lasted long because of lack of long term business planning and because of readers not returning books.

  29. Shiraz Bashir says:
    April 27th, 2008 1:21 am

    In Rawalpindi/ Islamabad, where I grew up, Army Public Library, American Center, British Council are the libraries I remember. Beside this it was norm to go to Juma bazar to buy books at very cheap prices…Also near Choota Bazar in Sadar, few shops carry old books..

    I still read books regularly and absolutely love it.

    I don’t have any data but ..I don’t think so most of Pakistanis read books..though majority of them do read newspaper..

    Owais, Isthiaq Ahmed was awesome..beside him Ambar Nag Maria (by A Hameed), Imran Series (Mazar Kaleem), Suspense / Jasoosi Digest were on my regular reading list ..

  30. sidhas says:
    April 27th, 2008 1:24 am


    1. Interesting. I went to Usmaniya this library in the late 70s.

    2. I agree, I am told that Tamuria Library is a good library. Couple of years back, we wanted to donate children’s book to this library but we were told to go through the Town Nazim. Due to time constraint and ignorance of Bureaucratic wranglings, we couldn’t proceed any further.

  31. syed raza says:
    April 27th, 2008 1:33 am

    A great post on a very important topic.
    I remember growing up with a passion of books and megazines. All my peers were involved in books sharing.
    We did not have a public library in our small town , so we started our own.
    We named it SHAHKAR Library. I remeber posting publicity fliers. We ran it for a couple of years and then closed it as we ran out of all the inventory and money.The main reason, I beleive was our school. Though it was a government school but we had a great deal of stress on litrature and books. We used to have literary societies and reading and writing competitions.
    It was COOL to own, read and share books and megazines.
    But in the last 20-30 years many factors have caused a decline in reading books and lack of libraries including TV,
    video and computer games, internet and digital gizmos. No one has time for paper media.
    Too bad.

  32. sidhas says:
    April 27th, 2008 1:37 am

    Owais and Shiraz:

    You guys bring old and sweet memories.

    Wow, I see that lot of us read Ishtiyaq Ahmed (Inspector Jamsheed). Amber Nag and Maria: I couldn’t complete the whole series. Do you remember how many novels were in the series because if my memory serves me, I missed the last ten and wish to complete it sometime in future :)

    I had setup my own library too. It was a good business. That is how I financed my reading habit for a while until others caught up with me. One other thing I used to do was to rent to others in the family. That way I wouldn’t have to pay a dime in rent. That was lots of fun.

  33. A. says:
    April 27th, 2008 1:41 am

    Ishtiaq Ahmed’s novels HAD to come up… did they not!
    Ishtiaq Ahmed seems to be an old ATP favorite:

  34. Owais Mughal says:
    April 27th, 2008 2:10 am

    In Block 20 of Federal-B-Area Karachi, there used to be a ‘mohalla’ library called ‘Zafar Library’. It was located in a house right next to a Cricket Ground. I used to play in that ground occasionally. While walking towards these two adjacent landmarks, it was always a struggle to choose between going to library or the cricket ground, but I must confess Cricket Ground always won the battle. Still we always used to discuss for a minute or two, should we play cricket or go to library? and cricket always won the battle.

    “baat se baat nikalti hai” so I’ll continue my anecdote on this Zafar Library. While playing in the Cricket ground, Zafar Library used to be located at the exact square leg boundary. Whenever a bowler would throw a short-pitch or a bouncer ball, a good “pull” Or “hook” shot used to land on the roof of the Zafar Library :) So after a while we named the short-pitched balls as the ‘Zafar Library ball’. We used to warn a bowler:

    “Oye Zafar Library waali baal na pheNk’

    Or we would tease a batsman:

    “yaar, ye tu ne Zafar Library waali baal miss kar di”

    Today I read this library post from Adil, and got carried away in my own memories of libraries. Zafar Library was one of them :)

  35. Manzoor says:
    April 27th, 2008 6:16 am

    It reminds me one of my visits to NWFP Archives library Peshawar, the largest library in the province, some ten years back.
    When I came out of the library after browsing through the shelfs, two of the employees stopped me and insisted that I should go through a body search. After a verbal brawl I complied and one of them searched me and after that said sorry to me.
    However, it was an unpleasant experience and reflected the mentality of employees, who consider every entrant to that large building as thief. The library, which houses thousands of volumes, remains devoid of any visitors nowadays, and the volume are being eaten away by dust.
    During the university days the library was occupied by the lovebirds in the morning and afternoon and was closed on 5:00 pm, which I think was suitable time to open it for the students, who would come to study after classes and a rest in the evening.
    Our people consider well read as

  36. Aqil Sajjad says:
    April 27th, 2008 7:38 am

    Ishtiaq Ahmed, what a memory. I used to read him very regularly. Does anyone here know if he still writes?
    Still Inspector Jamshed, Kamran Mirza and Shauki brothers, or any new characters too?Ishtiaq Ahmed, what a memory. I used to read him very regularly. Does anyone here know if he still writes?
    Still Inspector Jamshed, Kamran Mirza and Shauki brothers, or any new characters too?

  37. FS says:
    April 27th, 2008 7:45 am

    Recently i visited Pakistan after 3 years and went to my home town in NWFP. It’s a small town, used to be safe and for us a booming town. Growing up there, we had a private library owned by someone known as Gulshen (i don’t think i spelled this one right), we were able to rent a book for .5c/day (this was in 80s). Sadly, when i passed by the library during the trip, it was closed down and i asked my brother why was it closed down… he replied that guy who owned it passed away and his children didn’t want to continue because there was no profit in the business.

  38. Manzoor says:
    April 27th, 2008 7:55 am

    Istiaq Ahmed, I am not aware of his books, however, Imran series of Mazhar Kaleem, captivated me during my school days, and I also fell in love with Suspense and Jassosi.
    Imran and his team and Colonel Fareedi were the brainchild of the late Ibn Safi, but later carried forward by Kaleem and other but not so well known writers.

  39. April 27th, 2008 9:00 am

  40. April 27th, 2008 9:01 am

    AFAIK, Ishtiaq Ahmad runs a religious news paper for kids in lahore.

  41. Deeda-i-Beena says:
    April 27th, 2008 9:27 am

    The likes of Egbal Ahmad went to the Political Science Dept. Punjab University, Lahore. I went there 3 years later.

    Whenever we would ask the Professors to recommend books on a subject the response would be: “At Master’s level you don’t recommend books, you ask which library keeps the best materials.”
    This may be just an anecdote but speaks volumes about the scholarship of the times gone by.

  42. AHsn says:
    April 27th, 2008 11:14 am

    Another Opinion

    From birth to death, the life of any language depends on its use for oral communication by a group of people. It is composed of some particular sounds. The number of vocal sounds is limited to the requirement of each group of people according to its natural tendencies and capabilities. These particular sounds are the soul of a language. A combination of these sounds makes a word to indicate an object.

    The writing of an oral language is nothing but a visual form of the same. One way of writing a language is to assign a symbol, a sign or a figure to each object, each colour and each movement. There are many methods for this purpose such as ideography (Chinese, Japanese), hieroglyphs (Egyptian) and pictography (Inca, Aztec, etc.).

    The second form is to construct a number of signs (letters) for each vocal sound. The advantage of this system is that with a short number of letters a very high number of words can be formed. With only three letters one can form 27 words, limiting to only three-letter words. It is clear that any written language will be rich in words according to the number of letters in its alphabet.

    The writing is important to conserve and communicate the literature, the knowledge and the ideas. Still the poetry becomes alive only when it is presented in a vocal form. Also a drama is only effective when it is presented on a stage in its vocal form.

    Now we are at a stage that all the written literature and information can also be transmitted to far flung places by vocal means. Already, books are registered on sound tracks and one can listen to the recitation of the whole book. There is no need for an individual to read a book to acquire knowledge.

    In spite of all the books available on a subject the best and efficient way of learning (or teaching) is a live oral lecture. Reading a book is only a secondary help. It is true that new generation is reading less than the old one, but every younger generation is more intelligent than the old. That is why the world is progressing!

  43. Shiraz Bashir says:
    April 27th, 2008 1:15 pm

    I am certain that Amber, Nag, Maria series has 200+ qistain (episodes)..each in one book..

    The most potent thing in this series was way A. Hameed use to merge historical era into the story..

    Later he went hi-tech by adding Katie and Theosang .the characters from space :-)

    ..I could never understand Ibne-Safi as during those days, his Urdu was too Saqeel for me :-) .

  44. sidhas says:
    April 27th, 2008 1:35 pm

    ATP Friends:
    Any thought on how can we help libraries in Pakistan?
    Does anyone knows if HDF works with libraries in Pakistan?

    Thank you for your response. You reminded me of series that I still wonder about. I left the series when Nag Amber Maria were trying to cross Great Wall of China.

  45. Daktar says:
    April 27th, 2008 3:08 pm

    I think the HDF focusses on schools as do others like DIL and Citizen Foundation. Maybe we should push them through our donations to also start focussing on libraries.

    This discussion has been fascinating because it shows that actually there has been an informal network of private small libraries and this means that we can build on these to create national networks of public libraries.

    maybe this discussion should be linked to education policy discussion also.

  46. ali says:
    April 28th, 2008 2:57 am

    in this day and age,

    who needs physical libraries.

    wasteful spending is a hallmark already achieved by our governments; to spend money on a library today would be more of the same.

    online access is good enough.

  47. Daktar says:
    April 28th, 2008 9:14 am

    By the way, libraries are more than just “collections” of books. They are also social spaces. Their social function is as important as simply lending out books and many of the memories people seem to have here are of those social interactions.

  48. April 28th, 2008 10:46 am

    Great article! I’m an avid Canadian reader living in Sindh for the last three years and I was just discussing this fact with my (Pakistani) wife the other day. It is a sad thing that there is no encouragement to read here. Reading, especially deep, stimulating fiction, encourages the kind of critical and creative thinking that Pakistan desperately needs. Online access is not nearly enough. Most people (myself included) download many e-books that stay locked up in the bowels of the hard drive.

    Great article.

  49. April 28th, 2008 12:40 pm

    One more thing, I’d like to respond to AHsn. I must say I disagree completely with your points! The younger generation, though they may have a few more facts and figures in their heads, by no means are more intelligent than the older generation. Oral learning is NOT superior to the written word, it’s only easier. When someone tells me about a subject the critical thinking part of my brain turns off. I hear and accept what is said with little question. Oral learning is easy, but very shallow. What information can fit into an hour long lecture? Not nearly as much as you can read in the space of an hour because it takes longer to say something than it does to read it. And when you read it you don’t just draw on the wisdom of one man, but perhaps a hundred, depending on the book and subject. Neither do you need to wait for a video or lecturer, for you teachers are sitting on your book shelf waiting for you! It is the nations that read that succeed in this word. Until the people of this country wake up, pick up a book or two and challenge their worldviews we will find Pakistan to fall further and further behind in all areas of life while still claiming to have superiority and deep culture.

  50. Adnan Ahmad says:
    April 28th, 2008 12:45 pm

    Inspiring posts with equally good comments. Small county library in any given county in the States is probably bigger than the national library mentioned in the post. But then economics plays a part in such comparisons.

    I remember Syed Qasim Mehmood published a superlative monthly “afsana digest” many years ago translating great short stories from all over the world; on the first page of the book he used to quote a hadith with words “kahaania’n kehte raho key loag kuch to ghor-o-fikr karen” (roughly translated.. keep on telling narratives so that at least people ponder).

  51. Adnan Ahmad says:
    April 28th, 2008 12:50 pm

    “It is the nations that read that succeed in this word. Until the people of this country wake up, pick up a book or two and challenge their worldviews we will find Pakistan to fall further and further behind in all areas of life while still claiming to have superiority and deep culture.”

    Mathew, Couldn’t agree with you more.

  52. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    April 28th, 2008 1:51 pm

    @ Adnan’s response to matthew seems ” biblical”,
    but narration can also take you to a disasterous
    confusion, you don’t even consider the “modern
    times colonisation or cultural domination ”
    what happened with 1001 arabian nights, ended up
    in a belly-dance cheap ” Arab Emir culture”.
    If Pakistanis can not read their own stuff first, they
    can only think, but, only in a ” foreign ” imagination.
    Now, please make your scenario !!! and laugh !!

  53. AHsn says:
    April 28th, 2008 3:23 pm

    Dear Matthew,
    I am glad that you disagree with me. Before you started writing you must have learned the alphabet. The teacher must have told you the vocal form of each letter. This you could not have learned in a book. The Oral pronouncement of each letter is the basis of your writing and also your reading. Many great philosophers used to give their lessons by lecturing without the help of any book.
    The new generation knows more than the old because the young learn the past as well as the recent which the older generation could not.
    Every new generation is more intelligent because humanity is alway making a progress in Science, Health, Technology and in other domains. So, the future looks bright even with less reading of the books.

  54. S. Khan says:
    April 28th, 2008 3:41 pm

    Dr. Najam,

    I do read your blog in its entirety! So please continue writing and highlighting our triumphs and our shortcomings so that we may reflect and ponder and maybe (just maybe once in a while) get off our behinds and do something positive for the nation and the community we live in!
    A lot of ands but so it goes……..

  55. AF Ahmad says:
    April 28th, 2008 5:22 pm

    Do Pakistanis read? They do, most definitely. What else would explain the financial progress some of the publishing houses in Pakistan have made over the years. The Dawn Group, the Jang Group, the Nawa-e-Waqt group and Ferozesons have all done really well. Some of them have now branched into other media but all of them started with print.

    Their financial success has to be attributed to the readership of their publications, unless people were spending money just to look at (akhbar dekhna!!) but not read. I highly doubt that.

  56. Dr. Baseer says:
    April 28th, 2008 6:47 pm

    I think it is true that as a nation we don’t have the habit of reading. I think one of the reason (my personal experience) is that some parents discourage reading. There is so much pressure on getting good marks in the exam that they do not allow their children to read anything but the text books. I remember that I used to love reading Umroo Aayar, Tarzan and other stories and later on Imran Series and Jasoosi digests but I had to hide these books inside my textbooks or put covers on them so they appear as text books.

  57. Ibrahim says:
    April 28th, 2008 7:54 pm


    Adil Najam writes:

    It amazes me no end how many of my

  58. April 29th, 2008 3:45 am

    Do Pakistanis Read?

    Yes common Pakistanis read and read a lot everywhere. Specially people read a lot in Karachi. Since the question is whether they read or not rather WHAT they read, I would like to tell that people of Karachi MIGHT NOT be regular to libraries but they have interest in reading stuff. I remember when I used to commute via Public Buses like 2-K etc, I always found one or two people busy in reading some Urdu digest(Jasoosi, Suspense etc) in buses. This is something I have heard about Londoners(not sure though!).

    I also have seen ladies busy inr eading Sydney Sheldon in public buses. So libraries can’t be a perfect barometer to find out whether people read books or not.

    Yes people don’t read much books like mentioned above because 1)they re in English 2)expensive.

  59. Shaji says:
    April 29th, 2008 3:52 am

    We don’t need libraries….. we need cheaper reprints, old book shops and a culture of giving books away.

    A book is only good if it is read, no point keeping it in your ‘library’ to show off how much you’ve read.

    Read a book, give it to someone who might actually read it. Ask them to do the same.

  60. April 29th, 2008 5:19 am

    Each new generation is NOT more intelligent because of the advancements made in different fields. Rather, the combined wealth of human knowledge, as stored in Books, is greater. In fact, we seem to be getting dumber as the years go by! A handful of people possess the vast majority of the knowledge. We have degenerated horribly from the ‘Renaissance Man’ who was skilled in science, art, music, religion and medicine. Today we have ‘educated’ people with many letters after their names and numbers in their head, but with no practical skills on living or worldview or discernment.

    I also agree that in Pakistan we ought to be reading Pakistani books. But at the same time we should not ignore other cultures for fear that they might lead us astray.

    AHsn, your analogy about learning letters orally doesn’t make the point you want it to. First comes oral because we don’t have the tools to reach for anything deeper or better. Any fool can listen to a lecture. It takes someone with more commitment to learn to sit down with a deep book and grow from it.

  61. Fahim says:
    April 29th, 2008 7:21 pm

    In the age of the internet books are becoming less read in the U.S. as well. I read an article published earlier in The Washington Post complaining about how Americans didn’t read.

    This article said in part:
    … The decline of book, newspaper and magazine reading is by now an old story. The drop-off is most pronounced among the young, but it continues to accelerate and afflict Americans of all ages and education levels.

    In 1982, 82 percent of college graduates read novels or poems for pleasure; two decades later, only 67 percent did. And more than 40 percent of Americans under 44 did not read a single book — fiction or nonfiction — over the course of a year. The proportion of 17-year-olds who read nothing (unless required to do so for school) more than doubled between 1984 and 2004.

    The Dumbing Of America
    Call Me a Snob, but Really, We’re a Nation of Dunces
    By Susan Jacoby
    Sunday, February 17, 2008; B01

    I would think that one can read through the internet if one is so inclined.

  62. April 30th, 2008 12:10 am

    But the problem with Internet books is that (a) many people don’t have decent Internet access in Pakistan, (b) it is awkward to read a large book through your computer screen and (c) most books from the Internet are either quite expensive or a hundred years old.

  63. Sarmad says:
    April 30th, 2008 1:50 am

    Yes, people do read. This very post and the comments are evident of the scene. The methods of reading have undergone a change: internet with its resources is a rich, accessible world which has become the cheapest source of inspiring material on every conceivable topic. Book reading has always been a matter of affordability; those who can buy do buy and read. The quest for knowing is eternal as each one of us comes in this world with a clean slate. Where there is a reasonable marketing, the demand shoots up. Only in societies where the educators fail to kindle the love for knowing, one laments the decline of readership. Our society is one of them, but mercifully the trend is picking up. It may be at snail’s pace but it’s picking up. Why don’t we equate a good blog with a good book? The first boom in reading had come when print was invented, and we are in the middle of yet another boom of readership with internet. As regards the scholarship, that again has been a domain of few through out human history. I don’t think it’s going to change. Scholarship is a regime with a cut out discipline, which each one of us is not lucky enough to own. But that is not a sufficient reason to call it a fall.

  64. Waheed says:
    April 30th, 2008 2:37 pm

    we need intellectual role models for the young

  65. veteran says:
    April 30th, 2008 3:27 pm

    dont stop writing adeel bhai ! there is still hope !

  66. Rafay Kashmiri says:
    April 30th, 2008 6:01 pm

    @ Parh-likh ga’ien, naslein hamari Raj ka sabaq,
    Bewafah bijjli nay, Roshan kardiay chaudah tabaq

    Parwarish horehi hay, Raj kay Roshandan say,
    Ab milega rooz, apko Roshan Khayali ka sabaq
    Rafay Kashmiri

  67. May 1st, 2008 1:43 am

    Rafay Kashimiri Sahab, lagta hay ATP ki Tableegh-e-Roshan Khyali k radd-e-Amal ney aap ko Shayer Banadia hay.

  68. SJH says:
    May 2nd, 2008 6:08 am

    As I read through this post and the many thoughtful comments on it, I wanted to clarify a point.

    A commentator, sidhas, asked whether HDF works with libraries in Pakistan. Allow me to respond to the question and to the comments on it. HDF works in the area of primary and secondary education, in the overall context of our broader mission to enable human development ( Understand that grassroots human development is our mission, education is one, critical part of it. Our mission is more holistic, it involves healthcare, social welfare, economic empowerment and self-mobilization, everthing is intertwined of course. Small, usable libraries are a key part of that effort in so many ways – it is beyond education, it is increased self-worth and empowerment. But you ask a great question, we can always do more – I would encourage all your readers to ask such questions – they are more motivating and energizing than you might think!

    At our Annual Convention on June 7 in Chicago, the focus is on primary and secondary education. The role of libraries and how to encourage them would be a great question for one of the panel discussions. The goal being to provide tangible feedback on these issues in the proposed education policy by bringing a number of groups together to one consensus platform as we share best practices. Join us and help make this happen!

  69. Tahir says:
    May 3rd, 2008 1:47 pm

    great topic

    One thing is sure, Pakistanis WANT to read

    We just need opportunities more

  70. Haroon says:
    May 3rd, 2008 4:50 pm

    I am glad that people in HDF are thinking seriously on education. It is one thing that can make big difference. Also it is something on which you can mobilize many many people to join your efforts.

  71. May 4th, 2008 4:55 am

    DO PAKISTANIS READ?In this context I wish to draw attention of all concerns that in karachi there appears no enough library there are few but not on famous places.previously british library was in pakistan chowk.when in sixties we were read books by taking on rent from Hilal Library in Ranchore line.Every one can not purchase costly books.As such habit of reading reduced and in fact nil.prices of news papers also out of reach of middle class.Most of the good school not maintaining libraris updated.books are good friends ,but as it is very difficult for most to have good friends it is totally difficult to have good books.AMEEN

  72. K.S. says:
    May 4th, 2008 5:14 am

    I think this is important issue. How do you create reading habits in Pakistanis. I think first step has to be to make books cheaper and more available to ordinary Pakistanis. I remember that for text books and others Pakistani editions used to be much cheaper, but not now.

  73. Tariq Najmi says:
    May 5th, 2008 1:48 am

    No doubt the people of Pakistan wants to read more books and get more knowledge but due to financial crises the people searching for Atta, Ghee and milk. So when thay get their basic articles than thay go to read.

  74. Raza says:
    May 5th, 2008 5:29 am

    CAN we have a list of all Libraries at National level, which opened since inception and then due “TIME’s” (WAQT) contusion, vanished… Best Regards,

  75. Arfa says:
    May 6th, 2008 3:29 am

    I feel sorry for the poor information of Mr.Adil Najam. I am staff member of Quaid-e-Azam Library (Bagh-e-Jinnah) Lahore and want to reveal some facts regarding said library contrary to Mr.Adil. Quaid-e-Azam Library is a high profile of research and reference library open to all scholars and post-graduate students. General, Casual and Life, these three kinds of memberships are for the facilitation of the users. About 500 members daily visit the library. Details of members, excluding life membership, are as under:
    1. Casual membership: 1,811 members
    2. General membership: 13,744 members
    3. Student membership: 18,712 members
    The library does not restrict its services for the post graduates but it also gives services for the students doing masters, MBBS, engineering etc. Its timing is 8am to 8pm. This timing is convenient to persons of all fields. I feel sorry about the poor information regarding the library’s website. The library’s website is working for years, its address is The library has a serious collection of about 1, 15,000 books including latest medical, engineering and science and technology books. The library receives about 141 foreign and local scholarly and current affairs journals regularly. It receives 6 foreign and various local newspapers in Urdu and English. More than 50 computers have been working in the whole library, providing the free internet facility and free use of digital resources. It is admitted that we have not possessed such kind of digitalized and automated libraries as possessed by the developed countries but we should have a look on our economical, social, political and educational dilemmas. We should appreciate that these kinds of libraries have been working in such kind of circumstances. Think positive and promote them in a decent way and should do something practically for the betterment of such kind of issues. We have forgotten that this is our country and outsiders are not responsible for its worst situation. Hopes and prayers for the better future of Pakistan.

  76. SMM says:
    May 6th, 2008 10:18 pm

    Arfa, you may work in a library but I wonder if YOU read?

    The Quaid library mention is by Nadeem and not Adil! And the website you give does not work for me. I once tried to become a member and it WAS a bureaucratic mess as Nadeem says.

    The way to be patriotic is to improve your institution rather than to criticize those who are asking for Pakistani institutions to do better than they are.

  77. Rizwana Shahzad says:
    May 7th, 2008 3:11 am

    With refrence to Mr. Nadeem’s views i would like to share that he is very right that we have built lovely official residences but not libraries.Every Government in Pakistan do not pay attention to serve book lovers or to increase intellectual level of its is the reason that most of our youngs waste their time in playing computer game,streat quarrels and other such activities.

    i am one of the luckiest persons who got the membership of Qaid-e-Azam Library. The membership requires two photographs and ID/Masters result/University card.
    I m very thankful to the very cooperative staff of the library.In every difficulty they remained present there.
    Some times i found shortage of new data but on my request to chief librarian i got the required book within a is due to the comfortable environment of library more than five hundred male and female members visit it.
    After compliting my education from the university, i am a general member of library.

    I feel sorry on SMM’s personal experience and MrNadeem’s poor knowledge about the Library, Mr Adil must not Quot the ill information about the nation serving Institute without any research. Let me mention that Quaid-e-Azam Library is the most suitable for book lovers and it is the attitude of the staff members which attracts the readers from all over Pakistan(Karachi, Quetta, Blochistan,etc).

    At the end of my comments i would request my fellow Pakistanis to adopt the attitude of healthy and suggestive criticisim inspite of discouraging the people who wants to serve the nation honestly.

  78. Daktar says:
    May 8th, 2008 1:47 am

    Seems like a concerted effort by the Quaid library in Lahore and its staff to “save its reputation.”

    That is admirable. But I agree with SMM that maybe the better approach would be to actually improve the service and collection at the Library so that the real complaints go away.

  79. Arfa says:
    May 9th, 2008 2:43 am

    It is great to behold that there are still concerned Pakistanis who think sincerely about the disconcerting issues of Pakistan. There is nothing perfect in the world but as professionals in the field of library and information science, we really warm welcome your healthy criticism and wait for your valuable suggestions regarding the profession. We will try our level best to cope with your expectations regarding library services. On the behalf of Quid-e-Azam library

  80. Booklover says:
    May 11th, 2008 5:25 pm


    The love of books and of reading is essential to a just and progressive society. Unfortunately, the Mullahs had tuned us to thinking ofbooks that give ANSWERS rather than to things that inspire you to ask good QUESTIONS. Human progress comes from asking good questions. And good questions comes from reading with an open mind.

  81. Ali Wazir says:
    May 12th, 2008 3:48 am

    Plz accept my request for a member of this group so that we learn more and more thanks

  82. June 10th, 2008 12:15 am

    Assalamu Alaikum
    I live in America and I have been working for a library for 5 years. They always provide good programs to increase the book-reading habbit in children as well as adults. They always good collection of books and always get new books. If you want to donate books here in American Libraries, it is not difficult at all. They will just take’em right away. Couple of months ago when I went to visit Pakistan, I was shocked that they still have those old bousidah’ books and they never got any newer books at all. But I realized they had even less collection. Gosh, one of the worst thing is they people who work for the Pakistani Libraries, they do NOTHING. Just talk and dring tea, that is it they do at the Libraries in Pakistan. I saw it 5 years ago before I went to America and I saw even worst people when I visited Pakistan five years after. I don’t know when will we become serious on these things.
    Wassalamu Alaikum

  83. Qaiser says:
    January 10th, 2010 11:51 am

    Good post. I do think, however, that people are now reading more. Certainly all bookshops are full and more and more is being published.

  84. Jamshed says:
    April 26th, 2010 4:23 am

    The National Library of Pakistan illustrates the sad state of libraries in Pakistan.You expect to find some quality reading material there,but what do you find ? A few reading halls with a smattering of books on very few subjects.Even the Quaid e Azam Library in Islamabad has a far better selection of books.Libraries are clearly way down on the government’s priority list.If one is interested in reading,the only choice is to buy books.

  85. Jamshed says:
    April 26th, 2010 6:41 am

    As far as space goes,the National Library has plenty of space.If they really intend to utilise it,space is not a problem.What they need is quality in their selection of reading material.They have newspapers from every nook and corner of the country,but I did not see the International Herald Tribune or the New York Times.This is supposed to be a research and reference library.It is supposed to have millions and millions of books.
    Now,it is inside the “Red Zone” in Islamabad,making access even more difficult.When I last visited it,the library had just one or two internet connections.
    In Pakistan,the military has the best libraries but those can only be used by army officers.

  86. Watan Aziz says:
    April 26th, 2010 6:39 pm

    Yes, they do.

    The Urdu papers full of auks’ford experts. And they both read and write bad Urdu. Everyday!

    And they read the English dailies with “press releases” or more gossip, with or without bad English.

    And the read the English pontiffs in English dailies and blogs with either more hot air or more pontifications.

    And the gossip and the speculation on the blogs. Most energetic when the gossip or the speculation is about who is doing what to whom and when and how.

    And some even memorize their foreign bank account numbers and the balances. We suffered a great loss when the mangoes exploded. Too many numbers were lost.

    And they read (and write) bad statistics assuring them that Pakistanis have clean water and power available.

    And they read the ‘tenders’ that have been fixed for them by their friends in theft.

    And they read the wrong history books.

    And they read the wrong books on Islam.

    And they do not read Qur’an but read books about so called Sharia. This is why their statements on sharia cannot be found in Qur’an.

    And they read how the world is conspiring about them and in the process they learn how to deny equity and justice to their fellow Pakistanis.

    And they read, and they do, yes they do, how the “feduals” have messed them up, when the text books, the laws, the “gormint” is being run by the ignorant but educated. The idea is to blame someone else for the rights they steal from their fellow Pakistanis.

    And they read on how to label their fellow Pakistanis with this or that ism, knowing that it is not the ism, but the absence of equity and justice that is the root of the problems. And by labeling their fellow, they are actually attempting to cover their lies.

    And they read, how to sell their own fake, phony and fraud (thanks Bob Grant, many will not know him, that is OK) isms to friends and make money as “consultants”.

    Ohhh, I can go on, but you get the point.

    Today was a fun day or Monday?

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