What Is Pakistan Reading: An Alternative Tour of the Karachi International Book Fair

Posted on December 30, 2010
Filed Under >Daroon-e-Khanna, Books, Society
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The 6th Karachi International Book Fair was held in Karachi this week. More than 300 publishers/ booksellers, more than a quarter million visitors over five days. You might have read about the importance of such events, you might have heard about the achievements of the fair and you might have been told about the diversity on offer.

But since more than 70 percent of the stalls were trying to make money by making the readers better Muslims, we concentrated on the free goodies on offer. Here is our alternative tour of the 6th Karachi International Book Fair.

Things We Got For Free

A DVD of the first-ever documentary about Maulana Maududi’s life, produced by Al Khidmat, Jamaat Islami’s charity wing.

A CD of the Jamaat’s current Ameer Maulana Munawar Hassan’s speeches. We accepted it under extreme duress.

Four pamphlets:

  1. Sins of the Tongue (the Urdu version is called Zaban ka Gunah)
    Not what you think. It’s all about Islamic punishments for gossiping and backbiting.
  2. Music: Quran aur Sunnat Mein [Music According to the Quran and Sunnat]
    More haraam than you ever thought. It leads to road accidents and zina.
  3. Quaid-e-Azam Speaks
    … And it seems he couldn’t utter a sentence without quoting from the Quran or invoking Islam.
  4. How Good is Your Child’s School?
    They perform Shakespeare’s plays? They celebrate Halloween? They have sleepovers at their friends’ house? You need to find a more Islamic school.

We were also given a newsletter by the Pakistan Librarians’ Association. Their favourite word seems to be ‘decline.’

One Thing We Thought Was For Free But Wasn’t

A DVD on goras converting to Islam.

We assumed it was for free because we were promised that everything on this particular stall was for free. But then we were told that this DVD was an exception. 80 rupees.

Things We Admired But Found To Be Way Out Of Our Budget

Kaaba Fun Game
Masjid Fun Game
Salat Fun Game

Things We Could Have Got For Free But Didn’t

Complete Quran audio download to our mobile phone. Takes only five minutes to download, we were assured.

Books We Wanted To Buy But Then Looked At The Last Chapter

Two new biographies of Mohammad Bin Qasim, both with happy endings. Dude marries Raja Dahar’s daughter and lives happily ever after. And we thought he was called back, tortured and executed by being sewn alive into a hide and drowned by the then khalifa.

Books We Didn’t Even Know Existed

Collected works of Dale Carnegie (of How to Make Friends and Influence People fame) in Urdu. This was definitely the heftiest volume we have ever seen in the Urdu language.

A new translation of The Brothers Karamazov by a gentleman called Shahid Siddiqi.

One Thing We Did Buy

A funky looking mug which reads ‘Smile, it’s Sunnah.’

Editors Note: Daroon-e-Khanna blogs at Cafe Pyala, where this post first appeared.

40 Comments on “What Is Pakistan Reading: An Alternative Tour of the Karachi International Book Fair”

  1. AsAD says:
    December 30th, 2010 11:01 am

    Great post. Real funny. Real scary also.

  2. Junaid says:
    December 30th, 2010 11:02 am

    Hey, I want a copy of the complete works of Dale Carneigie in Urdu. Then, I am all set for life!

  3. Kamal says:
    December 30th, 2010 11:05 am

    I am nieither surprised nor disturbed. Anyone who has ever been to a Pakistani bookshop (which are always full of people) knows this already. Pakistanis DO read. And this is what they read. This is what sells. Its is the English speaking classes that do not know what is happening, otherwise it is a very ‘literate’ debate in Pakistan.

  4. Humaira says:
    December 30th, 2010 11:07 am

    Good post. I am not disturbed as long as people are reading. What does disturb me is that many of these books distort facts and are absolute lies. E.g., the point on the Mohammad Bin Qasim biographies and how history is changed and massacred. That is what is disturbing, otherwise have no problems with what people read as long as they do.

  5. Lateef says:
    December 30th, 2010 11:13 am

    I say this is good news. There is a battle of ideas out there. If people read these things then it is our job to write the alternatives in ways that they can read it. Especially in Urdu. All these guys wasting their time writing for Western audiences should wake up and smell the sabz chai!

  6. Nihari says:
    December 30th, 2010 11:50 am

    What will be the alternate of Sins of the tongue????
    The real sins of the tongue
    Other topics would be
    /You can be happy in Shariat. That Mullah dude is wrong
    Your Qabar is not that bad
    Allah is cool
    Dont worry. Angels and HOORS do not wear beards

  7. Ibrahim says:
    December 30th, 2010 12:14 pm

    So, whats wrong with this. Most Pakistanis are Muslims and intensely interested in religion. So they read about religion. What’s the big deal?

  8. Copper says:
    December 30th, 2010 12:22 pm

    The author seems to be biased. It’s demand supply rule, if 70% were religious literature, it is probably whats in demand or perhaps religious people read more than the liberals.

  9. Progressive says:
    December 30th, 2010 12:33 pm

    What is the big deal!!!!! Ibrahim why don’t you get it? …….. It should have been the other way around i.e. “more than 70 % of the stalls should be trying to make money by making the readers bad ,or even better non, Muslims”

  10. Adnan says:
    December 30th, 2010 12:47 pm

    @Humaira: I wonder how liberals like you are different than Mullahs who opposed the creation of Pakistan? Your “Love” for Ancient “Hindu” history does not give you credit to curse Mullahs who opposed Pakistan.

    As far as history is concerned, no one can claim authentic history of any place and it’s true that victors write history. You are free to show love for Ashoka as saviors while others are quite happy to remember their history from Bin Qasim.

    Ironically, if I go on your theory, our history SHOULD start from Prophet Adam(AS) then. why don’t you strive for that huh?

  11. Mohammad Amjad says:
    December 30th, 2010 12:47 pm

    As the mug says,
    Smile, guys, its sunnah!

  12. Adnan says:
    December 30th, 2010 12:53 pm

    The author seems to hold extremist point of view and he/she does not like to tolerate opponents. Where’s now your “Secular” tolerance?

    While author is lying publicly. Being an attendant of KIBF myself, I can safely say that majority of stalls were dedicated to Islamic/religious books. There were not more than 5 who were dedicated for Islamic books. Rest there were misc stalls who were selling all kind of stuff. From Salina Karim’s “Secular Pakistan” to Razia Butt’s novels, all were available. If author suffered from phobia then that’s different thing otherwise he/she is just lying.

    And as Ibrahim said, even if it was true then what’s wrong in it? our TV channel shows lots of vulgar programs, you never wrote about that abundance but you came up with a fake alias and made a post. Atleast bring some courage 1st before you target others.

  13. Adnan says:
    December 30th, 2010 12:55 pm

    “eing an attendant of KIBF myself, I can safely say that majority of stalls were dedicated to Islamic/religious books.”

    should be read as:

    “eing an attendant of KIBF myself, I can safely say that majority of stalls were NOT dedicated to Islamic/religious books.”

  14. Asim says:
    December 30th, 2010 1:15 pm

    Fun post.
    Although I should say I was also at the book fair. I thought it wad great. And yes there were all sorts of books there. Which was great. There were lots of religious books but probably not 70 percent. Overall it’s good that there were all types of books there.

  15. Adnan says:
    December 30th, 2010 1:20 pm

    Burn Baby Burn!

    I am imagining the situation faced by the author. I wish I was there to experience the pain and torture author felt after finding entire KIBF ‘Islamic” or “Talibanized”. I really missed the chance!

    Let me rub salts into wounds of the liberals. The author did not talk about the audience. Specially female lot that majority of them were wearing either Hijab or Abaya or Niqab. They were not from some low class family who can’t afford so called modern education but seems to belong “elite” lot who often communicate in English.

  16. Bling says:
    December 30th, 2010 1:31 pm

    There is rise of fundamentalism everywhere in the world. East or West. Balance view is the only answer to this insanity.

    I agree with some of the authors that distortion of facts in the history is disturbing. At one level it reflects the need to create myths about past. We should not underestimate the destructive power of myths. Serbs were exploited by clergy and their fascist government on the basis of myths about how in past both catholics and turks had oppressed them hunderd years ago. Result was heinous genocide in Balkans. If we are consciously hiding the ugly facts in our history the result would be fake sense of morality and myth about being victims with no need to take any responsibility for our actions and make any amends.

    People are reading Islamic books is in its own not a problem in its own. And the assertion by someone that its a supply demand issue is also need examination.

    Islamic books? written by whome? is there healthy debate on various point of views or are we under attack of “certain” islamic ideology. Are alternate views on islamic history being discussed cause even on death of prophet there are alternate views available. The problem is that there is no internal debate on what is wrong with various “islamic ideologies” and we are hostage to extremist view which equates dissent with their point of view as blasphemy. we sure don’t want books encouraging stoning of women in our streets.

    The quality of work is the issue. what are masses consuming in name of Islamic literature? Is supply of alternate point of view is being controlled directly or indirectly? are the masses being brainwashed. If the literature is doing as good of a job as our media then sure there is lot to worry about. Cause we are not building a nation that is capable of any serious and rigorous reflection on real issues.

  17. IMTIAZ says:
    December 30th, 2010 2:43 pm

    Hey, why is everybody getting so uptight. The author does not say whether it is good or bad. Just gives an ‘alternative’ tour of what he/she saw. Its the booksellers choice to sell what they want, the bookbuyers right to buy what they want, and the author’s right to think what he/she does. Get over it, guys. And, yes, Smile. Its Sunnah.

  18. shahran says:
    December 30th, 2010 6:13 pm

    I totally disagree with the author on this blog and I think the title saying what Pakistanis are reading is not appropriate. It seems that this was blog from a English Speaking / Enlightened Moderated section who is always apologetic when it comes to mention the great Urdu Literature.

    The author failed to mention the positive highlights of the event.

    Check this long line.


    1. For the first time, 7 indian publisher were invited and their stalls were packed with visitors.

    2. Pakistan’s famous actor / writer Kamal Ahmed Rizvi was there with his new collection of his dramas “Sheeshay Ka Maseeha” was there.


    3. There were stalls where you had Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi’s works. I am not sure why the author failed to mention that probably he may have heard about him as most of our so called “English Speaking Elite” does not know who he is.

    It is probably due to his bias against Urdu Literature which is observed from his concern on not finding a Dale Carnegie book and not mentioning.

  19. Qamar says:
    December 30th, 2010 7:07 pm

    @Shahran. Man, first read what is written in the post. Specially about Carniege. Also, if the “highlight” of the event was Kamal Rizvi showing up, then even for this Alif-Noon fan, it must b=have been quite a boring event. Is that the best you can come up with. There is plenty of Urdu literature to be proud of, the Jamaati propaganda stuff that is talked about here is NOT literature, even if it is in Urdu!

    Besides that, I enjoyed the post greatly. But like others, I a also not disturbed at all. Just intrigued. And, yes, I too already knew that this religious mumbo jumbo sells. Not just in Pakistan but everywhere, including in USA.

  20. Humayun says:
    December 30th, 2010 7:09 pm

    Interesting read. I think the book fair is still a good idea. I also enjoyed visiting it and am glad it is happening. Although I also found the excess of religious material and books disturbing. Not that I have anything against it, but, please, there is so much else to read about.

  21. Aamir Ali says:
    December 30th, 2010 9:21 pm

    If this festival had mostly religious books then it is opposite of big bookstores in Pakistan.

    Bookstores in Pakistan will contain publications mostly on politics, geopolitics, history, poetry and help in passing exams like TOEFL, SAT, GMAT etc. There also lots of technical books of medicine, engineering, I.T. etc available, as well as magazines on fashion etc.

  22. Naan Haleem says:
    December 30th, 2010 9:58 pm

    Its shameful that ATP is now using posts from other blogs to make fun of thought and literature of some religious entity. I dont know whether or not the items presented on the fair represented Islam in true sense. But clearly this post is a scornful report by someone having clear prejudice against a certain thought.

    I am not arguing on the points raised in the post. What concerns me is that ATP has published a post which was not written for ATP, more so when it is making fun of an activity by religious corners. This clearly shows narrow minded bias of ATP against right-wing elements. Has ATP run out of secular arguments that it has now started making fun of Islamic publishing? It does not suit you Prof. Najam.

  23. Kamaal Mustafa says:
    December 30th, 2010 10:00 pm


    “Ironically, if I go on your theory, our history SHOULD start from Prophet Adam(AS) then. why don’t you strive for that huh?”

    Dude, you need to learn the difference between mythology and history. There is no historical evidence that Adam was a real person.

  24. Monano says:
    December 30th, 2010 10:41 pm

    Kamaal Mustafa

    You said:
    “There is no historical evidence that Adam was a real person.”

    That is the most absurd thing I have ever read anywhere. can you please substantiate your claim? May be that will help rectify the “biggest historical lie”.


  25. kamaal mustafa says:
    December 30th, 2010 11:39 pm

    “That is the most absurd thing I have ever read anywhere. can you please substantiate your claim? May be that will help rectify the “biggest historical lie”.



    You don’t have to wait.

    All you have to do is to open any undergraduate text of world history and see if they have anything to say about Adam or Jibreel or even Santa Claus, notwithstanding what millions or billions may believe in.

    Generally I take the Cambridge World History as the standard text of history, which unfortunately is blissfully unaware of any historical personality called Adam. However since it is written by kuffars, it may not have any validity for you. So I am ready to settle for any history book written by a Pakistani historian or any other historian of repute that deals with Adam as a historical personality. The point is that apart from the evangelical literature (of christian and muslim variety), no one else has ever found any evidence about historicity of Adam. (To rub more salt to your wounds, the same historians have no qualms about accepting that Ashoka was a real historical person! How unfair!!)

  26. Musawar says:
    December 31st, 2010 12:39 am

    Nice read. Rather pathetic comments for mot part. Miss the point entirely. No problem with religious books, but huge problems with spreading lies and making up stories like the one on Jinnah and Qasim quoted here.

  27. Nasirah Muhammad says:
    December 31st, 2010 4:36 am

    I don’t find anything funny in the pamphlets. This is a totally bigoted view of the KIBF. I thought ATP presented a more pleasing view about Pakistan and not unfair criticisms. By the way i’m smiling because it’s Sunnah

  28. F says:
    December 31st, 2010 8:46 am

    Clearly, others have pointed out the biased article and the errors. The author seems to have a phobia of Islamic literature or perhaps Islam in general.

    Urdu books? Must be for the lower classes. “We” only read the agrayzi ones.

  29. Shami says:
    December 31st, 2010 10:07 am

    Why are people all getting worked up about Urdu. Some of the material mentioned was in English. Language does not matter, but the dishonesty being spread does. That is the point that is disturbing. Also, disturbing is how many people comment on a post without ever reading it!

  30. Naan Haleem says:
    December 31st, 2010 10:27 am

    I still cant get over the point that Prof. Najam and ATP had to Copy+Paste an article from SOME OTHER BLOG to make fun of Islamic literature. I am sure he has no dearth of secular arguments against the right wing religious and political movements, so why a borrowed scornful article which was not written for ATP?

  31. Aslam Arain says:
    December 31st, 2010 11:04 am

    @Naan Haleem. Please hold your jamaati indignation to yourself. The junk that was being distributed and is talked about was exactly that – JUNK. This was no Islamic “literature” it was propaganda in Maudodiat, that great enemy of Pakistan and Jinnah. You get what you pay for, which is why this junk was being dumped for free. I wonder which enemies of Pakistan have been paying for its printing and distribution.

  32. Adnan says:
    December 31st, 2010 11:08 am

    Mustafa Kamaal, though I was not interested to feed your lame rant but your comment about Adam really would have brought smiles on faces of many.

    My friend, don’t go to Adam, I think you better need to find out the history of “1st MAN” in your ancestors first. Once you find out then we will discuss whether Adam(AS) was the real man or not.

    BTW, How do I believe you exist as well? Because as they say,”On Internet, no body knows you are a dog” :-)

    p.s: BTW Adam is not a Muslim figure only. Jews and Christians also believe in both Adam and Gabriel so ironically you are taking Panga with 3 nations ;)

    Naan Haleem: Adil might be repenting for publishing the article? He was just interested to publish leftists alternative point of view. *grin*

  33. YASIN says:
    December 31st, 2010 11:09 am

    Would love to get my hands on the Farman-e-Maulana Jinnah. Interesting that all who are angry have nothing to say about the lies in that or the lies about Mohammad Bin Qasim that were being distributed. I guess if it is a lie in the cause of religion it must not be a lie at all!

  34. Adnan says:
    December 31st, 2010 11:18 am

    Aslam Bhaaai..

    I often get “FREE” CDs of Linux Distro and trust me it’s not “Junk” at all. :-)

  35. December 31st, 2010 3:34 pm

    Some comments from the ATP Facebook Page:

    - “At times it is surprising what kind of books are available in PK- just came across Muhammad Asad’s (=Leopold Weiss) book on islamic consitution making (we heard abt this book in the documentry film)! He is so freshly blunt to the core and speaks up against all this dusted and blinded following of some ‘ulema. He provokes to think- irrespective if you are secular or inquisitive to learn abt Islam. It is refreshing and delightful to read him!”
    - “Good post. Very funny. Glad that people read. Sad at what they seem to be reading.”
    - “lol…I don’t think you’ll be finding a copy of “Lolita” there any time soon…but I am kinda sad i wasn’t in Karachi for this. sounds like there might’ve been something worth finding.”
    - “A funky looking mug which reads ‘Smile, it’s Sunnah.’”

  36. lidaliqa says:
    December 31st, 2010 3:52 pm

    If this was a religious book fair then more power to them. By power I don’t want them running the country :).
    This Book Fair is a reflection of whats going on in Pakistan.

    The Mullahs are winning and in ten years these book reading people will take over Pakistan. All the seculars will leave and Fazullul Rahman will be our next prime minister.

  37. Kamaal Mustafa says:
    January 1st, 2011 7:52 am


    “My friend, don’t go to Adam, I think you better need to find out the history of “1st MAN” in your ancestors first. Once you find out then we will discuss whether Adam(AS) was the real man or not.”

    Adnan, my friend, if you really think that there was a primordial couple of man and woman from which the entire humanity has emerged, then guess what, you win.I don’t really have patience to spoon feed someone at kindergarten level.

    “BTW, How do I believe you exist as well? Because as they say,”On Internet, no body knows you are a dog” :-)”

    So, this is the best counterargument you can come up in defense of Adam as a historical person? Fine. I do not exist. If my non-existence helps you believe in your fairy tales, good for you. Enjoy.

    “BTW Adam is not a Muslim figure only. Jews and Christians also believe in both Adam and Gabriel so ironically you are taking Panga with 3 nations ;)”

    There. You said it.

    You correctly say that Muslims, Jews and Christians all *believe in* Adam and Gabriel. Now if you really think that *belief* in the existence of an entity is *evidence* of its existence, then may be you are in the wrong forum.

  38. Gifts Pakistan says:
    January 2nd, 2011 5:28 pm

    Book reading has been decreasing day by day.

  39. Lubna says:
    January 2nd, 2011 7:15 pm

    Funny post. But I must say I am glad for the fair. We need to get into the habit of reading that is the important thing.

  40. Fawad says:
    January 4th, 2011 7:01 pm

    These are the type of things that create and increase intolerance. And we know teh deadly results of intolerance.

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