Literature in bondage

Books>> TALIBANISATION • Pakistan

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

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Landmark bookstores in Peshawar are winding up. The latest to close is the 55-year-old Maktaba-e Sarhad, which has been a culture point. “Those who love reading books have no money and those with money are busy in other activities,” owner Haji Rasheed told RFE/RL. He will start selling computers and TVs. Those who want to continue selling books are moving to comparatively secure regions like Islamabad.

Since 2001, bombings and suicide attacks have become common in Peshawar. Militant groups openly rail against institutions they see as Western-influenced or corrupting Islamic values. Music stores and bookstores are among their favourite targets, reports the news service. Militants also directly undercut bookstores’ sales by distributing Jihadi literature outside mosques.

Peshawar is a fertile ground for extremism, partly because there is a constant influx of internally displaced persons or refugees from Afghanistan. Closure of the bookstores not only deprives Peshawar of books, it robs the intellectuals of places to meet and feel strong enough to resist extremists. “We have a very good (Pashto and Urdu) literary tradition, but it is in the bondage of a certain ideology,” Nasir Yousuf told REF/RL. He calls the collapse of bookstores selling foreign literature a steady isolation of Peshawar from the world of ideas. Along with city’s intellectuals, Yousuf is forming a readers’ club to plug the gap.

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