After 55 years of being a cultural hub for the locals and foreign workers of Peshawar, Pakistan, the Maktaba-e Sarhad bookstore is being closed. Owner Haji Rasheed collected and maintained over 30,000 books to encompass a whole world of ideas into his shop in the heart of Peshawar. Over the last month, everything was discounted down to fifty percent off and Haji is left with around 3,000 books. He is switching over to selling computers and televisions. In an interview with Radio Mashaal, Marvais Khan, Haji stated that those that enjoy reading books have no money to actually buy the books, and those with money, especially in Peshawar, are not buying books. However, general business failure is not the reason behind the closure.
Peshawar’s bookstores are being pushed out of the city due to both Talibanization and the economics of bookstores. Over the last sixteen years, bombings have been more routine in Peshawar and militant groups have been attacking institutions viewed as “Western—influenced” and going against Islamic values; bookstores have been an effective target. While these bookstores have been targeted, free alternatives have been put in place by the militant groups in the city as well; however, the choice is not as worldly. Jihadist literature has been handed outside mosques once a week. The education of the people of Peshawar is dwindling because of the limited options that are being presented, especially with the push of bookstores out of the city. These bookstores are either shutting down, or moving to the major cities within Pakistan, stripping the rural areas of literature. Students are losing access to literature, other than the free Jihadist readings; in turn, losing the ability to expand their educational background. The Radio Free Europe article makes the connection and focuses on the issue of deprivation of literature and education could lead to an increase in the inability to resist extremist.
Samar Minallah, a women’s right activist living in Islamabad commented on the education for the youth now living in Peshawar:
“When I was studying in Peshawar, Saeed Book Bank was full of youngsters. Even those who were not buying books, they would also know about the new books by visiting the shop. Adjacent to Saeed Book Bank there was a shop for the repair of musical instruments [now closed]. The old Book Shop was not merely a book shop; it was a symbol of our culture. Our younger generations are being deprived of these cultural roots.”
The Washington Post sheds a different light on the reasoning, with the focus on the lack of modernization in Peshawar and a push for technology and development. While technological and cultural changes might be present in current day Peshawar, this is not the struggle story of a small bookstore in the United States. The lack of access to literature is pushing the youth away from reading, especially in rural areas. Modernization does not necessarily allude to books becoming unpopular. The shutting down of bookstores leads to under-educated youth who do not have access to ideas other than what is being handed to them. The militant groups, almost with a post-Marxist view in mind, are focusing on stripping the powers of the bookstores because of the western ideals promoted within them; the content of the bookstores is stripping the country of a local education.
Read More on Current News in Peshawar:
The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/peshawars-last-bookstore-closes-a-victim-of-iphones-and-islamist-extremism/2016/09/23/1e94dcca-7a7a-11e6-8064-c1ddc8a724bb_story.html