Booksellers take Taliban threat seriously

Published October 14, 2013
A copy of the memoirs of Pakistani child activist Malala Yousufzai is pictured in a bookstore in Islamabad on October 8, 2013. — Photo by AFP
A copy of the memoirs of Pakistani child activist Malala Yousufzai is pictured in a bookstore in Islamabad on October 8, 2013. — Photo by AFP

PESHAWAR: When Taliban say something, the people of Peshawar listen and local businessmen take the words seriously, as well.

The militants’ sinister influence on public life is a reality no one can avoid. Taliban are a reality, they are going to stay here in the foreseeable future, and they mean business about their decrees. People know all this very well.

That’s the reason when Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) banned Malala Yousufzai’s memoir ‘I am Malala’, it was taken seriously.

A major book selling firm of Peshawar cancelled its ‘I am Malala’ purchase order the day the Taliban decree was published by local newspapers.

“Who can dare ignore their words, they will blow us up,” said a sales representative of the company.

Fear defines the choices people make these days in this city. So many deaths and sufferings have been suffered at the hands of the forces of dread and doom that the people have developed the knack to acknowledge the expanding Taliban threat.

They were left with restrict mobility long ago. An ineffective network of military and police checkposts, thrown in and around the provincial metropolis, carries a strong bearing on the city dwellers’ daily life. Long queues of vehicular traffic at these checkposts have won a general public acceptance. The closure of previously frequented city roads has become a reality to live with.

Music parties on weddings are not considered a good idea, these days. Numerous local musicians have either migrated to other areas in the country or gave up their profession. The people avoid open and frank discussions about matters relating to religion. Late night, travel is not considered safe to-and-from areas in close proximity to Peshawar.

The militants’ pronouncements hold sway over the people’s personal preferences and political thoughts. Sanity is losing space to fears of dread. An element of resilience,characteristic of brevity is there in public response to the Taliban threat. The submissive resilience is more of subjugation to the Taliban tyranny.

“Please don’t put that book (I am Malala) on sale here, we don’t want to get killed in an explosion at this place,” said a female customer, interrupting the salesperson when he was talking to another customer about the book store’s decision to cancel its initial order for 20 books.

“A good number of the people have contacted us, but we asked them to contact booksellers in Islamabad,” said the bookseller.

“We can’t take risk with people’s lives after the Taliban decree,” remarked another salesperson. He said bookshops at Islamabad had removed the book from their display shelves.

His words conveyed a mix of surprise and shock. However, he was not wrong.

A major bookseller in Islamabad, originally a Peshawar-based company, which wound up its business from the provincial capital in 2011 due to the growing Taliban danger, is not selling the book either.

“We are not selling the book and don’t know who is the distributor,” said its representative when contacted.

A growing space is being lost to the militants who have apparently been given the ease to take initiative and decide what is good for the people at large.

Taliban are a reality hard to miss, they decide what people should wear in schools and universities, whom they should not vote for in the general elections, and now they have also assumed the role to decide what people should not read. Co-existence with militants is the name of the game.

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