Islamabad’s long promised public library, Shehr-e-Kitab, finally opens

Updated March 28, 2016

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Visitors look at books at Shehr-e-Kitab after its inauguration on Sunday. — Photo by Ishaque Chaudhry
Visitors look at books at Shehr-e-Kitab after its inauguration on Sunday. — Photo by Ishaque Chaudhry

ISLAMABAD: A public library was finally inaugurated in the city on Sunday, 24 years after it was first promised. Shehr-e-Kitab, or the city of books, was formally inaugurated at a ceremony in F-7 Markaz.

The library could not be opened before because of encroachment on land set aside for it in 1994 near the Lal Masjid administration.

Speaking at the event, the managing director of the National Book Foundation (NBF), Dr Inamul Haq Javed, said the land was encroached upon by the Lal Masjid administration before construction work on the library could be started.

“After efforts by the then NBF managing director and renowned poet Ahmed Faraz, a plot for the library was set aside in the markaz of sector F-7,” he said.

That plot was also encroached upon and an office building was constructed on it, Mr Javed said, adding that after he was given charge of NBF, he started efforts towards vacating the plot.

He said the library is stocked with books catering to everyone, young and old alike and that books will be sold at prices that are 10 to 55pc below the market rate.

“We are holding our seventh book fair in April at the library as well. The theme for the fair will be ‘Book is life’. I believe books play an important role in the betterment of the society,” he added.

The Shehr-e-Kitab measure 65 by 90 feet, according to an NBF official.

“Some 28 book stalls, both private and NBF ones, have been set up on the plot and these stalls will remain open from 10am to 10 at night throughout the week,” he said.

A bigger city of books will be opened in Karachi, said Adviser to the Prime Minister on National History and Literary Heritage (NHLH) Irfan Siddiqui, who also attended the inauguration.

“Land for this purpose has been acquired. The book city in Karachi will have the capacity of more than 100 stalls. Similar projects will be launched in other provinces as well in order to promote book culture and to promote education,” he said.

Mr Siddiqui also said that a museum will be established in the federal capital and that land for this has been acquired near Lok Virsa.

A public library should have been constructed a long time ago, said NHLH secretary Mohsin S. Haqqani, adding that before a book city is established in Karachi, one should be built in Peshawar.

A representative of book stall holders at the city of books, Nadeem Iqbal Siddiqui said the project will prove “wonderful for the promotion of books”.

“NBF started a book van at first, which was not very successful. After that, books were sold out of tent, which was not very convenient when it rained or when it was particularly hot. However, book city will definitely be a success,” he said.

Those attending the event then took a walk with a book in their hands to participate in a ‘book walk’.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2016