Quetta's lone library is crowded with students reading books ranging from philosophy to democracy. Arrive early and the students and avid readers get yellow wooden desks. The latecomers have to settle for a place on the floor.
“The government could at least provide chairs so that students don’t have to study on the floor,” requests Musa Babul son of a farmer from Turbat.
As an FSc student, Babul has come to Quetta to further his education. “We cannot study properly because of overcrowding,” he claims.
Poor quality of education, lack of basic facilities and law and order situations compel students to leave their hometowns and come to Quetta for their schooling. “It was because of education, that I migrated from Turbat to Quetta,” Babul relays, grasping a book on medicine.
Students like Babul try and remain focused, at times avoiding eye contact with one another, as the hallways and desks become increasingly congested owing to a lack of space and a steady increase in patrons at the Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah library.
Located on the busy Jinnah road, in the heart of Quetta, the library attracts students from across the province. Engraved on the outer walls are portraits of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Jinnah, Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Baloch ideologue Gul Khan Naseer and renowned poet Atta Shad.
Jinnah road itself has served to be the center of Baloch and Pakhtun intellectuals, authors, politicians and bureaucrats.
Over the years libraries have played a crucial role in the ideological development of societies. They have helped produce leaders, writers and teachers who serve societies. It even aids in the reduction of crime, extremism and terrorism.
Yet in a city of 2.2 million people, according to the most recent census, a solitary site to house collections and archives of literature is insufficient.
“The city has changed, and the virus of education has penetrated the younger generation,” claims Abdul Hayee Kakar, a seasoned journalist working with Radio Free Europe. He adds that, “Materialistically, Balochistan is poor, but from an intellectual point of view and regarding political vision, it is so rich.”
With the trend of competitive examinations developing in Balochistan, students from poverty-hit and marginalised parts of the province, normally incapable of access to expensive examination books, come to the library to study for a multitude of tests.
“Libraries should be established on a district level,” suggests Inayatullah, a student of physics at Balochistan University using the library to prepare for his exam.
Najeebullah, another student from Pishin, is grateful for the library. “I cannot purchase costly books for competitive exams, therefore I regularly come to this library,” he says as he prepares for a Senior Science Teacher exam.
This enthusiasm for education has seen the library invest in its resources.“We purchased four million rupees worth of books of competitive examinations for students,” relays Ghullam Ali Baloch, the former secretary of culture.
Despite the capacity being 450 the library has seen a horde of students, approximately 4000, register with the library, including 100 female patrons. Even then over 600 students can often be seen sprawled out with their noses buried in books, recounts Muhammad Iftikhar.
As the librarian, Iftikhar has seen a rise in students coming from Baloch areas, particularly Makran, as compared to previous years when most students hailed from Pakhtun areas.
The library also boasts a separate section for children, involving them in creative activities, remaining consistent with nurturing the future of the province.