Closure: Final page turns on Saeed Book Bank Peshawar

Published: February 24, 2011
The sign outside the famous bookstore brings pain to the heart of any avid reader. PHOTO: MANZOOR ALI

The sign outside the famous bookstore brings pain to the heart of any avid reader. PHOTO: MANZOOR ALI

PESHAWAR: A significant chapter in Peshwar’s literary history came to a close as the largest bookstore in the provincial metropolis shut down after over 40 years of operation.

The massive bookshop’s shutters have stayed down, with owners placing a banner notifying that the books will be shifted to their main store in Islamabad.

When contacted, Saeed Book Bank employee Manzoor Hussain told The Express Tribune that the shop had been closed for three days. The owner, Akbar Saeed, said lack of readership in Peshawar compelled him to shift his business to Islamabad.

“There is no reading culture in Peshawar and we mostly deal in foreign titles,” Akbar said. The family-owned business was established in 1955.

The closure of the shop came as a shock to avid readers.  Javed Khan, a resident of Peshawar termed the closure a setback for the city. “It is indeed sad news that the only bookshop where we had the luxury to browse through shelf upon shelf of fresh imported titles is gone.”

A spate of bombings in recent years had exhausted the city’s avenues for entertainment, with people often being wary of stepping outside their homes. The closing down of the oldest bookstore seems to be the final nail in the art of imagination in Peshawar.

“Where should I go if I need books? All the way to Islamabad to purchase a single title?” he rhetorically asked.

The bookstore’s section on Afghanistan and north-western Pakistan including the tribal areas was one of the most popular here and contained a mammoth number of titles, beginning with some of the earliest texts up to the most recently published.

“The last book I purchased from that section was a rare book, ‘The wind blows away our words’ by Noble Laureate Doris Lessing on her experience with the Afghani resistance,” Khan said.

The closure of the city’s largest book store came at a time when it is struggling to return to normalcy after devastating bombings in recent years that have taken hundreds of lives and rendered the city barren of culture.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (44)

  • Feb 24, 2011 - 11:26AM

    I am sad, and I have nice memories of bookshop in 1999-2000, it speaks volumes about the value of knowledge in city of cultural melting pot.

    Mere memories remain and , it is pretty sad to learn this. I have no words to say so, but perhaps I can console myself as in recent times in Shanghai many book stores have been shut down…. same reason… no readers!! But Peshawar and Shanghai are worlds apart, so materiality reigns supreme.

    Imagination is dying……………how far humanity can survive without thinking?Recommend

  • Feb 24, 2011 - 11:35AM

    Indeed, Closure of Saeed Book Bank is an excruciating event which is the only treasure for avid readers and students especially for aspirants of competitive exams and literary figures. We appeals to the Govt of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to beef up security such like sensitive area for the best interest of public and to save young generation from bleak future.Recommend

  • noor
    Feb 24, 2011 - 11:49AM

    It is actually very sad, the kind of time we are going thru in pakistan with all these bomb blast and people. The only healthy entertainment is reading good books But thanks to all these things now we are loosing that as well. A big lose.Recommend

  • The_Analyst
    Feb 24, 2011 - 12:03PM

    A very sad news indeed :-(Recommend

  • Maria Qazi
    Feb 24, 2011 - 1:00PM

    Very very sad:(…. i’ve grown-up listening to this name and went here as a child.Recommend

  • sashayub
    Feb 24, 2011 - 1:44PM

    while i can totally understand the lack of readership (a financial situation) to close down business of Saeed Book Bank in Peshawar, i would not be hesitent in pointing out the underlying situation, where they may have been threatened by various “islamists” to close shop for selling foreign titles and not enough deen-o-dunya type books….another reason to fear a bomb explosion :(Recommend

  • nasir afridi
    Feb 24, 2011 - 2:57PM

    extremely bad news …Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Feb 24, 2011 - 3:20PM

    This store is a haven for all ages and this news is very disappointing. We, instead of expanding our horizons feel compelled to limit; Why not have an outlet in Lahore as well?Recommend

  • Feb 24, 2011 - 3:40PM

    This speaks of the volume of day to day affairs of ANP Government. Where is there so called policy of replacing Topak (Pashto word for Kalashnikov Rifle) which was to be replaced by Qalm (Pashto word for Pen) ???Recommend

  • Omar
    Feb 24, 2011 - 5:09PM

    The whole world is following the online-business-model for selling books. Saeed Book Bank should also follow that. Their current website is a mess! Recommend

  • Safyan Kakakhel
    Feb 24, 2011 - 5:31PM

    I know this news is saddening for most of us because of the emotional attachment with the Book Store and it’s existence since our earliest memories of growing up in Peshawar. But the reality is, Book Stores around the world are surely facing decreased customers and sales, and the obvious reason for that is the boundless, free, and instantly accessible reading material available on The Internet! Let’s hope Saeed Book Banks all the best and thank them for their invaluable service to the city of Peshawar over all these years. The spirit of Peshawar will live on and new venues of knowledge, art and culture will spring all over soon, hopefully.Recommend

  • fiza
    Feb 24, 2011 - 9:39PM

    its sad to hear that cuz whenever i was in need of a book saeed book bank was the first place,well we can’t change the owner’s mind i don’t think that it is right to say “there is no reading culture in Peshawar”Recommend

  • Bangash
    Feb 24, 2011 - 10:04PM

    This is very sad. A landmark store in Peshawar has closed. Recommend

  • takhalus
    Feb 24, 2011 - 10:18PM

    Very sad news Saeed book bank is a virtual institution of Peshawar its loss will be irreplaceable. unfortunately location, overall decline in NGO presence all have played a role in damaging its financial situationRecommend

    Feb 25, 2011 - 12:48AM

    its xtremly sad n hurting by listng suc a sad has been my most fovrite place in peshawar fr buying medical books,,its a grt loss fr peshawar..m realy feeling sad…..Recommend

  • Naveed Durrani
    Feb 25, 2011 - 1:21AM

    Its sad. I live in London but regularly visit my birth place, the awesome city of Peshawar.
    It appears to me that deliberate and desperate measures are taken by certain people to bring down a group of proud people to their knees through terror and economic sanctions..
    Saddar, where house hold names have established are declining and re-locating due to very harsh circumstances, education is the key to enlightment. Recommend

  • Feb 25, 2011 - 6:55AM

    It is death of Reading Habit. Peshawar is capital city of newly named Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan and the Saeed Book Bank was a place of literate people to get about all of the printed and published material was available under the ceiling of this book bank. People of Peshawar have lost lot of paradises and this is one more we are missing and losing. It is our bad luck and death of a culture of book reading. Recommend

  • Ed
    Feb 25, 2011 - 10:27AM

    Some recent articles in the media have covered the return of the dancing girls of Swat as signs of “normalcy and cultural activities” returning to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. I wonder what the closure of Saeed Book Bank point towards?
    I would appeal to the owners of the book bank atleast to have a token presence in Peshawar. A mobile book shop in a shehzore truck visiting Peshawar on weekends with a limited selection of books and catalogues for placing orders for the next week is an idea that can be looked into.Recommend

  • Feb 25, 2011 - 5:37PM

    This is very sad. I’m not sure when did they really started the business but once i met a driver of the Pakhtoonkhwa Agriculture univeristy, he had an old book with him and as much as he loved it, he loved the stamp on it saying “Saeed Book Bank, Peshawar, India” so apparently they use to have thier business even before partition. WIth Peshawar as their base it even more sad that now they are closing and are saying “Saeed Book Bank has shifted to it’s head office Islamabad”, whereas really the head shop should be Peshawar. — I hoep they revisit their decision of closer and decide the other way, to keep it not only open but do the publicity so it can gain more client base.Recommend

  • Amber
    Feb 26, 2011 - 12:20AM

    Its really sad but I want to ask those who have left their country (Pakistan) and have moved abroad for their own bright future, have u ppl ever thought that what wud the country do wdout its youth?????? The educated youth who has gone to serve the other nations leaving their own homeland for poor n uneducated ppl or the elders who have taught them who have now becum too old to teach today’s children???? Do u really have the right to be even sad for the country???? If today saeed book sellers have shfted to Islamabad for their own benefit why r u sad??? because u did it before them; and have u thought for a moment that a forty years established business y came to an end today??? it shud have even more readers today its because the educated youth has gone abroad many old ppl have died or are weak to continue with buk reading wd same energy
    Its this bad luck of the country that the effort done by our elders twenty to thirty years back all gone waste If i cud i wud never have allowd these ppl who lft their motherland for money to cum back even for once in their life
    anyway i want to assure u all that dnt b sad IA v’ll hv our country educated in near future n Allah would help us for this mission n v soon saeed buk wud b back in peshawer. All d best to my country n my city PeshawarRecommend

  • Siraj
    Feb 26, 2011 - 1:52AM

    This is not a good sign,, and it suggest the state of security and readership in the city of peshawar. But instead of Closing it down the owners and properiators should have thought of alterantive ways e.g selling of text books and online sale.

    However it is the duty of evry one educated and uneducated to make efforts to have this store back,, it is still possible if the owner and properiatrs show some more patience and the readers could give them hope that still we have hundred of thoudsand of people who are interested in reading and learning!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    We, as a nation will continue to read and learn, as knowledge and literature has been and should be our Identity.Recommend

  • saleem
    Feb 26, 2011 - 2:58AM

    Very saddening indeed !! We have to think where are we heading ??Recommend

  • Amna Sharif
    Feb 26, 2011 - 11:37AM

    This is by far one of the saddest news that i have heard. not only was Saeed book bank a haven for all the book lovers but also the one place in Peshawar where you could go and indulge in the luxuries of the written word. one of the most dearly loved book store has been closed because of lack of readers available. one finds oneself wondering, how can anyone NOT befriend books? the sole companions of solitude…

    It seems as if we in particular the people of Peshawar are only moving backwards. Opening of grand plazas and car showrooms is not the measure of a society’s quality of life, its the values, the importance of education and most importantly the presence of intellectuals who know how to make a difference.

    Cannot explain what deep loss I am feeling at hearing this news, so many memories and such dear feelings to the only place in Peshawar that offered you almost everything you wanted to read. This basically depicts the intellectual decline our society as a whole has been going through since the past many years.Recommend

  • maria salman
    Feb 26, 2011 - 12:57PM

    the loss can only be felt truly by a true reader. saeed book bank was the only shop in the city where any person belonging to any age group or any interest could find material of his or her own interest.Recommend

  • Feb 26, 2011 - 5:07PM

    People at least we (the citizens of the world) still have Project Gutenberg, which is perhaps the largest collection of free online books (in text as well as audio formats).

    Though I don’t think they digitize new titles. Recommend

  • Aimal
    Feb 26, 2011 - 5:08PM

    whats next ………… chief burger, wadud sons and imperial all shifting their “head offices” to islamabadRecommend

  • Zubair Ahmad Gigyani
    Feb 27, 2011 - 9:22AM

    Its indeed a sad news,…for book lover and obvious reason is the internet as the cheaper way of getting knowledge.BUT why should we worried as already there is in front of saeed book bank is LONDON BOOK .CO and SHAHEEN BOOK STORE (though not in access number) still if there is will ,there is a way…:)
    and atleast chief burger is making good business,centre of attention of every fastfood lover especially youngster, inspite of the introduction of KFC and PIZZA HUT …!!Recommend

  • Ashok
    Feb 27, 2011 - 10:55AM

    This is occurring not only in Pakistan, but in other parts of the world – a sign of the times. Barnes and Noble, as well as Borders Bookstores, the two largest brick and mortar bookstore chains across America, have filed for bankruptcy due to financial difficulties. So take heart Peshawar, you’re not alone.

    Peshawar’s bookstore closing may have had to do with a lack of local reading culture (as mentioned in the article) and/or lack of physical security, whereas in USA, it is most likely due to better deals (even after shipping costs) online book retailers like Amazon offer to consumers.Recommend

  • Feb 28, 2011 - 3:36AM

    This was my favorite place every time I visited Peshawar. I am very sad over this news. A setback to the literary circles. Publishing industry even in the US is facing similar problems. Recently, Borders, one the biggest bookstore chains in the US, decided to shut down its branch in Phoenix, Arizona, and sell the books in a grand sale. Recommend

  • Feb 28, 2011 - 8:31AM

    The late founder of Saeed Book Bank was a self made personality. He was a good administrator and also a best organizer. I used to go in his showroom. I want to add his biography in my Peshawar relating website as he was one of the remarkable celebrities of Peshawar.Recommend

  • Feb 28, 2011 - 8:40AM

    @Naveed Durrani:
    Same is happening with libraries. There was a Municipal Public Library in Peshawar. That was established 1924. This library is still existing, but it is in worst miserable condition. There is no qualified librarian. Illiterate peons are running that Nishtar Municipal Public Library. This is a tragedy of literary world. I am owner of, the under construction website wants to tell all of the truth about Peshawar.Recommend

  • cidpusa
    Feb 28, 2011 - 8:46AM

    The internet provides E-Books and this has killed Bookstores all over the worldRecommend

  • Palvasha von Hassell
    Feb 28, 2011 - 6:58PM

    The end of an era…tragic! It was a household name all my life, and one of our mainstays. Thank God I went there last year on a trip home. Very saddening.Recommend

  • Feb 28, 2011 - 9:42PM

    My name is Tahir Ali and i am a Senior Accountant of SAEED BOOK BANK for the last 6 years, it’s sad for each others but my friends do you know about those who lost their ages in this Shop since a long.

    Mr. Akbar Saeed has turned off the shop and said “There is no reading culture in Peshawar and we mostly deal in foreign titles,” Akbar said. The family-owned business was established in 1955 but point to be noted here that a lot of Old Age Persons / Poor peoples also end their jobs due to their decision. (Without any Banifit)

    Allah help them who are in financial hardship because i know about their financial situations very well.

    Tahir Ali Senior Accountant SAEED BOOK BANK Cell: 03349031708 Recommend

  • Palvasha von Hassell
    Mar 1, 2011 - 7:21PM

    @Tahir Ali:
    Very sorry to hear this, hope sincerely some form of redress can be made available to those life-long employees who contributed so much to the unique atmosphere of Saeed Book Bank and who have been made jobless without recompense. Best of luck to them, and my sympathies.Recommend

  • samiya asmat
    Mar 1, 2011 - 11:30PM

    a great loss to our peshawer.Recommend

  • Fida Wazir
    Mar 1, 2011 - 11:36PM

    thats very bad news for those brothers and sisters who love to read books, Saeed was not only the zone of new ones but the oldest too, so this going to the way where one day everyone will try to shift his everything to abroad.. very very Bad mi dears.Recommend

  • Sulaiman
    Mar 2, 2011 - 12:50AM

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, da waley =[… I have been out of the country for a year now and I was looking forward to coming back in summer and enjoying saeed book bank please tell me this is a sick joke! Recommend

  • Mar 2, 2011 - 6:10AM

    Excruciatingly sad.Recommend

  • Qaisar
    Mar 2, 2011 - 6:30AM

    Very sad to hear the news about the closure of Saeed Book Bank. I just told my colleague about few books which I still have from the same store when I was in UET. This is dilemma in our country and specifically KP that people are going towards darkness. Quran says “from darkness to light“. Recommend

  • Usman
    Mar 2, 2011 - 2:34PM

    Sad news but this is not because of less readers but because of the owner’s own failure. Time have changed and so have customers, the owners could have modernized their way of selling books but Mr. Saeed never changed his mindset.
    Years back i used to visit this shop regularly and i always wanted an alternate bookshop because of the attitude book bank owners had. Even then i will call this a major setback to Peshawar community which already lacked options.Recommend

  • mahwish
    Mar 14, 2011 - 8:34PM

    its a bad news for book readers and for students. because mostly we buy book related to text or to literature and cards from saeed book band. Recommend

  • Atif Hameed
    Apr 2, 2011 - 11:02AM

    Very disapointing News.

    recently after the perminent closure of KHAN KLUB Hotel in Peshawar I felt that it will set very bad example for other businesses and institutions in Pesh. Now the closure of Saeed Book Bank will bring more negitive impect to the City of Hispitality (Peshawar).

    I dont know what are the resons behind this but I am feeling so bad and looking forward and hopeful that SBB management will realise and will respect the peoples opinion here in Peshawar. The closure of SBB is not acceptible to any one here and of course we are the peacefull citizens and want to spread knowledge, Books & education.

    Please do not close healthy and progressive activities in our city. I have suggession if the continuation is not possible for the SBB management here in Pesh then there are many other options for continuation like Franchise or authorirse sellers / distribution. I hope you peoples (Resindence of Peshawar) will support the suggession because we want to see SBB in Peshawar again.Recommend

  • Apr 2, 2011 - 1:15PM

    A sad news. It is sickness and death of Reading habit, Recommend

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