National Book Day: Book reading can save Pakistan: Chandio

Law minister urges everyone to read more at a National Book Foundation event.

Express April 23, 2011


It is no easy task to even think about the ways in which Pakistan’s myriad dilemmas may be resolved. Fed on a steady diet of news about terrorist attacks, assassinations and rumours of massive corruption in the state machinery, one is often forced to conclude that the country is a lost cause.

Federal Minister for Law Maula Bux Chandio, however, puts his faith in books when considering how the forces of obscurantism, intolerance, terror and hate can be defeated and the susceptible youth put in “the right direction.”

“Book is the only weapon through which we can defeat the obscurantist and reactionary forces and save this country of mystics, ancient civilizations and peace-loving people,” he said, while addressing a select gathering of capital’s literati, intellectuals and educationists at the second National Book Day celebration on Friday, organised by the National Book Foundation (NBF).

Speaking about his own indebtedness to books, Chandio, who is an acclaimed writer of three books himself, “Whatever I am today is because of book.” He advised other politicians to read books regularly in order to resolve the country’s problems.

Feeling strangely grateful to his days as a prisoner during Ziaul Haq’s regime, he said, “I feel lucky to have been in prison, where I had abundant time to read books and find in them a great source of inspiration and courage. Books make solitude meaningful and diminish the fear of death.”

He said the government had reopened the Zulfikar Ali Bhutto case in order to rectify history and obtain justice from the independent judiciary. “We want justice and nothing else. We do not want to take revenge from any one. We just want to rectify a historical blunder, straighten records and reclaim the rightful place in history of a genius and great statesman like ZAB. He loved books and till his last day told his detractors that he will remain alive in history,” the minister said eloquently with a chocked voice.

“We seek only a one-line decision from the court that Bhutto was innocent and the decision to hang him was made under duress.”

The minister showered glowing praises upon Bhutto for his vision, intellect, education-friendly policies and establishing great institutions of culture and learning like NBF. “Pakistan’s history will always remember the unprecedented contributions and sacrifices rendered by Bhutto and his illustrious daughter,” he said.

Books were so close to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s heart that when he was asked about his will, he said “People will read my will in books.” He said the Pakistan People’s Party had inherited its book legacy from its founder and his slain daughter, who had always raised their voices for the common man.

Senator Chandio appreciated the efforts of NBF for reviving and promoting the spirit of reading. He appreciated the innovative ideas of the foundation’s present Managing Director Mazharul Islam, who himself is a noted writer, saying, “Now it truly looks like a book related institution.” He attributed their long friendship to their “common passion and love for books.”

In his welcome address, Mazharul Islam talked about various NBF projects, including Village Book Clubs, Travelers Book Club, Prisoners’ Free Minds Book Clubs and Hospital Book Clubs.

A number of noted writers, poets, broadcasters and educationists, including Shabnam Shakeel, Jalil Aali, Agha Nasir, Dr Anwar Hussain Siddiqui, Dr Perveen Qadir Agha, Re’na Seerat, Agha Afzal and Abdal Bela attended the event.

Earlier, the chief guest inaugurated a book fair. Islamabad College for Girls (ICG) F-6/2 students, led by Principal Shaista Pirzada participated in the day’s activities. More than 50 colourfully dressed students took part in a book march and played with a band. Children attracted attention by wearing colourful costumes, carrying placards inscribed with book-friendly quotes such as `Books: our faithful companions in a faithless world’.

Visitors took great interest and purchased books on discounted rates.  Later in the evening, a book reading session was also held for children and the general public. Prominent personalities, intellectuals and writers delighted the audience with their stories and extracts from famous books.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 23rd, 2011.


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