The bookkeeper of Khalabat

For Qamar Zaman, increasing access to knowledge has been the driving force

Yawar Hayat September 26, 2021
The librarian attends a phone call to answer queries of people regarding availability of books. PHOTO: EXPRESS


Out of the many virtues of life, one is selfless commitment to a cause bigger than yourself. For Qamar Zaman, this has been the driving force behind the last quarter-of-a-century, that he’s dedicated to increasing access to knowledge in his hometown of Khalabat.

For the past many decades, his peri-urban township had dwelled in absence of a public library, until the 65-year old, who born without sight decided to take it upon himself to change that. “We had no facility where our youth could sit and read in peace, so inadvertently the culture of reading was also dying down,” he said, explaining his motivation behind establishing the National Public Library.

Zaman, who cannot see what his facility looks like, believes it to be a delightful place of learning and growing for his community. “He [Zaman] has the entire space mapped out in his head,” said the elderly librarian’s brother who often man’s the library while the 65-year old is at the mosque. “He knows every book, every shelf, every nook and cranny of this place like the back of his hand and can easily point readers to exactly the title they’re looking for,” he added.

Although the Zaman’s public athenaeum stems from humble beginnings, over the course of the last 25-years, he tells, the library has grown manifolds. Today, it houses a plethora of books on a variety of topics and has emerged as local hotspot for readers, thinkers, artists and philosophers who for the longest time, had ached for access to a facility like such. “Not many, but there are a few youngsters who come here and are so excited to see all the literature at their disposal that they sit here for hours and finish entire books in one day,” the librarian expressed with a hint of pride.

Read Pakistani village achieves what eludes most in developed world: Full literacy

Most of the young people who visit the library however are students of seminaries who read religious books as part of their studies, but from time to time a youth or two also walk through the library’s doors in search of an investigative novel or something more thrilling. “I want people to read for the sheer joy of it and not out of academic compulsion, which makes it draining and stressful,” the elderly man opined.

Talking about his future plans, the golden-ager said that since his son earns for the family now, he does not have to worry about making money and putting food on the table.

“It is and has always been a dream of mine to see a modern library in my township. I want to be able to do that by upgrading my public library and equipping it with books of all kinds, so that the youth here has access to all the knowledge in the world, and they too experience the joy of reading like we once did,” the elderly librarian told The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2021.


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