Maktaba Sarhad: Another treasure trove closes down

Published: April 20, 2012
Maktaba Sarhad, one of the leading bookshops of Peshawar, is closing down after being in business for over five decades. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL/EXPRESS

Maktaba Sarhad, one of the leading bookshops of Peshawar, is closing down after being in business for over five decades. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD IQBAL/EXPRESS


‘50 per cent discount on all books,’ reads a sign at the entrance of Maktaba Sarhad in Khyber Bazar in Peshawar. Inside, empty book shelves stare visitors in the face while occasional enthusiasts scurry between some of the shelves.

Abdur Rashid, the owner of this shop, sits close to the entrance. Sitting in the same spot, Rashid saw his shop’s heydays but since March 23, all he sees is its liquidation. This is how Maktaba Sarhad, one of the leading bookshops of the provincial capital, is closing down after being in business for over five decades. “We traded in books for about 55 years, but it is no longer economically feasible for us to continue this business,” Rashid told The Express Tribune.

Recalling his shop’s history, Rashid says that he opened the shop in partnership with the University Book Agency — another leading bookseller of Peshawar. Later, both shops came to Khyber Bazar, while their partnership came to an end in 1989. The shops are now situated next to each other in Khyber Bazar.

Dwindling book sales

Rashid cites dwindling purchasing power as one of the main reasons behind the decision to shut down the bookshop. “We put the available stock on sale on March 23 and most of the books have been sold by now,” he said while adding that after clearing the stocks, the shop will house electronics.

Apart from that, Rashid also blames the changing trends for the lack of interest in reading. “Previously, people used to purchase books and loved reading,” he said, adding that these days even students do not bother to read and prefer guides and short notes to just scrape through examinations. “It’s sad that even those who have the purchasing power to buy books have no real love for books, while those who do love books have no money.”

Third in line

Maktaba Sarhad’s closure is the third one of a book shop in the provincial capital over the past one year. In February last year, the city’s oldest and largest bookshop — Saeed Book Bank — shifted to Islamabad due to a persistent decline in sales. Exactly a year later, Old Book Shop, which is the largest book shop for second hand books also closed down.

Readers’ club

Peshawar’s small readers’ community is witnessing these closures with a heavy heart. To promote reading habits among local population they have opened the Peshawar Readers Club.

Dr Adil Zarif, founder member of The Citizens for Clean Environment (CCE), said that the closure of bookshops reflects a consumerist society, where not much heed is paid to the thirst for knowledge. He says that there were some shops in the city, but most of the bookshops’ collections lacked variety. “It is a trend of a consumerist society to discourage critical thinking,” he added.

Meanwhile, Nasser Yousaf, a columnist who writes on cultural issues, said he purchases books from his hometown Abbottabad, besides Peshawar and Islamabad. Yousaf is of the view that children can be encouraged to read more by introducing compulsory reading material in their syllabus.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • SAB Sohail
    Apr 20, 2012 - 11:11PM

    decline of a nation! pity the nation


  • confused
    Apr 21, 2012 - 1:48PM

    @SAB Sohail:



  • gujranwala987
    Apr 21, 2012 - 5:50PM

    Knowledge is everything, Ignorance is what makes you to be exploited some times in the name of religion, societal values, historical traditions etc. Knowledge is the the only way to go for self emancipation from the clutches of exploitation.


  • salarmaiwand
    Apr 21, 2012 - 8:20PM



  • A.R
    Apr 22, 2012 - 3:29AM

    it’s just sad to see that book reading is on the decline ! they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers ! – Charles. E. Eliot


  • A.R
    Apr 22, 2012 - 3:33AM

    oh and i forgot :”This will never be a civilized country until we expend more money for books than we do for chewing gum.” ~Elbert Hubbard
    this is true for all nations !


  • Hasan Awan
    Apr 26, 2012 - 7:49PM

    @SAB Sohail: I beg to disagree. Recently I visited Islamabad , Rawalpindi and Lahore and i was amazed to see so many bookshops especially in Lahore. Please visit Urdu Bazaar Lahore and its adjacent regions and thankfully Lahore takes the lead in book readers and also Karachi is a place of literature and books as well as I have met many enthusiast readers from Karachi in recent times. So please dont generalize and dont give generic statements as some regions are actually thriving in their love of books while other regions are not and it might be a local or cultural issue in some specific region but in general you cannot say about whole of the Pakistani nation.


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