Dignified exit: National Book Foundation chief resigns

Published: May 21, 2013
A file photo showing a reading session. PHOTO: NATIONAL BOOK FOUNDATION

A file photo showing a reading session. PHOTO: NATIONAL BOOK FOUNDATION


Mazharul Islam, writer and folklorist, resigned as the chief of the National Book Foundation (NBF) on Monday citing the upcoming change in federal government as the main reason for his decision to quit.

Islam was appointed as NBF’s managing director (MD) in April 2009 by the Pakistan Peoples Party government and his contract was extended in 2012 for a further two years. “There are no special reasons for my resignation,” he told The Express Tribune. “Since I was appointed as a contractual employee by the previous government, I decided new people should get a chance.”

Islam, who is the author of 10 books including a novel, said he sent his resignation to the cabinet secretary on Monday. The resignation is yet to be accepted.

He was the second literary personality to head the NBF, established by the government in 1972 to provide affordable books to the public and to promote both book reading and the publishing industry. The famous poet late Ahmed Faraz was Islam’s predecessor.

During his three year-tenure, Islam helped revive the performance of the struggling organisation. He began new projects such as a mobile book library, subsidised book stalls at railway stations, the “Prisoners’ Free Minds Book Club” in three jails and book clubs in 10 remote areas including Tharparkar. The NBF’s Book Ambassador programme, which involved famous writers and actors such Intezar Husain and Qavi Khan to promote book reading among the public, also started under Islam’s time in office.

Islam also got former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani’s approval to build a book museum, which is under construction at the NBF building in the capital. He also started the tradition of National Book Day, which was first held on April 22 last year. The 2013 National Book Day celebrations included a book fair, activities for children and reading sessions where famous writers read from their books and discussed their writing with the audience.

Islam said once his resignation is accepted, he would work on a book of short stories. But he also has a special project in mind. “I want to form folklore societies for children so those who do not have access to heritage museums can also get an opportunity to learn about Pakistan’s folk history and cultural heritage,” he said.

Poet Amjad Islam Amjad, who is also a book ambassador, appreciated the work done by Islam. “I think he did a great job in reviving an institution that had become dormant,” Amjad said. “The credit for organising the National Book Day and for the enthusiasm it generated among the public must go to Islam and his team.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2013.

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