SHABQADAR: Step back Karachi Literature Festival, hush Lahore and Islamabad, and make way for the tribal areas’ first literary festival. Khyber will be the first of the agencies to host one, post September.
The director for the National Book Foundation in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Murad Ali Mohmand, told The Express Tribune on Wednesday that the progress of a ‘Books on Wheels’ project in Islamabad and other cities has given the organisation hope that a similar initiative could possibly work in K-P and the tribal region.
The Books on Wheels project was conceived by the National Book Foundation to promote reading, said Mohmand. The response from students and scholars emboldened them to take the project to K-P and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). A bus will travel across the region as a mobile book library and stop in colleges and universities to hold fairs.
Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has ordered a bus be provided to the foundation, said Mohmand. “When it is handed over to us, we will roll out the project in K-P.”
A book tour
Fata has already kick-started the process.
The FATA Secretariat has signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Book Foundation and has already provided a bus, said the director. “As we speak, the bus is undergoing repairs and is being smartened up in Islamabad. It will be completed in September.”
Mohmand said the fair in Khyber Agency will be inaugurated by the K-P governor. “We will be travelling to all of Fata’s agencies where we will hold book-related events in schools and colleges,” he added. “We will also provide books at subsidised rates.”
Readers can buy books at 55% off after registering on the spot for the National Book Foundation Reader’s Club scheme. “This scheme will not only be valid for our stalls but members can buy cheap books from our subsidised shops across the country.” The federal government has provided Rs15 million for this scheme to promote a culture of reading in Pakistan, said Mohmand.
“Fata has seen bad days; now the government wants to promote healthy activities,” FATA Secretariat spokesperson Fazlullah told The Express Tribune. “The main aim of this project is to promote peace through book reading.”
The secretariat will provide security to the National Book Foundation, Fazlullah added. “We have provided the bus and will advise all political agents to cooperate with the foundation to promote a culture of book reading.”
FATA Youth Council activist Fakhr-e-Alam welcomed the move. “When our youth parted ways with literature, we witnessed a move towards insurgency; now we look forward to promote literature again,” said Alam, “in a region where the literacy rate is lower than that of the rest of the country.”
“Our youth will look away from militancy when their horizons are opened towards culture, reading, and literature – a change necessary for sustainable peace.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2014.