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Demand grows over the reopening of the public library in Balochistan’s most literate city

By: Mannan Samad

Libraries, the epitome of disseminating knowledge and enriching minds, are instrumental in educating the nation. However, Turbat’s sole public library has been shut down for a long period of time, triggering a sense of dismay and discontent among thousands of students. The closure of the Turbat public library is highly lamentable; it is, unequivocally, the closure of curious minds. It won’t be an exaggeration to state that closing libraries is tantamount to closing the doors of education.

As a consequence of the disregard, apathy, and indifference demonstrated by the authorities and the district administration over the past two years, a widespread social media campaign has been launched on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms since April 2021 in a bid to amplify the voices calling for the reopening of the Turbat public library. The hashtag #ReopenTurbatPublicLibrary is being increasingly used by users to express their opposition to the Turbat public library’s extended closure. Students, social activists, members of civil society, poets, writers, and intellectuals from many spheres of society are among those calling for the reopening of the Turbat public library.

Aziz Hasil, a social activist and graduate of English literature at the University of Turbat, is a leading campaigner and staunch advocate for the restoration of the Turbat public library. According to him, the public library was closed amid coronavirus cases in November 2020. Later on, a notification was issued on January 1, 2021, on behalf of the university that the library building needed to be renovated and would soon get reopened. Since then, it has never reopened, despite, as Aziz said, engaging in negotiations with authorities.

“Notwithstanding my perpetual visits to authorities, I merely got vague assurances and returned with a new, but hollow, promise regarding the reopening of the Turbat public library. Pity the nation that does not know the worth of libraries,” Aziz Hasil said in a dejected tone. He is still optimistic regarding the reopening of the Turbat public library. “I won’t give up and will continue to fight for libraries and education,” he said with determination.

Libraries are a vital aspect of our lives and play a crucial role in uplifting nations, according to poet, fiction writer, and critic AR Dad. “Closing a library is an emblem of misfortune for any nation,” he argued. He blasted the closure of the public library, saying it was a tremendous injustice to deprive students of the fragrance of books. “The tactics to close libraries would plunge generations into darkness, which need to be denounced in the harshest terms,” he narrated.

Turbat is the most literate city in Balochistan, according to a 2022 study that was created using data from the 2017 census. But astoundingly, it is losing its charm as the city has been deprived of an enabling learning environment in the form of the closure of the Turbat public library. It can have a devastating impact on the literacy rate of the city. Responsible citizens should intensify efforts to salvage the library for the sake of a bright future.

Dr. Shah Mohammad Marri, a prominent intellectual and renowned researcher, stressed the significance of libraries in fostering a robust nation. “Whatever the justification, it serves no purpose to close a library. There will be nothing left for a human society after ruling its library out,” he remarked. He strongly urged all stakeholders to reopen the public library as early as possible. He insisted that closing a library now would be a serious crime in the 21st century. Neither any religion forbids the usage of libraries, nor does any progressive ideology reject the establishment of libraries. “Closure of a library is equivalent to ruining a nation,” he added.

Given the dilemma of the closure of the public library in Turbat, Deputy Commissioner Kech Bashir Ahmed Barech claimed that the library would be restored immediately. “The inhabitants of Turbat are voracious readers, and their profound love for books can’t be gauged,” he remarked. He emphasized the importance of education, arguing that without it, no nation could ever flourish and that libraries were essential for instilling a love of reading in youth. “Education is our priority, and no compromise will be tolerated in this regard,” he added.

Last but not least, the students of Turbat are now worn out by hollow promises and unfulfilled expectations. All the district administration needs to do is take concrete measures to reopen the public library immediately. Students are thirsty for knowledge, and they are craving the aroma of books. For God’s sake, do something right away!

Published in The Balochistan Point on February 19, 2023

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