Karachi: Recalling some of the invaluable literary and historical documents that in many cases lie buried unloved and uncared for in libraries across Pakistan, senior documentary film-maker and scholar Obaidullah Baig urged people to seek out these treasures and learn from them before they are lost to the vagaries of time and human neglect.
“The tree has been planted. It has borne fruit. But the fruit will not come to you,” Mr Baig said while speaking at a literary seminar held to observe the seventeenth anniversary of the Defence Central Library on Thursday at the library’s auditorium. The seminar was titled “Library as a centre of knowledge and enlightenment in society”.
Discussing his own experience, Mr Baig said that after migrating from India following partition, he could not pursue a formal education at university as he had to work for survival. Thus the library was his university.
Though he said this was no secret, it was a stunning disclosure for those not in the know, especially considering the depth of his knowledge. “It is all thanks to libraries.”
He noted that one of the greatest historical collections in the country was held by the department of archaeology, which had now shifted to Islamabad. It was in this collection, he added that he saw an English-language newspaper cutting announcing the martyrdom of Tipu Sultan, six months after the fact in 1799, which had affected him greatly.
In this collection he had also seen Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s accounts book, in which the Quaid had kept a record of all donations people had made for the cause of Pakistan. These ranged from a few annas to hundreds of thousands of rupees. Mr Baig said that the Quaid would match the donations and when Ms Fatima Jinnah protested at this, saying that the practice would bankrupt him, the Quaid justified his actions by saying he did not want people to think he was misappropriating public funds.
Mr Baig added that the fate of private libraries in the country also seemed pretty grim, while many books that were donated to educational institutions usually ended up being unceremoniously dumped in some corner.
Senior journalist Ghazi Salahuddin said literary activities could not prosper in an environment of intolerance where there was no room for freedom of thought, freedom of conscience and the right of dissent. “We lag far behind. Society has not been kind to its writers and thinkers,” he said.
He added that though the nation’s biggest problem was poverty, intellectual poverty was just as destabilizing and was perhaps the reason for our material and financial woes.
“Books should also question and challenge our beliefs” he said, adding that a holistic approach based on providing quality education to all was the best solution. Mr Salahuddin pointed out that books should be read for pleasure as how a society spent its leisure time was an indicator of how civilized it was.
Syed Ali Raza, head of a local bank, who was the chief guest, said that educated youth should be encouraged to stay in Pakistan as “what use are libraries without people?” He also pointed out the paradox of the media, saying that though it provided a flood of information, it had become the “opiate of young people”, as television, video games and DVDs were devouring young people’s time, which did not allow them any time for books. He added that this was happening all over the world and was not unique to Pakistan.
Syed Rafat Hussain Naqvi, secretary of the library, delivered the opening remarks while Najam-ul-Islam Rishi, acting administrator of the DHA, gave the concluding remarks.
The anniversary celebrations of the library, which will continue till Dec 20, were kicked off before the seminar with the inauguration of a book fair.
Source: DHA Karachi