New library in Dara Adamkhel shows how new generation loves books not guns

By Javed Khan

Two Dara Adamkhel residents read books on July 6 at a recently constructed library in one of the main gun-manufacturing towns in Pakistan. [Javed Khan]

Two Dara Adamkhel residents read books on July 6 at a recently constructed library in one of the main gun-manufacturing towns in Pakistan. [Javed Khan]

PESHAWAR -- A small library in Dara Adamkhel near Peshawar is trying to help residents turn the page on violence.

The library, situated in a city known for its massive gun market, opened in October 2018 in the center of Dara Adamkhel Bazaar. There, shops offer all kinds of guns from small revolvers to AK-47 riffles.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also previously situated its second headquarters in the area from which it launched violent attacks on Peshawar and other cities.

The new library sits near a local children's park so more users can access it easily.

"Books, not guns, are the sole purpose of setting up a library in my town," Raj Mohammad, the man who established the library, said in an interview.

Mohammad, in his early 30s, earned a M.Phil. in Urdu literature from a private university and teaches at a local college.

He previously managed and paid all the finances of the library himself until local elders and officials constructed the new building and handed over the library to him. Workers installed a solar power system on the roof of the library to provide electricity for lights and fans.

"I set up the library to improve the image of my area and to let the world know the reality that our people love reading books and getting more education," said Mohammad.

More users are visiting the library on a daily basis, he added.

Female readers

A number of schools, especially those for girls, have been bombed in recent years by militants who sought to stop thousands of children from going to school and gaining an education.

Today, Pakistanis are not only going back to schools and college but also are encouraged to read more books.

The library in Dara Adamkhel has about 2,500 books on various topics, ranging from Urdu, Pashtu and English literature to agriculture, religion, politics and youth issues. Members pay a nominal fee to borrow books from the library, and many females whom militants thwarted from going to school are among the new members.

"There are around 30 females among the 250 total members of the library, which is very encouraging," said Mohammad. Since women sometimes cannot come to the library because of local culture and traditions, his daughter, Shifa Raj, delivers books to them at their home or college.

"I get a list from the students" and provide them the "required books the next day", said Shifa, 11. She is a 6th grade student at the local institution.

Some members also select books on the social media pages of the library, which they receive at their home the next day.

Residents of the area as well as those from nearby towns laud the initiative, especially since the city was once known only for terrorist attacks and its gun market.

"The library in an area like Dara Adamkhel is a blessing for the entire population of the town and nearby villages," said Rahat Amir Afridi, a former resident of Dara Adamkhel who lives in Peshawar.

Although the residents of Dara Adamkhel have experienced years of militancy and violence, no one could stop them from loving books, he said.

"This step by a local young man speaks to how the new generation loves books and not guns -- even in a town that manufactures all kind of weapons," Afridi said.

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this is a great news