Upon visiting the public library at union council Kallag in Panjgur, on a working day, I found its main door to be locked with the dust settling on the corridor and literally showing no sign that this structure could resemble a library.
Panjgur is an immensely populated district which comprises over 23 union councils. But the ratio of population to the libraries stands abysmal. In the whole district, only a few select libraries are partially functional while the rest have neither books and furniture nor staffs.
Zameer Baloch, a student of 2nd year pre-medical at Degree College Panjgur, told Pak Voices about the plight of students in preparation for their exams due to the scarcity of libraries.
“I have to travel to 20 km to go to my college library to prepare for my final board exams. Half of my time is wasted on travel”, he lamented.
“ We have this library next to my home but it’s non-functional since the day it was inaugurated in 2011.”
In the tenure of the previous government, a local MPA granted four union councils public libraries which are not functional yet.
Zameer Baloch further added: “This library exists only as a structure. There is neither any furniture, staff nor books.”
Calling on the authorities to look into the matter and functionalize the libraries to facilitate the students he said, “Annual budget should be given for books, journals, magazines and newspapers. Libraries are ideal places to promote educational activities.”
“Ignoring them would further increase ignorance in the society as people would indulge in unhealthy activities.”
Muhammad Adam Baloch, a local school teacher at Government High School, Kallag, Punjgur and a social worker went into a long diatribe over the sorry state of libraries.
“We are living in the age of information. In advanced societies, millions are spent to provide easy access to students and researchers to information.”
He continued, “In contrast, we have empty deserted structures that offer nothing to information seekers.”
Adam Baloch, a voracious reader of Urdu and English literature, having a good collection of fine books told Pak Voices, “If libraries become functional I will donate my whole collection to them”.
In order to access required books and materials students go to other cities such as Quetta, Lahore and Karachi.
PakVoice reached out to one such student Ilyas Baloch, who is preparing for competitive exams while attending Quiad-e-Azam Library in Lahore. He told us that he had moved to Lahore just to access the libraries here which are in no comparison with libraries of Panjgur.
“In addition to other facilities we get, we have access to a variety of books and journals in the libraries here at Lahore. We are not here by choice but by compulsion.”
Mavia Momen Baloch, resident of Sordo, Panjgur and a columnist, while responding to a question about the plight of libraries in the district told Pak Voices, “The residents of Panjgur are thirsty for knowledge, but they are deprived of knowledge due to miserable condition of public libraries, which are on the verge of collapse.”
He accused the administration of incompetence and corruption due to which the condition of libraries deteriorated over time.
“It is my humble request to concerned authorities to pay heed to the condition of public libraries. They should be functionalized and be provided with updated books and journals.” Baloch added.
When Pak Voices contacted the concerned authorities, a senior official on the condition of anonymity said, “we have funds for books and furniture for the libraries, but due to lack of security most of the time furniture and books are stolen from the libraries, so we cannot afford to display them in the library buildings.”
“We also receive meager amounts of funds for up gradation of libraries. We are putting our best to provide all sorts of facilities to libraries”, he claimed.
Zameer Baloch taking a walk with me near the library building made these final passionate remarks, “we have every reason to quit education given the hardships we face. But as a wise man once said, “No matter what you’re going through, there is a light at the end of tunnel.”
“I hope that the tunnel wouldn’t last a life,” he said with a sarcastic smile on his face.
About Author: Salal Baloch is a citizen journalist working with PakVoices. He holds a degree in M.A Political Science from GC University Lahore.