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City of illegal deals turns into crossing point for book lovers

Global Goals & Global Society
City of illegal deals turns into crossing point for book lovers

PAKISTAN — Arms dealer Muhammad Jahanzeb slinks away from his stand, past colleagues testing machine guns, to study in the quiet of the nearby library when the clamor of Pakistan's most notorious weapons market gets intolerable.

The 28-year-old admitted that he occasionally sneaks away from his collection of antique rifles, made-to-order assault guns, and a threatening assortment of polished switchblades because it is his favorite hobby.

We now have a library, which was something I've always dreamed for.

The settlement of Darra Adamkhel, which is located in the extremely conservative tribal region, has a history of insurgency and drug trafficking, earning it a reputation as a "wild west" crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

It has a lengthy history of having black market bazaars filled with forged AK-47 replicas, replica revolvers, and American weapons.

A local library, on the other hand, is booming and books like Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, the juvenile vampire romance series Twilight and , LifeSpeeches and Letters by Abraham Lincoln can also be found.

"We were initially dejected. What purpose do books serve in a place like Darra Adamkhel, people questioned? Who could possibly read this kinda stuff?" founder Raj Muhammad, 36, remembered. „We now have more than 500 members."

Change of the tribe

Due to poverty, patriarchal beliefs, interclan violence, and a lack of educational opportunities, Pakistan's tribal areas, they joined with the neighboring province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, have some of the lowest literacy rates nationwide.

However, Shafiullah Afridi, a 33-year-old soft-spoken volunteer librarian, believes that opinions are gradually shifting. The younger generation, who are now more interested in education than in guns, in particular.

"People start sending their children to school when they witness young people in their area becoming physicians and engineers," said Afridi, who has compiled a ledger of 4,000 titles in three languages: English, Urdu, and Pashto. Readers sip numerous rounds of green tea while they ruminate over books in this polite environment, despite the background noise of gunsmiths working nearby.

While on duty, Afridi finds it difficult to strictly enforce the "no weapons permitted" rule.

A group of bookworms are perusing the shelves when a young arms dealer strolls up to the immaculately painted salmon-colored library, leaving his AK-47 at the entrance but retaining his sidearm strapped to his belt.

Along with worn-out paperbacks by Michael Crichton, Stephen King, and Tom Clancy, there are also heavier books on the histories of Pakistan and India, preparation manuals for civil service tests, and a variety of Islamic doctrines.

Not weapons but education

Rural Pakistan has few libraries, and those that do exist in urban areas are typically understocked and underutilized.

It started as a lonely reading room in Darra Adamkhel in 2018 that was located above one of the several gun shops in the main bazaar and was packed with Muhammad's personal collection.

Muhammad, a well-known local academic, poet, and teacher who comes from a long line of gunsmiths, stated, "You could say we planted the library on a pile of weapons."

Muhammad paid the monthly rent of 2,500 rupees ($11), but bookworms found it difficult to focus due to the downstairs activities of counterfeit armorers, who were busy hammering and turning metal.

The initiative quickly surpassed the limits of a single room, and a year later it was moved to a specially constructed single-story building on donated land that had been paid for by the local community.

Irfanullah Khan, 65, the patriarch of the family that donated the property, recalled a time when "our young men used to decorate themselves with firearms like a form of jewelry."

"But with the gem of knowledge, guys seem gorgeous. Beauty is found in knowledge, not in arms "said Khan, who, like his son Afridi, also gives of his time.

A library card costs 150 rupees ($0.66) for the general public per year, 100 rupees ($0.44) for students, and children frequently enter and exit the building even when classes are not in session.

However, after they reach their teenage years and are isolated in the homes, male family members acquire books on their behalf. One in ten members is female, a figure that is surprisingly high for the tribal communities.

Nevertheless, during their mid-morning break, schoolgirls Hareem Saeed, 5, and Manahil Jahangir, 9, join the guys who are much taller than them as they read from a book.

Saeed hesitantly answered, "My mother's dream is for me to become a doctor. "I can fulfill her ambition if I pursue my education here."

Education reduces criminality, according to a well-established research conclusion in the literature on the economics of crime. Researchers have looked at changes made to compulsory school leaving (CSL) laws that force some people to stay in school longer than they would choose voluntarily to show that this is causal and not just because people with higher education have other characteristics that make them less criminally minded. Then it is demonstrated that these laws increase education while also lowering crime (Lochner and Moretti 2004).[1]

This example from Pakistan shows that there are positive developments away from illegal acts and war and that good education as a goal in life is becoming more and more popular. The global society collects more and more members with its good deed and convinces them of the good and also finds solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

[1] Lochner, L and E Moretti (2004) “The Effect of Education on Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates, Arrests and Self-reports”, American Economic Review 94: 155-89.


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