Fear of Books in Pakistan

Puritans have been unnecessarily incensed by the global bestseller, ‘I am Malala’, Malala Yousafzai’s biography. According to a survey carried out by Gallup Pakistan in 2011, “only 28 percent of all Pakistanis across the country claim to read books, while 46 percent claimed the same in 2002”. In other words, 70 percent Pakistanis do not read books (54 percent in 2002 would stay away). How frequently? Forty-eight percent read once a week, 31 percent once every two weeks, and 21 percent once a month. We have no time for newspapers and periodicals either. According to the Federal Board of Statistics, only 1,569 dailies and periodicals are published across Pakistan – it is hard to know how many of them are, in fact, dummy publications. In a country of roughly 180 million, there are 467 dailies, 384 weeklies, 76 fortnightlies, 586 monthlies, 46 quarterlies, and 10 ‘others’. The circulation figures are as follows: total: 13310055, dailies: 8825336, weeklies: 1007437, fortnightlies: 132795, monthlies: 3308325, quarterlies: 24212, others: 11950. What is true about Pakistan is true about the entire Muslim world – save perhaps Iran and Bangladesh. Earlier this year, the Arab Thought Foundation released a report that stated: “the average Arab child reads ‘six minutes’ a year in comparison to 12,000 minutes its western counterpart spends An Arab individual on average reads a quarter of a page a year compared to the 11 books read by an American and seven books by a British person, while “family trips to libraries are considered rare across the Arab world”. However, the minimum average time the Arab youth spends on the internet is 365 hours a year. Essentially the book-reading culture is dead in Pakistan.
Farooq Sulehria

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