Darra Adam Khel, the city situated in former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is commonly known for its booming arms market. In fact, the place is famous (or infamous) for being one of the largest arms markets on the continent.
In the same city lies the Darra Adam Khel Library. The library is relatively a newborn in the region, less than a year old. It opened in August last year. It now houses over 2,500 books.
A stark contrast from the arms bazaar that dominates local life, Darra Adam Khel Library really offers its residents a different world.
Darra Adam Khel Library’s creator, Raj Muhammad, wants his city to be remembered “not for guns but for the books”.
Raj Muhammad calls this move a ‘step for peace’. In fact, Darra Adam Khel Library is built near a gun shop that Raj Muhammad’s father built 12 years ago.
Where It All Started
As the son of a gun shop owner, where did this love for literature come from?
Raj Muhammad has a Master’s degree in Urdu Literature from the University of Peshawar. He worked for a Dubai tourism firm before coming back to Pakistan.
Now the 32-year-old teaches students. From a young age, Raj Muhammad wasn’t interested in his father’s firearms business. So he opened the Darra Adam Khel Library to give residents better access to books and education.
“I was born here. I want the world to remember Darra Adam Khel with a good reputation, not for guns but for the books.”
The addition of the library is developing the local’s taste for literature. Even local arms dealers love this new addition to the place.
Gun shop owner, Noor Ahmad Malik, calls the library the “best thing that happened recently for the people here.”
Law and Change
As part of former FATA, Darra Adam Khel fell into a grey area in terms of rule of law. The arms market flourished in this grey area, giving the region its’ fearsome reputation.
At first, people believed that the arms market emerged out of necessity, with specter of the Soviet War in Afghanistan. Later with the rise of militant groups such as the Taliban, the place became an arms stronghold.
The Taliban took control of the region with the end of the Soviet War. In 2010, the Pakistan Army ousted the Taliban.
“People are still reeling from the militancy, which has killed hundreds of civilians and soldiers.”
With the FATA-Khyber Pakhtunkhwa merger in 2018, the area is now subject to arms laws and gun control. This has led to the sprawling arms market losing its luster. With the centuries-old trade of arms dealing dying out, the residents need an alternative.
“Now the availability of books is a good option for knowledge and education.”
Since the Darra Adam Khel Library’s opening in August, it has drawn in 240 members. The members pay 150 Pakistani rupees per year for access to over 2500 books.
The 2500 books that the library houses include categories such as history, politics, religion and Urdu fiction. Raj Muhammad plans to expand the library in the coming months.
The library’s most popular title is “The Pathans,” by Sir Olaf Caroe’s. The 1958 publication covers the history of the Pashtun ethnic group.
Other popular reads on display include Tehmina Durrani’s “My Feudal Lord,” Pervez Musharraf’s “In the Line of Fire” and Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury”.
Among Darra Adam Khel Library’s 240 members, 30 are women. This is all the more remarkable, seeing how Darra Adam Khel is a conservative region and women are not permitted to go out unaccompanied.
To facilitate female readers, women can select books from the library’s Facebook page. Books are then delivered to them by Raj Muhammad’s 11-year-old daughter, Shifa Raj.
The little helping hand helps her father expand the library.
“I told girls in the school that we have a library in our area: If you are interested, I will provide membership forms.”
via New York Times