Ziarat Library - fulfilment of a lost reverie

QUETTA    -    As the doors of centennial Ziarat library opened with a creaking sound, a wave of emotions swept through local community echoing sentiments of hope, nostalgia and anticipation for knowledge.

After nearly two long decades of silence, when the library was demolished in 2007 to expand Deputy Commissioner’s office, the once vibrant hub of knowledge and imagination had finally returned to life.

For many, the sight of familiar shelves now filled with books waiting to be explored, evoked memories of a bygone British era - a time when the library established in 1907 served as a beacon of learning and discovery.

As patrons stepped inside the Quaid-e-Azam Public Library, reopened after 17 years, their eyes sparkled with excitement, mingled with a hint of reverence for a space – remaining dormant for a long time.

The air was thick with anticipation, as if every book held in its pages the promise of a brighter future. It was a momentous occasion for the entire community and a testament to resilience and enduring power of knowledge.

“I was shocked and speechless, when I was told that I am running my office on the remains of a centennial library - once a vibrant hub of knowledge and learning,” said former Deputy Commissioner Ziarat Hamood-ur- Rehman.

Narrating challenging excavating of the library site and restoring it in its original layout, he remarked, “in my first briefing, it was astonishingly revealed that a century old library was demolished to expand DC office.”

“Feeling guilty, I decided to revive this historic library,” Hamood-ur-Rehman said. “The building was erected afresh and students and bibliophiles were asked to donate books whose overwhelming response astonished me as local and foreign donors donated hundreds of books for library in less than a month time.”

“Despite challenges, finally our dream of restoring this library at its site and in original architectural layout came true,” Hamoodur Rehman said.

Maintaining the building in its original condition, honoring its narrative of tutelage, it is now a transformed library - a beacon of knowledge and beauty, blending the old with new to create space for learning and showcasing delicate balance between preservation and progress.

“Amidst issues like time and resources constraints, the team preserved building’s historical essence creating a vibrant space for future generations,” Behram Baloch, the project architect proudly informed.

“The challenging task was adhering to guidelines of Burra Charter and Florence Declaration for maintaining original fabric of the building, defining cultural significance and ensuring authenticity during the restoration process,” Behram said.

Though the Deputy Commissioner Ziarat was a pioneer, yet the people beyond borders and civil society and the parliament, played their role to revive this historic library.

“I was a Senator when the project was initiated. I also donated many books,” Mir Sarfaraz Bugti, Chief Minister Balochistan told APP. “As Chief Minister Balochistan, I fully support the idea of making libraries functional as they transform society and guarantee bright future of any nation.”

“Libraries serve as hub of knowledge and community empowerment,” Bugti said. “In a region where access to education and resources are limited, libraries play a pivotal role in providing learning opportunities.” The growing trend of book reading in Balochistan is a promising development, signaling a shift towards learning and a literate society.

“The moment I crossed the threshold, I felt a sense of excitement mingled with a profound gratitude for restoration of a knowledge facility closed down since long,” said Safiullah, a visitor of the library.

“As I wandered through the aisles, running my fingers over spines of books, I wondered about the wealth of knowledge,” Safiullah said. “But, as I settled in a corner with a book, I felt a surge of inspiration fueling my passion for knowledge and thirst for discovery.” “Here I found not just a place to study, but a sanctuary - a refuge from the chaos of outside world,” he narrated.

The newly reconstructed Quaid Library is hoped to serve not only as a repository of books but a symbol of resilience, heritage and progress.

“Although, we are yet busy in classification of books, the response of students, community and tourists is overwhelming,” stated Muhammad idrees, the Deputy Librarian. “As we move forward, everyday someone calls for more books donation.”

“This is inspiring as we are happy with young generation’s quest for knowledge and cultural history that would hopefully cement the bonds of mutual love and harmony,” he commented.

Students, researchers and civil society representatives also spoke highly of this initiative. If a student Bashir Khan Kakar described it as a heaven and beacon of hope; Bari Baloch, Chairman of Zind Academy termed it a good omen for Balochistan students in their desire for knowledge.  

At this moment the efforts of people like Dr Lal Khan Kakar should not go unsung who, as Chairman of Shaheed Baz Mohammad Kakar Foundation has established 15 libraries in different parts of the province providing youth ample opportunities for learning.

It is also welcoming that at two separate book festivals in Makran in February 2023, record books worth Rs5.4 million were sold out. The Baloch students attending these events purchased three times more books as compared to annual literary festivals at other places.

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