Mobile camel library carries books to children in remote Pakistani villages

Roshan the camel seen with his mobile library in District Kech, Balochistan, Pakistan, on November 6, 2020 (Photo courtesy: Haneefa Abdul Samad)
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Updated 16 November 2020

Mobile camel library carries books to children in remote Pakistani villages

  • A local herder and his 12-year-old camel Roshan have been carrying a library of fifty books to six villages of Balochistan’s Kech district since October
  • The project has been made possible by the Judith Reading Room and Alif Laila Book Bus Society that has established more than 7,000 mobile libraries across Pakistan

QUETTA: In a remote part of Pakistan, two women and a charity have come up with a novel idea to help children continue reading and learning — a camel bearing books.
Pakistan closed its schools in March and sent over 50 million school and university-going Pakistanis home. The closures have put children in Balochistan at particular risk of falling behind, as the province is Pakistan’s most impoverished, with few schools and the lowest literacy rate in the country.
According to data from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, up to 62 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 16 are out of school in rural areas of Balochistan.
With the coronavirus pandemic threatening even more children, two sisters from Balochistan, Raheema Jalal, the principal of the Zubaida Jalal Girls High School, and Zubaida Jalal, the Pakistani minister for defense production, thought: if children couldn’t go to school, why not take the books to them?




Women and children gather to read books in Kech district, Balochistan, Pakistan, on November 6, 2020 (Photo courtesy: Haneefa Abdul Samad)

The sisters, who run the Female Education Trust Balochistan (FETB), reached out to the Alif Laila Book Bus Society (ALBBS), which has established more than 7,000 mobile libraries across Pakistan, with over 1.5 million books donated in the past four decades. In collaboration, they launched a mobile library that deploys local herder, Murad Dur Muhammad, and his 12-year-old camel, to carry books to help hundreds of children continue their education in Balochsitan’s remote Kech district.
The idea had previously been used in Ethiopia by Save the Children.
“When Zubaida Jalal learnt that camel libraries were being used in Ethiopia she thought of the joy such libraries could bring to children in Mand [a town in Balochistan province] and how they could help raise the literacy rate in the area,” said Syeda Basarat Kazim, president of the Alif Laila Book Bus Society.
“Alif Laila approached the Judith’s Reading Room with a proposal,” Kazim said, referring to a US-based organization that runs libraries in 22 countries. “The board of governors chose this as their board option prize and Mand’s camel library became the 101st Judith’s Reading Room library.”
Alif Laila prepared the library, named the camel, purchased books, games, puzzles and puppets in record time and the library was launched in October, Kazim said.
The camel was named Roshan, or bright light, Reheema Jalal said, “because he has been lighting [the path of] education for the deprived children of Balochistan.”

Since October 2, Roshan has taken his library of fifty books to six villages of Mand. Over 150 children have borrowed books from the program in the past six weeks, Raheema said.
The titles are in both Urdu and English and include storybooks, and books of general knowledge, science and Islamic studies. A majority of the children targeted are from grades one to six, but secondary school students have also borrowed books from the mobile library.
“Roshan supplies the books on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and covers three different villages every week,” Raheema said. “The library is open for two hours, from 4 p.m. to 6 pm. Children choose the books they like and return them after a week.”




Women and children gather to read books in Kech district, Balochistan, Pakistan, on November 6, 2020 (Photo courtesy: Haneefa Abdul Samad)

Roshan and Muhammad are also often accompanied by Haneefa Abdul Samad, a 30-year-old science and math teacher, who supports the duo by helping answer the children’s queries.
“Initially, I was reluctant as to how the idea would work in remote villages,” Samad, who is also the coordinator of the project, said. “But after seeing the reaction and love of children toward books, I decided to accompany Roshan to every single village of Kech.”




Locals gather around 12-year-old camel, Roshan, who carries books to help hundreds of children continue their education in Kech district, Balochistan, Pakistan, on November 6, 2020 (Photo courtesy: Haneefa Abdul Samad)

“As Pakistan grapples with the deadly coronavirus, and educational activities across the country are yet to be fully restored, the camel library has been engaging children to continue their studies and attachment with books,” Samad added.
One such student is Sara Abdul Rauf, a seventh grader from the Koh-e-Pusht village, who eagerly awaits Roshan’s visits.
“Not [just] me, but all the children, especially girls, are very happy with the camel library,” the 14-year-old, who wants to be a doctor, said. “It has been providing us with books at our doorsteps.”
The initial plan for the camel library was to reach “as many villages as possible” over a three-month period. But Raheema now hopes, with Alif Laila’s help, to expand the project to other areas of Kech and hire more camels to keep Roshan company.
“We had planned this program till December,” she said. “Fortunately, we have received a positive response from the children. After December, we will look for more donors and hire more camels to reach more villages of Kech.”


Record-breaking England put Pakistan to the sword in first Test

Updated 01 December 2022

Record-breaking England put Pakistan to the sword in first Test

  • Four English batsmen scored centuries as the tourists cantered to 506-4 at the close of play
  • Australia in the past scored 494 against South Africa on the first day of a Test in Sydney in 1910

RAWALPINDI: Four England batsmen scored hundreds Thursday as the visitors piled up a record 506-4 on the opening day of the first Test against Pakistan in Rawalpindi.
Openers Zak Crawley (122) and Ben Duckett (107) set the tone with quick-fire tons against a hapless Pakistan bowling attack before Ollie Pope (108) and Harry Brook (101 not out) compounded the hosts' misery.
Ben Stokes was also not out, on 34, when bad light stopped play, having helped England break a 112-year-old record for the most runs on the first day of a Test -- beating Australia's 494-6 against South Africa at Sydney.
It was also the first time four batters scored hundreds on day one of a Test.
After winning the toss England went straight into "Bazball" mode, the brand of freewheeling, aggressive play taken from the nickname of head coach Brendon McCullum.
England's fiery batting -- with 73 boundaries and three sixes -- lifted the gloom over the start, which hung in the balance Wednesday after several of the tourists came down with a mystery virus.
As if the punishment from the top three wasn't enough, Brook -- playing only his second Test -- cracked six consecutive boundaries off one over from debutant spinner Saud Shakeel.
He is only the fourth batsman to score six consecutive boundaries in a Test, following West Indians Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, and Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya.
Brook reached his maiden century off just 80 balls, capping a highly entertaining day for a crowd of 6,000 that included around 150 "Barmy Army" fans.
He added 176 for the fourth wicket with Pope, who fell to pacer Mohammad Ali.
Pakistan fought back briefly in the second session when they dismissed Duckett, Crawley and Joe Root (23) in the space of 53 runs, but that was short-lived.
England have set their sights on even more runs.
"It was obviously a very good wicket to bat on," said Crawley.
"Hopefully, we can go on tomorrow and get more runs."
Debutant leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood was the most successful Pakistan bowler with 2-160 on an unresponsive wicket.
"The pitch was similar to the one we had against Australia, but it should have been a bit more supportive," said Pakistan head coach Saqlain Mushtaq, referring to the Test played earlier this year that yielded 1,187 runs for the loss of just 14 wickets over five days.
Duckett, who hit his maiden hundred after being recalled to the Test side following an absence of six years, was the first to go when he missed a reverse sweep off Mahmood and was trapped leg-before.
West Indian umpire Joel Wilson initially ruled it not out, only to change his decision on Pakistan's review.
Duckett, who hit 15 boundaries, put on 233 for the first wicket with Crawley -- an England record for the first wicket against Pakistan.
It beat the 1962 stand of 198 between openers Geoff Pullar and Bob Barber in Dhaka, then East Pakistan.
Crawley was bowled off a sharp delivery by Haris Rauf in the next over, the Test debutant's first wicket.
The lanky Crawley hit 21 boundaries in his quickfire 111-ball innings, his third Test hundred.
Former skipper Root also fell leg-before to Mahmood, unsuccessfully challenging the decision.
Crawley showed his intent right from the start, hitting three boundaries off Pakistan fast bowler Naseem Shah's first over of the match, and bringing up his half-century off just 38 balls.
He could have become the first England batter to score a century before lunch on day one of a Test but was left nine short.
England are on their first Test tour to Pakistan in 17 years.


Official in Kabul denies Pakistani Taliban enjoying ‘facilities’ in Afghanistan

Updated 01 December 2022

Official in Kabul denies Pakistani Taliban enjoying ‘facilities’ in Afghanistan

  • Pakistan said the Taliban administration should be ‘concerned’ after TTP claimed a recent suicide bombing in Balochistan
  • The foreign office of Pakistan condemned a militant attack on a religious seminary in Afghanistan that killed ten people

ISLAMABAD: An Afghan official on Thursday dismissed a statement by a top Pakistani minister who said that a proscribed militant network was enjoying “all sorts of facilities in Afghanistan” while launching attacks in his country after a recent suicide bombing in Balochistan that targeted police providing security to polio workers.

Security officials stand guard at site of a suicide bomb attack targeting a police truck in Quetta, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (AFP)

The attack that claimed the lives of at least four people in the southwestern province of Pakistan was claimed by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) whose top leadership is based in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s interior minister Rana Sanaullah told a news conference earlier today if the TTP’s claim was right, “it should be a matter of concern for the Taliban” administration in Kabul.
Reacting to the statement, a spokesman of the Afghan defense ministry rejected Pakistan’s claim.
“We once again assure all the countries of the region and the world that Afghanistan’s soil will never be used against other countries,” Enayatullah Khawarazmi was quoted as saying by AP.
Sanaullah told the news conference that Pakistan was in a position to deal with militant attacks.
“The TTP has accepted the responsibility of carrying out the attack in Quetta which is an alarming as well as a condemnable matter,” he said. “The TTP has access to all sorts of facilities in Afghanistan, so it should be a matter of concern for the government there.”
Meanwhile, the foreign office of Pakistan condemned a militant attack on a religious seminary in Samangan, Afghanistan, on Wednesday that killed at least 10 people.
“The Government and people of Pakistan extend their sympathies and condolences,” said the statement. “We stand in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and the bereaved families in this moment of grief.”


Ex-PM Khan’s party says willing to negotiate with government over next elections

Updated 01 December 2022

Ex-PM Khan’s party says willing to negotiate with government over next elections

  • Among other modalities, PTI leaders want to discuss changes in the Election Commission of Pakistan
  • Punjab chief minister has reiterated his commitment to dissolve the assembly on Khan’s instructions

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said on Thursday it was willing to discuss the modalities of the next general elections if the government was open to the idea of going to the polls ahead of schedule.
The PTI has been seeking fresh elections in the country since the downfall of its administration in a parliamentary no-confidence vote in April. Khan has held dozens of protest rallies across Pakistan while describing snap polls as the only way out of the prevailing political and economic turmoil.
The former prime minister announced his decision at a recent protest in Rawalpindi to dissolve the provincial legislatures of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where his party is in power, hoping to intensify pressure on the coalition administration at the center to announce an early election date.
“For sure,” said PTI senior vice president Chaudhary Fawad Hussain in a Twitter post, “if [the government] announces early elections we are ready to negotiate [the] framework of elections and changes in [the Election Commission of Pakistan].”
Khan has repeatedly said in recent days he wants early elections since the country’s economy is in a crisis state and his party wants to retrieve control of the situation before it is too late.
He has also expressed reservations over the workings of the country’s election regulatory authority while claiming that its officials have a bias against his party.
On Thursday, the former prime minister also held a meeting with the Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi to discuss the overall political situation of the country and weigh the option of dissolving the provincial assembly.
“There will be no delay in dissolving the Punjab Assembly on Imran Khan’s instructions,” Elahi said in a Twitter post after the meeting.
He dismissed the possibility of governor rule in Punjab while pointing out it could not happen since the assembly was in session.
Elahi also challenged the federal government to bring a no-confidence motion against him, saying the move would fail again like before.
He added his political rivals were far behind in the number game.
It may be recalled the Punjab chief minister is Khan’s political ally and holds the top provincial position after reaching a political understanding with the PTI leadership.
He noted that his party endorsed all decisions made by Khan, adding it fully supported anyone it chooses to ally with.
 


Pakistan and UAE agree to harness ‘unexplored’ bilateral economic potential

Updated 01 December 2022

Pakistan and UAE agree to harness ‘unexplored’ bilateral economic potential

  • Pakistani finance minister identifies new areas of trade and investment while meeting the UAE envoy in Islamabad
  • Ishaq Dar says he is hopeful for the enhancement of bilateral relations between the two countries in the coming days

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance minister Ishaq Dar said on Thursday the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was working with his government in different sectors, though the two countries still had a great deal of economic potential that had not been harnessed and could benefit their people.

Dar made the observation during a meeting with the UAE envoy, Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salim Al-Zaabi, at the Finance Division in Islamabad.

They both agreed that the two countries shared long-standing strategic relations while exchanging views on further strengthening the economic ties between them.

“Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar stated that Pakistan and UAE are engaging in various areas including energy, refinery, petroleum and trade,” said an official statement released after the meeting. “However, still a lot of potential remains unexplored. In this regard, the Finance Minister also highlighted various new avenues in which both countries can trade and invest.”

The UAE ambassador said his country was fully cognizant of Pakistan’s development related policies and was also interested in augmenting its investment in new economic sectors.

The finance minister welcomed the proposal while assuring the UAE ambassador of full support and cooperation from the government.

Dar said he was hopeful for the enhancement of bilateral relations between the two countries in the coming days.


Pakistan capable of ‘fully’ controlling militancy, interior minister says after ‘alarming’ attack by TTP

Updated 01 December 2022

Pakistan capable of ‘fully’ controlling militancy, interior minister says after ‘alarming’ attack by TTP

  • Pakistan Taliban on Wednesday claimed attack on a truck carrying police officers on their way to protect polio workers near Quetta city
  • Attack came a day after Pakistani Deputy Foreign Minister traveled to Kabul for consultations with Afghan Taliban, including on growing TTP threat

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Interior Rana Sanaullah said on Thursday the government was capable of “fully” controlling militancy in the country a day after the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in the southwestern city of Quetta.

A suicide bomber blew himself up near a truck carrying police officers on their way to protect polio workers near Quetta on Wednesday, killing a police officer and three civilians from the same family who were traveling nearby in a car. The bombing also wounded over 20 others, mostly policemen, officials said.

The attack came a day after Pakistani Deputy Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khan was in Kabul for discussions with the Afghan Taliban, including on the latest threat from the TTP. Islamabad has been pushing Afghanistan’s Taliban government not to allow the TTP to use their soil to launch attacks inside Pakistan.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the interior minister called terror activities by the TTP ‘dangerous’ for peace and stability in the entire region, saying the Afghan Taliban should also be concerned about this.

“I assure the nation that we will fully control terrorism in the country. The TTP has accepted the responsibility of carrying out the attack in Quetta which is an alarming as well as a condemnable matter,” he said. “The TTP has access to all sorts of facilities in Afghanistan, so it should be a matter of concern for the government there.”

He said the TTP should not be seen as an “out-of-control” force but warned the provincial governments and law and enforcement agencies in the Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces where most attacks take place to take the matter seriously.

“I assure the provinces that full support will be provided by the federation. Political differences exist but the state comes first,” the minister said.

Wednesday’s bombing happened two days after The Pakistani Taliban ended a monthslong cease-fire with the government in Islamabad, ordering its fighters to resume attacks across the country, where scores of deadly attacks have been blamed on the insurgent group. In Monday’s statement, the outlawed TTP group said it was ending the five-month cease-fire after the army stepped up operations against the TTP.

Pakistan and the TTP had agreed to an indefinite cease-fire in May after talks in Afghanistan’s capital.