Afghanistan government does not actively engage in censorship; it is self-censorship and the lack of funding that creates a barrier to publishing.
Publication of serials in Kabul and other provinces of Afghanistan continued to be strong with more than 300 newspapers or newsweeklies, magazines, quarterlies, and annuals. Many are brought out by the government or government parties, but organizations, cultural institutions, universities contribute ideas, opinions, and research.
In last ten years Afghanistan’s press and publications of books shined and helped to release democracy. In post-2001 years there was significant help from the United Nation and other governments and NGOs to initiate the publication of serials and books; many of the publication have value and proper impact on cultural , political, historical, sociological, economical, and moral factors. Unfortunately, many of these funds have evaporated.
For several years, serial titles fluctuated with many being started, and a nearly equal number being shut down. This fluctuation continues, but there are also well-established serial publications which include of Afghanistan’s governmental serials and a number of daily newspapers and weekly magazines. Although titles many titles continue to cease due to dire financial situation, others have managed to continue to publish by reducing publication frequency. In October-November 2012 two serials stopped publishing – Surghar and Iradah.
Surghar was from the Kandahar province; the last issued number is 357. The publisher noted that they were forced to cease publishing this serial because of lack of funds. But, there were also security problems.
Iradah daily news paper ceased publishing for lack of funds and the last issued number is 1362.
A look at the receipts in the office indicates a continued decline in the number of English language titles being published. Pushto acquisitions increased which may indicate greater influence of Pushto in publishing or easier access to the language. As noted in earlier reports, this is likely due to readership and continued decline in outside funding that supported English-language publishing.
According to semi-independent sources the total number of published books in March 21 to August 21, 2012 dropped to 61 million copies. Last year the same figure was 65 millions. There are number of reasons behind the significant drop not the least of which is the dire economic situation. Although the sanctions do not cover education and publishing, it has had an impact on publishing. Since July 2012 the enforced sanctions against Iran has caused 50% inflation of all consumer goods’ prices in Iran. But, publishing industry suffers more because most of printing materials are imported from other countries. Compare to October 2011 the price of printing papers has increased by 300%. This figure for printing inks is 250%, and for lithographic films and plates is 200%.
These increases in publishing costs and distribution expenses have caused a number of periodical publishers to develop online publication. This trend is most visible in medical and technical serials. Some serials and newspapers have tried to compensate their elevated printing expenses by reducing or even cutting distribution costs. As a result it may be difficult to get required issues. Along with reducing distribution, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of irregularly published serials - an good indication that to expect more journals to stop publishing in near future.
As a result of the inflation there are fewer new and first-print titles. Those titles that do get published have smaller print runs. This has led to higher prices per copy, and then leads to losing even frequent and loyal customers.
Inflation has taken its toll on publishing, but censorship and government oversight limit what can be said and created. The tight and strict policies on book what can be published has contributed to a loss of the vitality in the book market.
A number of periodicals have lost their budget subsidies coming from universities or relevant research institutions. This will have an impact in the coming year. Although universities and research institutions have lost funding, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance continues to encourage publishers to publish more Islamic books by allocating big amounts of subsidies to them. The number of religious titles, some with no scholarly value, continues to grow.
The figures on the following table are gathered from various governmental sources. The sources have manipulated the statistics to cover the crisis of the publishing industry in Iran.
Table of Statistics (PDF, 56 KB)
The publishing industry in Pakistan is hampered by the low literacy rate and ongoing economic crises. The industry is buoyed by a lucrative overseas market for Urdu and religious books. A considerable number of books and serials are exported to countries where is a large diaspora community in places like Malaysia, East Africa, Middle East, India, Britain, and U.S. The bookselling industry supplements Pakistan titles with English imports from the U.S. and Britain.
During the past year, Pakistan continued to witnesses a rapidly changing political, social, economic and cultural environment which affected the publishing sector of Pakistan. The high inflation rate and daily increase in the prices of commodities and raw materials brought the publishing output down to its lowest level in the recent memory.
A number of factors contribute to the decline in the scholarly output including, but not limited to, inflation, high cost of book and journals, continued low literacy rates, ongoing war on terror which restrict movement of researchers and their ideas for search of truth and ground realities.
Yet during this period of chaos, a very pleasant change occurred in the publishing Industry – five new publishing agencies of international standard joined were established in Pakistan. The Pak Institute for Peace Studies opened a publishing house named Narratives publishing policy analyses and research studies on regional and global issues. Markings is a new publishing venture focusing on art and calligraphy. Musharraf Ali Farooqi started writing for children in English and Urdu using his publishing agency Kitab. Topical Publishing, based in Lahore, is wide range of high quality titles publishing using quality paper and following international publishing standards. Emel Publishing House in Islamabad are also bringing out titles adhering to international publishing standards.
Universities have also reactivated publishing. The Government College University Lahore established Naqoosh Research Centre an Urdu language and literature research center with goal of bringing out new titles.
Hazara University in Mansehra established an Hazara Chair which will published work in the Hindko language as well as prominent authors of Hazara region (Haripur, Abbottabad, Mansehra). To date the Chair has published twenty titles.
From Karachi to Khyber, books and serials on Islam are published in every corner of Pakistan. There is a significant portion of these authored by prominent personalities representing the different sects practices by Pakistan Muslims. This year saw the publication of a number of new religious magazines – mostly aimed at general public. It seems as though every Madrassa (Religious School) has issued a magazine. Most of these titles are of low quality and repetitive, but few of the very famous religious school brought out standard journals -- Jamia Banoria and Darul uloom in Karachi, Darul Uloom Haqqaniyah in Akora Khattak, and Jamia Ashrafia in Lahore.
Although most the titles are repetitive covering common practices of Islam with little analysis or commentary, a few of the important religious schools published research: there were new publications from Hamia Banoria, Dar ul Uloom Kharachi, Jamia Ashrafia, and Darul Uloom Haqqaniyah. A number of publishers translated works of religion from Urdu to English or other languages to Urdu. It is difficult to know the audience of such titles. Our Acquisitions Librarians speculate the religious conflict and debate has stirred an interest in religious texts and commentary as a means of broadening their understanding of their own religion in the current context of events.
Due to ongoing Pakistan’s ban on radical organizations, most issued publication under pseudonyms or an unknown author, e.g “Jammat ul Dava”. Most such radical or banned organization use web sites, YouTube, and Facebook to get out their information. For example, government of Pakistan Sipah-i Suhabah Pakistan and Tehrik-I Taliban Pakistan (TTP) maintain strong web presence.
Literature and Literary Criticism
In 2011, Pakistan celebrated the 100th birth anniversary of the renowned poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz. At the end of the year, the Faiz Foundation, Pakistan Study Centre at the University of Karachi, the National Language Authority, the Academy of Letter Pakistan joined with the major commercial publishers like Sang-e-Meel to publish a series of books on the work, life and political struggle of Faiz Ahmad Faiz.
2012 was the centenary celebration of the noted Urdu writer Sadat Hassan Manto. Books on the life and works of Manto were published by a number of publishers.
It was good year for folk literature with the National Book Foundation publishing a folk literature series in Urdu translated from various regional languages of Pakistan. Indeed, there was general increase in regional language fiction translated into Urdu and English including the short stories of Asghar Nadeem Sayyid, Quratulain Hyder, and A. Hameed. These popular romance and fantasy titles provide easy escape from harsh realities of Pakistan.
The Office reviewed and acquired a number of novels, poetry, and short stories based on current the political situation and history. These thematic titles are finding broad readership in Pakistan.
With all the political strife, it is difficult to understand the rise of the art publisher. 2011-12 saw the emergence of Markings Publishers a new publishing Agency devoted to promoting of art. Thus far, they have published eight titles on art and design. This year the office reviewed and acquired a record number of art catalogs. Many of the art galleries now publish exhibition catalogs; the Indus Valley School of Art and Design, the National College of Art Lahore, and the Karachi School of Art all regularly publish catalogs and journals on art and design.
On the 25th death anniversary of Sadaquain, the renowned Pakistani painter, the Sadaquain Foundation published titles on his life and work.
Cooking books received prominent attention at local bookshops. The reason for the recent influx is the introduction Urdu celebrity chefs on TV channels dedicated to cooking programs; there are now TV tie-ins like books and magazines with recipes. These have proven to be very popular with viewers and are affordable to the cash strapped middle class family.
Political commentaries remained popular. A variety of narratives as well as good political analysis were produced examining current political situation in Pakistan and the world. The publishing wing of Pak Institute for Peace Studies published excellent research titles focused on Balochistan, drone attacks, the continuing war on terror, regional radicalization, and regional insecurity. The overall scenario of political publishing focused on regionas of Balochistan and Saraikistan (proposed province for south Punjab;, the war on terror; the Pakistan economic situation and its impact on political situation,;Pak-India, Pak-US relations, and Pak-Afghan relations; energy, and the Pakistan nuclear program. This year a number of noted political leaders of Pakistan published autobiographies including Imran Khan, Chairman of third largest political party Pakistan the Tehreek-I Insaf (PTI); the leader of MQM Altaf Hussain; Raza Rabbani eader of ruling PPP chose to focus not on himself but on the feudalism that pervades Pakistan politics. The ruling party in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Awami National Party (ANP) published titles on the life and political struggle of their leader Bacha Khan and Abdul Wali Khan.
Universities and Higher Education institutes
In 2012, the improvements initiated by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) began to bear the fruit of scholarly publishing. The Commission set the publishing standards high when it sent a circular to all the private and public universities stating that it would not consider books which considered low standards in U.S. and Europe.
In the midst of ongoing political conflict, bombings, economic turmoil, floods, rains, it is noteworthy that many universities and research institutes produced important titles of high research value including good research journals. There is a positive trend of most public sector universities established a publication office focused on producing journals and monographs written by the faculty members along with important, awarding-winning student theses. In addition, the Higher Education Commission encouraged the establishment of new centers and focused chairs. The result is a number of promising developments. At Hazara University in Mansehra there is now an Hazara Chair which will published in and on the Hindko language; Peshawar University established the Ghani Khan Chair aimed at publishing research on the great Pashto Poet Ghani khan; at the Punjab University there is the Hujvary Chair named after the renowned Sufi Poet, and at Sindh University there is now a Benazir Chair.
2011-2012 was a good year for children’s publishing. Recent improvements in education have encouraged authors to explore children’s both for adults and children. There were a number of titles focused on current concerns in health, the environment, social, and even child abuse. These received wide appreciation due to their content and good quality printing with illustrations – the Mina series initiated by UNICEF, Project Kitab by Children Concern, and KIFAYAT Series. Another NGO, the Society for Tolerance Environment and Education through Recreation (STEER), initiated the Gogi Books Series for children.
This year noted English fiction writer from Pakistan, Musharraf Ali Farooqi, devoted himself children’s literature in both Urdu and English. In 2012, Mr. Farooqi established the publishing house Kitab and have published three titles in English for children which will later be translated in Urdu. Academy of Letters Pakistan has published a series of children’s literature in Urdu and the regional languages of Pakistan; the National Book Foundation of Pakistan also started series. Even the religious publishers like Dar us Salam, Minhaj Publications, Dawat-i Islami, published colorful Islamic books on good quality paper.
Punjabi and Saraiki
Although still relatively small, the Punjabi language publishing appears to be growing with recent titles from the Institute of Punjabi Language and Culture, the Sanjh Publications, Sucheet Kitab Ghar, and the Pakistan Panjabi Adabi Board; all of these cultural associations published noteworthy literary titles.
Saraiki speakers reside in the southern Punjab; the main cities of Multan and Bahawalpur serve as hub for Saraiki publishing, The Area Study Center of Siraiki Language in Bahauddin Zakariya University continued to publish research monogrpahs in Saraiki language. In 2011-12 Saraiki nationalists stepped up their demand for separate province with the name Subah Siraiki or Siraikistan. Urdu remains an important language in the region and many publications were also published in Urdu. Active publishers for the year were organizations like the Multan Arts Forum, Bazm-i Saqafat-i Multan, and the Urdu Academy Bahawalpur and commercial publishers like Jhoke Publications, Beacon Books, Kitab Nagar.
The year 2012 was very good for the publishing of Pashto language publications. Pashto authors have found new market for their writing in Afghanistan and diaspora communities in the Middle East. This year we reviewed good poetry from FATA describing the ongoing war on terror and the political, social and economic condition of the people. The Bacha Trust published research on Pashto literature and their historical political struggle. The Pashto Academy at the University of Peshawar published a few English titles translated from Pashto. In Quetta, an area torn by strife, the Zareef Kakar Foundation published research books in Pashto. We have now begun to see Pashto titles from literary associations based in Middle East.
In 2012 saw an increase in the number of Balochi language publications including good titles published by Baloch separatist movement and its supporters including the Mir Yusuf Aziz Magsi Foundation, Gaam Publication, Asap Publications. It was an active year for the Balochi and Brahui Academies as well as New College publications and Balochiya Lubazank Publishers.
As always, the office made an extra effort to track threaten minority languages. The policy is to collect every title publishing in such languages; there are not many. This year the Islamabad Office visited the remote area of Chitral and acquired valuable material in Khower language – a grammar of Khower language, poetry in Khower language, and music and tele-dramas in Khower language. This year, the office also acquired a collection of Torwali classical poetry from Swat; the title is among the few published work in the Torwali language which is spoken in the Swat and Kohistan areas of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. The Forum for Language Initiatives Islamabad works to publish lesser known regional languages; this year they published a work on the Palula vocabulary as spoken in Chitral and one on the Ormuri language spoken in South Waziristan of Pakistan.
There were a number of Persian-language titles published during 2011-2012. The Iran-Pakistan Persian Research Institute Islamabad has published more than twenty titles on Persian language and literature. The Department of Persian at University of Punjab in Karachi and The Government College University continued to publish monographs and journals for Persian studies.
Pakistani Folk Music traditions remain vibrant expressions of the cultures found throughout Pakistan. The Library continued to collect the great names of traditional music. The widespread availability of regional satellite language channels and FM radio stations has boosted folk music in regions. Avt Khyber runs a Pashto TV channel, and there are Pashto Channels in the neighboring Afghanistan that give a boost to local and national level Pashto singers. There are similarities throughout Pakistan whether the language is Punjabi language with Dunya, Jhoke, Wasaib, or the Sindhi language with Channel Mehran, Awaz, Kashish, or the Balochi language with Wash channel.
Time and advancement in technology play a vital role in the shaping of the years’ trends. In this digital age more publishing is converted to digital media.
Online Book Stores
In Pakistan the online bookstore remains an extension of bricks and mortar bookstore; like their counterparts across the world, Pakistan’s online bookstores provide shoppers with the ability to search and read reviews of the books, browse through categories, view covers, find out author information, and order books online. In Pakistan, almost all of the leading publishing houses now maintain websites which sell their titles: Oxford University Press, Sang-e-Meel Publications, Liberty Books, Paramount Publishing, Marking Publishers, Dar us Salam Publications, Zavvar Academy, Qirtas publications etc. Important religious institute, organizations like Dar ul Uloom Karachi, Jamia Banoria, Minhaj ul Quran, Al-Mawarid, Anjuman-I Khuddam ul Quran have established their online book stores.
Although Reading Clubs are not a new phenomenon in Pakistan, they are enjoying a revival. The National Book Foundation re-activated its reading club providing more incentives; the Department of English at University of Karachi established a reading club for students. Many of these reading clubs can be found the Facebook and Yahoo Groups pages.
The International Book Fairs at Karachi and Lahore were well received by the public despite the fact that many considered the books very expensive. This year Karachi will host the 8th Karachi International book fair in December 2012. Lahore will host the 27th Lahore International book fair in February 2013. There are also the annual book fairs I held at universities and colleges.
Mobile Book Shops
The concept of a Mobile Bookshop was first used by the Welcome Book port some years back. Recently, Oxford started its own mobile book shop which has been touring the city for quite some time now. Set on a truck, with the back converted into a small book shop there are shelves and a counter set snugly at the end, the book shop attracted people outside various schools and universities.
Last Updated: June 28, 2016