Saeed Book Bank: Another casualty in KP

Published: February 26, 2011

Saeed Book Bank was Peshawar's oldest book store

It’s not that I never anticipated the closure of one of Peshawar’s largest and oldest bookstores, Saeed Book Bank, yet that news still broke my heart. I can’t exactly recall my first visit to the store but I do know it was the best book store in the province.

Saeed Book Bank has been regarded as a site worth mentioning to tourists in Peshawar. It has served the literary and educational needs of the people of KP for over five decades.

Saeed Book Bank was established in 1955 by Saeed Jan Qureshi. His sons took over the family business in 1985. By the 1990s the store had expanded to a double story wonderland -the basement stored academic course books that covered all disciplines. In addition to this children’s books, religious books and vast collections of Urdu literature, both prose and poetry, were easily available. The ground floor would had shelf after shelf of English titles, fiction and non-fiction, preparatory books for standardized tests, coffee table books and magazines. The shop also sold greeting cards and office supplies.

The closure of Saeed Book Bank  does not bode well for various reasons.

Firstly, one cannot help but regret that many businesses have moved out of Peshawar over the past five years or so. The prime reason for this is the dismal economic situation and growing uncertainty caused by militancy.

Secondly, while talking to media, the owner of Saeed Book Bank said that one reason for the closure was the non-existent culture of book reading in Peshawar. The fact that not many people read books cannot be denied but one cannot help but question how much this has to do with prices. Books in general, especially imported ones, are quite expensive. Books by foreign publishers from the US and UK are priced well above Rs1,000. Despite one’s desire to own and read, a book could be out of one’s reach due to it’s price.

Unfortunately, libraries cannot substitute bookstores. There are not many available but they do help promote the reading trend. In Peshawar, the British Council, used to be a nice and cozy corner for readers but it too closed its doors for the people some time back due to the deteriorating security situation.

There are a couple of other bookstores in Peshawar with fairly good collections but finding a books is still not easy – especially if you are looking for a rare title. I think it is time for the leading booksellers in Pakistan to come up with user friendly online ordering systems so that the readers can stop relying on visiting bookstores.


Ayesha Umar

Interested in current affairs, cultural and gender-based issues Ayesha religiously tweets @ayeshaesque. In her free time she blogs at Fifth Junction and indulges in random photography.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Abdul Ahad Khan

    I had loads of memories associated with this bookstore. Whenever I had to order rare books, they’d usually be my first choice. Hopefully Peshawar will have bigger and better bookstores to replace SBB!Recommend

  • Muhammad Ilyas Khan

    From ‘books, not bombs’ to ‘bombs, not books’, its such a tragic story! for the people of this beautiful city! Ayesha thanks for highlighting this vital issue.Recommend

  • Wajeeha Asrar Siddiqui

    Very Tragic for people of Peshawar.Recommend

  • Wasim mukarram

    Very shocking news! I recently visited the bank and bought books of different deciplines. No matter they were of high cost but they were of nice print.
    What will happen next very frustated and hopeless.Recommend

  • Saad Durrani

    OMG! Thats awful. You can always check London Book Company for books.Recommend

  • Hammad shah

    This is a dilemma not only being faced by people of peshawar rather its sad but true that every where book culture is getting vanished everywhere. Why? Because even the education systems prevailing in the country does not encourages reading books rather they want the youth to completely rely on internet sources, security issues have driven last nail in the coffin. Its not a bad thing to follow technological advancements but to preserve old methods of expanding knowledge is worth it. Talk to an old fellow who didn’t have internet rather had books to read, his knowledge will be much more deeper than a young internet relying youth.. What if we are deprived of electrical energy how would u access internet . Ultimately the books are most reliable and authentic source of getting knowledge as it is read and re-read by scholars and only then published. In my opinion closure of saeed book bank is just like another step towards dark future of youth. And I protest against it loud and clear.Recommend

  • parvez

    A book store closes and in its place most likely a video shop, a beauty saloon and a cheap jewelery outlet will spring up.
    One has to service the needs of the people and reading is just not one of them.
    Liked the way you have written this article.Recommend

  • Habiba Younis

    sad indeed!Recommend

  • Viqqar ul Haq

    It is very sad to read in the Tribune blog that SSB has closed down its shop in Peshawar. I had been an ardent visitor to SSB and have been to its Islamabad setup in Jinnah Super.
    However, I wish to set the record straight. As far as I remember, there was no SSB in 1955. I do remember meeting Saeed Jan Qureshi when he worked at the London Book Company, next to the Capital Cinema on Arbab Road, Saddar. He was a very efficient and hard working person. He set up SSB after leaving LBC somewhere around 1975 just opposite and down the street from LBC. It was a small outlet but later on it extended to the adjoining shop. The Islamabad setup came up somewhere around 2000, and is held in great esteem. I am a regular visitor and wish the bookshop keeps growing, although they have vacated the top third floor for rental. Lets hope it thrives and gives us the B&N and Amazon feel here in Pakistan. Unfortunately, reading books is on the decline while availability of books on the Internet has also hampered the trend to buy books, notwithstanding the sky rocketing prices.
    Anyway, I wish Saeed Sahab good health and may his sons follow his efforts.
    Good Luck Saeed Book Bank – Peshawar (wishing and praying a smaller set up is kept going in Peshawar just for the old times).Recommend

  • Ayesha

    @Viqqar ul Haq: The official website of Saeed Book Bank says their business was established in 1955. Recommend

  • Revolutionary Soldier

    Travelling to the Dark ages..sad moment for a Book LoverRecommend

  • Akif Khan

    Very Sad indeed :(Recommend

  • Syed Arbab Ahmed

    World is moving forward in education and we are going behind, Allay help and guide us all, Ameen.Recommend

  • shahroon khalil

    I am a little sad for their shop to end. Wish they were a little cheap in their time of service. maybe, then i d be really sad. And by the way, those people who were regular visitors of SBB are mostly from the upper middle class of the society. They can easily get the new titles and classics from London book company or definitely Islamabad; to which, they make regular visits, i presume. If closing of SBB is a loss to anything, thats the culture of Peshawar, thats about it.
    Ps: i hope they build something new and flashy in the SBB space. SBB was like the heart of the city.Recommend

  • shabbir asghar

    I remember purchasing a paperback edition of Penguin’s English Dictionary from Saeed Book Bank in 1966, when it was on Arbab Road, Peshawar. That book was instrumental in significantly improving my vocabulary. It was a wonderful book store. Recommend

  • Syed Arbab Ahmed

    Government must show extreme strictness for those who target educational institution and make example out of them (Punishment in public)

    Twitter: @SyedArbabAhmed

  • Atif Hameed

    Very disapointing News.

    recently after the perminent closure of KHAN KLUB Hotel in Peshawar I felt that it will set very bad example for other businesses and institutions in Pesh. Now the closure of Saeed Book Bank will bring more negitive impect to the City of Hispitality (Peshawar).

    I dont know what are the resons behind this but I am feeling so bad and looking forward and hopeful that SBB management will realise and will respect the peoples opinion here in Peshawar. The closure of SBB is not acceptible to any one here and of course we are the peacefull citizens and want to spread knowledge, Books & education.

    Please do not close healthy and progressive activities in our city. I have suggession if the continuation is not possible for the SBB management here in Pesh then there are many other options for continuation like Franchise or authorirse sellers / distribution. I hope you peoples (Resindence of Peshawar) will support the suggession because we want to see SBB in Peshawar again. Recommend

  • ibn-e-saif

    Shifting of Saeed book bank is very amazing for those people who have the memories of this book stall and it also shows that in PK how much are interested to read the books book bank have its disposal other wise shifting from Peshawar to Islamabad is not understoodRecommend

  • Asif

    My prayers with the owners. It could be dwindling business, but most probably they were threatened to shut up. Barbarians are too scared of knowledge and books are a great hindrance for dark age to commence.. Recommend