How many bodies will I count this year?
One of the most frequent questions I’m asked is whether we will see a resurgence of violence in 2012 like the one we saw in Karachi during 2011.
This is because of the nature of my work, which is mostly about keeping count of the dead. Although it sounds morbid, it really is not as bad as what my other colleague does, an obituary writer who earns his living by going to graveyards almost every day.
Cynical journalists among our group often joke that while “one kills, the other buries (aik marta hay, dosra dafnata hay).”
I’m neither a clairvoyant nor a trickster who can predict the future, though sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball. Not because I could write a report saying that such and such is about to happen, and when that comes to pass, I could write another report boasting that this news was broken by ‘yours truly’. But because I don’t have to be there when bodies of young men, women and children are strewn across the streets of this city.
I don’t want to see the holes in the faces of young men like me, who had nothing to do with either the dirty politics that is being played out or the numerous criminal gangs that have made the people of my city hostage.
Hundreds of people died in violence in 2011. Even though the authorities would like us to believe to the contrary, the truth is that most of the murderers involved in these crimes remain free and continue to lurk out there somewhere near our homes.
Besides, what sense of peace can one expect when the only greeting one heard as 2012 drew closer was the sound of gunfire. In my own neighbourhood, which is a middle class area, intense firing had erupted ten minutes before midnight to January first. Sounds of sophisticated weapons such as Kalashnikovs, Mausers and repeaters carried on nonstop for at least 45 minutes as my sisters with their hands on their ears sat in one corner of the room, terrified just the way they did last year. And my mother screamed at me for hanging out in the gallery just like she did last year. And all this in a neighbourhood which is almost adjacent to where the top Rangers official lives and a police station is a mere two-minute drive.
Like others, I too am hanging onto the hope that things would turn out to be better for us this year.
Even if it doesn’t seem like it.