Stories published in January, 2012

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 ...

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Salmaan Taseer in Kafka’s Pakistan

“One morning, upon awakening from agitated dreams, Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin.” Thus begins Franz Kafka’s novella masterpiece Metamorphosis. The novel inhabits the familiar bizarre frame of Kafka’s work, of a world where the transformation of Gregor Samsa into a giant insect-like creature elicits hardly any surprise from Samsa’s family and associates, or indeed from Samsa himself. Samsa spends no time pondering his metamorphosis, why it may have occurred or how the process may be reversed. He busies himself instead with mundane concerns, and immediately upon his transformation spends an inordinate amount of ...

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Salmaan Taseer’s sacrifice was in vain

One year on from the assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer, and all debate on amending the blasphemy laws has essentially come to a close. I do not blame individual citizens for this. Given the prevailing extremist temperament in the country, it is next to impossible to effectively stand up to what is, at the end of the day, a case of bullying in the name of religion. Given the kind of organisation and capabilities the extremists/militants have, it is very difficult for the average man or woman, appalled at the rapid rise of violent radicalism in the country, to speak out. It is not just ...

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We are left to fend for ourselves

The killing of a doctor, as he drove on a busy Karachi road, last week, right before his wife, must have sent a shockwaves through many city residents. Dr Saleem Kharal, head of the microbiology department at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, had reportedly stopped his car at a traffic signal of a very busy road close to Karachi’s Clifton area. Most reports into this tragic incident say that two young men on a motorcycle came up to the doctor’s side of the car and took out pistols and wanted to steal his car. They also say that he offered ...

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10 things I miss about PTV

Some of you might be too young to remember, but in the not-so-distant past, there was a time when we had just one TV channel, Pakistan Television (PTV). This lone channel, too, did not air all day. In fact, it started at around 4 pm and almost always ended before midnight. We have come a long way since then as Pakistani media has grown into a huge industry. Undoubtedly, this has many advantages in terms of opportunity and exposure. But sometimes I can’t help but feel terribly nostalgic. I miss the simpler days of PTV.  Here’s a list of things about the ...

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How is ‘marital rape’ not rape?

“He abuses me but I cannot refuse him. My family told me that it was my religious duty to do as he demanded and if I refuse, the angels will curse me all night.” These are the words of a young Pakistani woman who contracted a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) when her husband, who had been engaged in several extramarital affairs, forced himself on her. When it comes to marital rape, women are often confused whether they have been raped or not. The scenario of a stranger raping a woman on the street is immediately identified as rape, where as forceful acts ...

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Do we remember what Taseer was fighting for?

International newspapers were ruthlessly generous to Pakistan this past year in granting the country front page features time and time again. Coverage included the Raymond Davis incident, the Memogate scandal, a ‘bold’ Veena Malik, devastating floods, and everyone’s favourite, Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad. However, exactly one year ago, Pakistan stole headlines for a reason that has largely been buried; Salmaan Taseer’s assassination over the criticism of the blasphemy law. On January 4, 2011, Malik Mumtaz Qadri, one of Taseer’s security guards, emptied over 20 bullets into the body of the man he was meant to protect. Taseer’s death was both ...

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The outrageous cricket that Pakistan played

Outrageous would be an apt term to describe Pakistan’s show on the fourth afternoon in Abu Dhabi. How the team produces such cricket when you least expect them to is beyond belief. Pakistan were expected to stir up a few surprises – on the cricket field this time – against England but a series-win, despite the home-like conditions, remained a hope rather than an aim. Die-hard optimism notwithstanding, it was always a push from God that the team management and the captain sought considering the gulf that existed between the two sides prior to the series. Pakistan’s batting line-up remained meek – ...

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Call me an Indian Pakistani

I recently wrote a blog post titled ‘An Indian who moved to Pakistan‘. The response I got – positive and negative – is much appreciated. It inspired me to write this piece about my dream of a world without borders and wars. Before I begin, however, I want to make clear that I do not have any desire to undermine the sovereign and political borders between India and Pakistan or between any other countries. My dream is to erase the psychological borders that are etched in our minds in the shape of prejudices and hatred towards the other. So I’ll get to ...

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Why Memogate doesn’t matter

If you held a gun to the head of any prominent Pakistani journalist and asked them to explain the energy crisis in the country, the overwhelming majority would be unable to tell you what actually caused it. Yet ask any one of those same people to explain to you exactly what happened in the Memogate scandal and almost all of them will be able to give you a blow-by-blow account of what happened and their own views on what was most significant about the whole affair. The problem with most of us in the media is our absolute obsession with the ...

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