Right now the entire media spotlight is on Thar due to the tragedy which has befallen its inhabitants. Many children have died due to malnutrition and as I write these sentences, more gruesome details continue to come out.
I personally think that the situation in Thar is, to some extent an administrative failure and therefore criticism on the incumbent party is legitimate. There is no way you can absolve a ruling party completely from responsibility.
However, what I have noticed on the electronic and social media is that many are really going overboard in their criticism and are using this tragedy for political point scoring and for feeling comfortable in their instinctive hatred of the PPP.
Our TV anchors have tried to link the Sindh festival with the tragedy in Thar to further whip up the sentiment, despite the fact that the two do not have any causal relationship. The Thar tragedy did not happen because the PPP organised the Sindh festival and yet, it is being portrayed as such.
Their point of view is being lapped up by a large chunk of the urban middle, particularly which hails from Punjab. On social media, I continue to see posts which portray PPP as a party of Pharaohs and murderers who were busy dancing at the Sindh festival, while Thar was dying of hunger. Many youngsters, who have had no knowledge on famines in general, have suddenly become experts on nutrition and are using this opportunity to vent out hate.
Similarly, when the Sindh festival was held at the famous Mohenjo-daro site, everyone became an expert on Archeology and vehemently voiced concerns over the safety of the ruins despite having had little to no interest in the site previously.
The most visible target of the entire hate filled campaign is of course the young Bilawal. I have read posts which liken him to a mass murderer and have also seen analogies with the infamous emperor of Rome, Nero. As the chairman of the PPP, he should be facing the heat but to portray him as a mass murderer is uncalled for.
Many people I know simply hate him for being the son of Asif Ali Zardari and late Benazir Bhutto and their overreaction can actually be understood in that context.
Even before the Thar tragedy, he was continuously mocked upon and there were jibes on his supposed lack of masculinity and also on his relatively poor Urdu. Today, legacy politics dominate literally every party, with legacy politicians in their ranks. And yet, Bilawal has constantly been targeted as an exception.
From the very onset, Bilawal has taken a very clear stance on extremism and despite his youth, he has shown great maturity in attempting to understand the issues that plague Pakistan. And yet, even his speech, where he condemned the Taliban was mocked upon.
It’s no wonder then that those who express revulsion against Bilawal come up with all kinds of apologetic defense for monsters like the Taliban. Beyond Bilawal, they hate all liberal parties who have been voicing opposition to extremists.
Today Bilawal is being called a murderer and yet the actual murderers are being called “our people”, gone astray due to Pakistan’s decision to side with USA after 9/11.
This is not to say what has happened in Thar is excusable or less condemnable. Those who are responsible for negligence should be held accountable and should face retribution but at the same time, the huge difference in our reactions is worth pondering upon.
A tragedy like famines is often a cause of complex factors and while government negligence is an important aspect, it is not the sole cause. Famines such as this have occurred in many desert areas all across the globe and the causes are always multiple such as weather, lack of proper functioning markets, extreme poverty, high level of debt accumulation by the poor, land ownership patterns, etc. What has happened in Thar has to be analysed in the context of these factors and the responsibility of the government also needs to be evaluated accordingly.
Bilawal has just taken over the party and he should be judged primarily on the way he deals with this tragedy. Where he should be criticised is the way he holds officials from his government accountable. He should be evaluated by what his government does to address the multiple causes of such famines. Yes, if he fails then criticism is valid and in fact should be severe.
However, merely calling him a murderer is not the smartest of ways to go about it.