THE most peaceful place for a child is his mother’s lap, for this is where a mother bestows on him grace, care and heavenly love. A mother’s lap never elicits despair in her child. So it is most painful to imagine a child dying in his mother’s lap. For no other image beside that of a dead child — particularly one who could have been saved — in his mother’s lap can signify more oppression and callousness of those who played any role in creating such a scenario.
But such an image was there for everyone to see in a recent video. This video shows a child dying painfully in his mother’s lap. The young boy had suffered a dog bite and contracted rabies. He succumbed to this treatable disease because of lack of access to timely cure. A politician blamed the death of this child on his parents, arguing that he died because his parents delayed taking him to the hospital. This is a heartless thing to say; such delays are in fact the result of policies in which the well-being of citizens is not of primary concern to the authorities.
A torrent of painful thoughts runs through your mind if you reflect on the video. You wonder what heart had not broken in pieces after watching this. What kind of hearts beat within us, for if the ultimate goal of those who reign is to relieve the citizens of misery and misfortune, then what do we make of such pain? What do we as citizens make of the endless denials by our leaders who say that they are not responsible? What have our leaders become?
Now in this land of ours, mothers have to see their young sons, the repositories of their hopes and bearers of their dreams, die not in a foreign land far away but in their own country ruled by their own people, who claim to be the most patriotic of saviours. How such mothers will ever find peace is beyond me.
Great leaders are not those who cannot feel the pain of their citizens.
This child died in Sindh. Lest we forget, it was also in Sindh that a recent HIV outbreak affected hundreds of people, including children. What caused the outbreak? Careless monitoring of health services in the province. And would not then common men wonder why the glory, honour and prosperity of those in office, who cannot manage our well-being, continue to increase while those of the average person continue to decrease?
Health services and government machinery in our country usually start to function not when it is most prudent and easy to stop the spread of disease, but when suffering sets in among the masses.
The HIV outbreak happened in Larkana, in Sindh — the same city that is the house of the founders of the ruling party of the province, the PPP. If there is one city that should be a paragon of good governance for other cities in the province, should it not be Larkana?
The PPP had prioritised health in their 2018 election manifesto. Their vision is spelt out as follows: “A peaceful, prosperous and progressive Pakistan for all our people.” The manifesto also promises equitable health resources in “areas that are underserved and underprivileged”. It seems this sincerity is available only in words.
Moreover, the manifesto claims that “Sindh has highest per capita expenditure on health and our health services have earned renown for excellent free of cost care to our people across the country”. What hands can write such words when our citizens’ eyes witness only neglect and pain? What souls make such grand claims of having achieved renown when the poor see not joy and success but misery and failure all around them?
This is not just about the PPP but rather all parties running other provinces too. Should they not be running their provinces well? Should they not govern cities their leaders claim to be their own better than any other? This is a reasonable expectation. It is fair to expect that the owner who loves his house will keep it clean and in order. But those who cannot keep a healthy house cannot be trusted to free our cities from disease and poverty. And those who cannot govern their cities can hardly be trusted to govern a province or a country.
Great leaders take the same care of public property as they do of their private property. Great leaders also maintain the health of their citizens as they maintain their own. Great leaders are not those who cannot feel the pain of their citizens; they are those who truly possess a gentle heart that makes them tirelessly pursue the well-being of their citizens.
Our leaders should make the interest of our country’s people their primary concern. Moreover, they need to do this out of love for the people. It is not possible to govern well until love leads us to devote all our energies to good governance.
The writer is a freelance contributor.
Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2019