Back from the dead? How social media resurrected a child

Rumours about a young boy’s return from the dead haunts family


Umer Farooq October 08, 2019
PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR: They were still struggling to cope with the grief and loss of their youngest son. It had only been a few months Abdullah, their six-year-old son passed away.

Emotionally vulnerable, the family mostly kept to themselves as they mourned the loss of their youngest child.  It wasn’t easy, but they were trying to get on with life when one day a young boy knocked on their door.  Abdullah’s grieving father answered the door, only to be surprised by the young visitor, who instantly claimed he was his father.

He kept claiming he was their son, and that was his family home. Abdullah’s father took the young boy inside.  He was the same age as their deceased son. Days later the boy’s family came looking for him, and he returned home to Shabqadar.

Captured on a smartphone, the entire episode, dubbed as Abdullah’s return, made rounds within the tightly-knit community.  Still finding ways to cope with their sorrow, the grieving family was suddenly in the middle of another unwanted emotional storm.  The video of the young boy knocking on the door and subsequently been taken in by the family was given a Hollywood-esque touch and members of the community were told that Abdullah, who died six months ago, had returned.

While the proliferation of social media and new mobile devices has been mostly positive, they can be a blessing in disguise.  Without the use of mobile technology and social media, the rumor about Abdullah’s return could not have been circulated so widely.   And perhaps if the technology had been used with some responsibility, Abdullah’s grieving family would not have to go through the ordeal they were forced to live through six months after the death of their son.

Social media and the use of mobile technology has become second nature.  In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa alone, it has been used to bring criminals to justice and even helped the police capture runaway criminals.

One such example was a post by a journalist, whose parents were allegedly murdered by her stepbrothers. The video went viral and police were compelled to take action.  The case is still being investigated but social media activists and account holders were instrumental in amplifying the message.

In another case, a Charsadda family was able to get justice for their loved ones only by sharing the story of their gruesome murder on social media.  Kashif, Sajjad, and Shabbir received a volley of bullets because they asked an influential landlord to transfer the ownership of the land they had purchased from him.

Like most true crime stories with Hollywood-esque details that leave you shaken, the villain escaped justice and somehow fled to Malaysia.

In their quest for justice, the family of the victims decided to share the entire incident on social media, which made the wheels of justice turn. Their post triggered demonstrations in the area and eventually, law enforcement agencies were forced to bring the accused back to Pakistan.

Experts believe, given its speed, and the ability to make issues viral, the use of mobile technology coupled with social media, can instantly generate fear and conflict out of thin air. While social media has played an instrumental role in amplifying voices that were otherwise inaudible, if used irresponsibly, as it was in Abdullah’s case, it can also cause irreparable harm.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 8th, 2019.

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