As many as 57 jet planes full of Pakistanis have died from Covid-19 to date. Take a moment to let that sink in. Remember the anger and sheer outrage you feel when you see one Pakistani airliner crash. Just because Covid-19 deaths aren’t as dramatic in terms of TV footage doesn’t mean they’re any less painful. Now imagine a jet plane full of people crashing into the Minar-e-Pakistan tonight because that is what a super-spreader event looks like at this stage of the Covid-19 curve. The irony is that the pilot says it’s being done in our name. For civilian supremacy, they say. Mass murder in the name of democracy.
By now, all of us personally know someone in our distant family who didn’t believe Covid-19 was real in the first wave but they contracted and passed away from the disease in the second wave. That’s the ugly truth about this disease; you can pretend it doesn’t exist, but it’ll still come for you. It’s one thing to put yourself in harm’s way. It’s entirely another to put other people in harm’s way. But in the land of the pure, leadership and courage is defined by how many people you can put in danger. Vote ko izzat do, they say. Only in Pakistan can we trade other people’s lives for our own respect and call it a deal.
This isn’t just a murder of all the incremental Covid-19 patients that are going to burst in Lahore after the PDM jalsa. This is also a murder of leadership and morality of us as a people. How can you claim to be the genuine, legitimate representatives of a people you are comfortable throwing under the proverbial Metro bus? And how can we as people and the media keep indulging ourselves in this sadistic fetish that feudal leaders who inherit political parties from their parents will midwife real democracy in this country?
If we give them just one more chance, it’ll be different this time, we re-assure ourselves. In the wise words of Britney Spears, Oops, I did it again is what we’re going to say when a misogynistic Maulana rides into corridors of power and privilege on the back of Twitter liberals.
I fully support the right of anyone in Pakistan to protest. I believe in civilian supremacy. I believe in democracy. But to envelope your selfish power politics under the burqa of democracy and lead people to their needless deaths by hosting a super-spreader Covid-19 event reveals more about your values than your principles.
The real hypocrisy here is that this is the same opposition which screamed and shouted bloody murder when Imran Khan refused to order a blanket national lockdown in the early stages of the coronavirus to protect the livelihoods of millions who earn daily wages. Eventually, Imran Khan’s strategy of smart lockdowns drew widespread global praise. Now, the opposition argues why Imran Khan is against opposition rallies today when he didn’t lock down the country before. There’s a world of difference between enabling daily wage earners to make a living and creating super-spreader events at political rallies.
The opposition argues that a PTI government is Covid-18 because it has taken many lives, which is an insensitive pun for those Pakistanis who have lost lives and livelihoods due to Covid-19. The substance of the opposition’s argument is that people shouldn’t worry about the dangers of Covid-19 and attend PDM’s jalsas because Covid-18 is much worse than Covid-19. If this argument was made in any other country, these people would be laughed out of whatever little political and media oxygen they command.
Colourful rallies and jalsas are the beating heart of Pakistani politics and they should be welcomed regardless of your political affiliation. But not while a global pandemic surging through this country. And especially when your fight is about power, not principles. If the PDM had principles, they would realise that the highest responsibility of a Prime Minister is to protect the lives of his or her country’s citizens. What kind of Prime Minister will you become, if you’re climbing on top of a heap of dead bodies at Minar-e-Pakistan tonight, only to make yourself look taller than the current Prime Minister?
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2020.