Mohammad Faisal Baloch said to reporters that according to the doctors, had his daughter Bisma received medical attention only 10 minutes earlier, her life could have been saved. Instead, she died because of the delay caused by the security measures taken to protect the visiting Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, at Karachi’s Civil Hospital.
The tragedy has resulted in plenty of backlashes towards Bilawal and VIP culture in general. But curiously enough, there has been some backlash towards the backlash… a backlash’ception if you will.
This has come not only courtesy of Bilawal’s own camp, but from PPP sympathisers and neutral members of the public as well. I think it would be sensible to address some of these comments, but before we get started, let’s acknowledge that both Bilawal and his father, former president of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari, have not only been empathetic, but have had the good grace to avoid insensitive excuses.
Anguished over Bisma’s death. Am personally inquiring into this heart breaking incident to ascertain what went wrong.
— BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) December 23, 2015
Sadly, the same can’t be said for others.
1. “Nothing is more precious than party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari”
This appalling statement was delivered by Nisar Khuhro, the Sindh Senior Minister for Education and Literacy. Would Khuhro have said the same thing had his own loved one perished instead of a stranger’s?
…. speechless …. #BilawalInfantKiller
Nisar Khoro says – security of Baby Bhutto more important … pic.twitter.com/wmtuRQJeUb
— Awab Alvi (@DrAwab) December 23, 2015
Perhaps Khuhro would like to examine with the centre ‘P’ in ‘PPP’ stands for.
2. “While we are all talking about Bisma, other children across Pakistan dying in tragedies have not been making the news”
Such statements can be found on social media from many thinkers with liberal leanings. Their point is to ask why Bisma has received so much media attention while others are being ignored. To me, it actually sounds as ludicrous as the query, “Why has Malala Yousafzai gotten more attention than other victims”?
A child from an impoverished locality died as an indirect result of a security arrangement for one of the richest and most powerful politicians in Pakistan. Why shouldn’t it be making the news?
Strangely, some of the same people asking, ‘Why Bisma?’ are the first to jump to Malala’s defence when conservative Pakistanis ask why the Nobel Prize winner has received more attention than other victims. It is mind boggling how people who find the warped rationale used to attack Malala as unacceptable, are using the same reasoning to evoke feelings of guilty for talking about Bisma.
3. “Mohammad Faisal Baloch may have been delayed at the hospital, but he is to blame for arriving so late”
Uhh… no he isn’t. According to the BBC, the father says he arrived an hour late purely because of the VIP roadblocks. Anyone familiar with the logistics of the area knows how congested the locality already is. While driving to Civil Hospital on several occasions, I have been delayed anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour simply because of the teeming flow of traffic. I also had the misfortune of driving to the area during a VIP movement once, and was stuck for nearly three hours because of the clear disregard for the civilian population by the rich and powerful.
Hypothetically speaking, had I been transporting someone in serious need of medical attention during a VIP movement, things wouldn’t have ended well.
4. “Why didn’t Mohammad Faisal Baloch go to another gate?”
Put yourself in his shoes. This is a father with a dying daughter who finally makes it to the hospital after navigating through roads bottlenecked by a VIP moment. Can he be held at fault for going to the first gate he came across? From what I remember, the Civil Hospital gates are at least 10 minutes apart as it is. Here, he spends his time begging the guards to let him pass; guards who probably reassured him that they would be done at any moment.
Let’s also keep in mind that these guards did not belong to the hospital. In fact, it is against hospital policy to close any entrance… you know… like any hospital.
“Dr Qureshi clarified that the security officers deployed at the gates were not theirs. The hospital management does not close doors on patients at any time, he said.”
5. “Bilawal’s visit did not cause any traffic jams… his visit merely lasted 20 minutes,” Bilawal House,
Was this VIP movement using magical unicorns and fairy dust rather than motorcades of SUVs? How can any VIP movement in Pakistan not cause any traffic jams? Gridlocks aside, there is nothing ‘mere’ about a 20 minute delay at a hospital.
This is a hospital… a place where people go to heal, sometimes in emergencies. Under no circumstances should any gates be closed. Even five minutes are a lifetime in a life or death situation.
6. “VIP movements are necessary and everyone uses them.”
Yes, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the army, all use similar protocols, and in light of this country’s security situation, the measures are essential.
Not too long ago, Imran Khan arrived at Jinnah Hospital in Karachi, where the emergency gate had to be closed due to his visit, in the process inconveniencing numerous patients in need of immediate healthcare. The PTI chairman also led a circus with his dharnas, where roads were for one reason or another blocked at major locations. Yet, ever the opportunist, Imran Khan has harshly criticised Bilawal, while ignoring his own sins.
Bilawal already lost his mother to a terrorist act, and deserves all the protection he can afford. But could he not have inaugurated the Trauma Centre from a remote location? Considering how VIP protection is indispensible, should politicians of any background hold photo-ops in a building designed to save lives, where the mere visit of a political team hinders the very purpose the hospital was built for?