In the worst of times, Pakistan swings lotas

Published: March 22, 2011

Last week as tickers of an earthquake in Japan started running on television, a PML-Q parliamentarian sat with four, different coloured lotas, screaming for her opinion to be heard in a discussion between two people.

Other channels too had nothing but mudslinging, noise pollution and tickers on the earthquake. Pakistani television seemed oblivious to the disaster.

It was not before turning to BBC that the extent of what had happened hit, as footage of seismic waves razing homes, sweeping away ships and cars appeared in the most devastating videos I have seen.

Unfortunately it wasn’t only the infamous electronic media that had failed to give the disaster its due coverage. That night I checked websites of six local English language newspapers and only two had the 9.0 earthquake followed by a 10-metre high tsunami as the top news, which too was outdated.  There was much fear then of radiation leakages and the tsunami hitting other countries, but on websites of Pakistani newspapers the top news to the likes of “President writes letter to Nisar” remained. Meanwhile, on international newspaper websites from India, the UK and the US, Japan overshadowed everything else.

Over the past week, this pattern has stayed quite the same. Last Sunday, when there were explosions in two nuclear reactors in Japan, fears of partial meltdowns and another explosion, and the death toll had exceeded 10,000, our newspapers the day after had main stories on President Zardari calling Nawaz Sharif to check on Begum Kulsoom’s health.

This lack of interest in Japan is particularly surprising for a country that is both a nuclear power and which less than a year ago suffered from one of its two worst disasters in living memory.

However, the most inconsequential of things continue to grip the national psyche. And while the rest of the world focuses on natural disasters and uprisings in the Arab world, Pakistan sits back and swings lotas.


Zehra Abid

Peshawar desk in charge at The Express Tribune. She is fluent in Urdu, English and Turkish. She studied at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.