Covid in India: Pakistanis pour their hearts out for neighbours on social media

Dubai - Mutual hard feelings melt in the face of the raging contagion that has emerged as a common enemy

By Joydeep Sen Gupta

Published: Sat 24 Apr 2021, 3:17 PM

Last updated: Sat 24 Apr 2021, 6:35 PM

India, which recorded 346,000 Covid-19 new Covid-19 infections and 2,624 deaths due to the contagion on Friday, has found unlikely support from its western neighbour Pakistan during the Holy month of Ramadan that started on April 13.

Historically, India and Pakistan - both nuclear powers - are known for their decades-old hostilities, but the mutual hard feelings have melted overnight in the face of a common enemy, the raging Covid-19 outbreak.

Pakistani civilians have taken to social media platforms to rally support behind Indians reeling under a deadly strain of SARS-CoV-2, which causes the viral disease, as people are dying like fireflies.

Secunder Kermani, who covers Pakistan and Afghanistan for British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), put out a poignant tweet that summed up the Pakistanis’ concern for their neighbours, as people from both nations have a shared past and history.

“Two top Twitter trends in Pakistan at the moment are about the awful Covid-19 situation in India... Amidst such grim scenes heartening to see so many Pakistanis expressing sympathy, offering prayers, and wondering if there’s any way they or the government can help,” Kermani tweeted.

Shiraz Hassan, a multimedia journalist based in Islamabad, told Khaleej Times that the magnitude of the calamity playing out across the border has caught many of his compatriots by surprise.

“Pakistan’s Covid-19 situation has been equally grim in the past couple of weeks and the deaths rate is far higher, as compared to our population. Fear is the key among Pakistanis. However, the situation in India is far more disturbing going by social media posts, ground reports and horrifying visuals of mass cremations across the country. Those social media posts and visuals have hit people hard back home. It was beyond belief that India will be battling such a severe health care emergency. The popular perception in Pakistan suggests that the Indian health care system is way superior to ours. Alas! That doesn’t appear to be the case,” said Hassan.

A health care professional, who works for the Indian government-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, spoke to Khaleej Times on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media, and debunked the myth that many Pakistanis may harbour.

“India’s healthcare system was always broken. The second and more lethal wave of Covid-19 outbreak, whose mutations are taking diabolical proportions with each passing day, has exposed the creaking health care structure. The government has no answer how it can be fixed because the problems are far more endemic than they may appear,” he said.

Pakistani civil society has poured its heart out for suffering Indians.

Kamran Zaidi, a young Pakistani national, tweeted: “I request our government to open the Wagah border and send whatever they can to help India.”

Saad Ur Rehman, a popular YouTuber and uses the Twitter handle duckybhai, tweeted: “Political differences aside, I hope the Covid-19 crisis in India comes under control. Our prayers with the people of India. We are in this together. Also fellow Pakistanis, please take care. Stay home, stay safe.”

Shayan Shakeel, a UAE-based media professional, who traces his origin to Karachi, Pakistan’s most populous city, put the health care emergency in India in perspective.

“I hadn’t paid much attention to what was happening in India. I had assumed that with success in manufacturing vaccines India had managed to bring things under control. But to see the images and videos now emerging out of India, of people dealing with loss at such a large scale, has been very troubling. People speaking the same language, wearing similar clothes, on similar-looking streets, suffering alone... it is beyond heartbreak to see and not even be able to call. I was heartened to see the mass outpouring of support from everyone in Pakistan. I’ve been hearing of people writing to both governments, and those that don’t know how to help, including my mother, are offering prayers at home, in mosques, in temples and churches, wherever they can.

But what goes viral is a side story. History offers proof that South Asia will not receive enough aid. India needs help right now, and tomorrow it could be another country in the region. Pakistan is bracing itself for its own wave as well. Both countries should find a way to share and accept help, for their own peoples’ sake.

I find it surreal to think that these two countries were on the brink of war a couple of years ago. Could either side bear and see the loss that either neighbour would go through? The outpouring of support while fighting a common enemy suggests it’s a price nobody wants to bear. Three wars later for people to still care for those that have been cut off for so long. Kin can’t forget kin, and blood runs thicker than water.”

Pakistani yesteryear speedster Shoaib Akhtar, too, weighed in on the crisis.

“India is really struggling with Covid-19. Global support needed. The health care system is crashing. It’s a pandemic, we are all in it together. Must become each other’s support.

Perhaps, it needed a once-in-a-lifetime calamity such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the proliferation of social media platform for such candid conversation between two hostile neighbours to flourish.

India has close to 16 million (m) confirmed Covid-19 cases, second only to the US.


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