Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was the youngest foreign minister at the SCO Foreign Ministers Meeting in Goa this past weekend, but instead of focusing on that and all the ways he could have represented Pakistan, people were focusing on his weight. Of course, they were.
Somehow, Pakistanis still haven’t gotten the memo when it comes to valid criticism, especially criticism of politicians. Criticize their policy, their words, and their actions but not their bodies and appearances.
Would we have liked to see Bilawal wear something a little more exciting than simple white shalwar kameez with the same old coat? Yes, definitely. But that’s beside the point entirely. We aren’t seeing sartorial input online, we’re seeing plain old fat shaming, and that’s not okay. From crude remarks to bad puns, we’ve seen a host of criticism of the minister and it isn’t looking good for anyone, least of all Pakistan.
Bilawal has many shortcomings — as do all politicians — but that doesn’t mean we shame him for his appearance. Numbers on a scale don’t impede him from doing his job.
Writing this article in the Images office in Karachi, living in the unlivable city where Bilawal’s PPP government has ruled for over a decade, we are not blind to his faults but this is not a piece about politics — if it were, we would have a whole lot to say. It’s a piece about decency.
The SCO meeting was important. It marked the first time a Pakistani foreign minister had travelled to India in over a decade and could have resulted in important developments in our relations with other countries and public policy. Why then were people focusing on Bilawal’s weight? Focus instead on this hilarious interview in which he trounced Indian journalist Rajdeep Sardesai.
We saw a wave of concern on Twitter recently over an issue that was deemed by social media users to be “harmful to the image of Pakistan”. It is interesting to note little criticism of people who are bashing our foreign minister who was on a historic visit to India not for what he has said or done but for a number of a weighing scale. Those same comments were picked up by Indians and magnified, effectively arming them with ammunition against us. Let’s take a little pride in, if not our government representatives, then ourselves as Pakistanis.