With Kim Jong-il’s death, it was but expected that the western media and its consumers would jump into mocking everything about North Korea and its dead president. Twitterverse (with its fake twitter profile of Kim Jong-un), Tumblrs and Facebook pages are inundated with links poking fun at the backwardness, insularity and stupidity of North Koreans. Media savvy, English-speaking, hip Pakistanis are taking part in this mock-fest wholeheartedly. This is most fascinating because Pakistan, perhaps, is more like North Korea than most other countries.
North Korea is usually dubbed as one of the poorest countries in the world. Pakistan may not be one of the poorest countries — yet — but it sure is on its way to becoming one with a paltry two per cent growth rate (which in any case is undermined by the high population growth rate), soaring inflation, unprecedented unemployment and never-ending energy crisis.
North Korea is dubbed by mainstream western media as an anachronistic nuclear country whose population lives in abject poverty and where political dissenters are sent to die in concentration camps. We, too, are a country where women are buried alive in the name of tradition; millions do not have access to either clean drinking water or sanitation; and the lesser is said about the bonded labour tilling the land, the better.
If North Korea is the most isolated nation in the world, we, too, are pariahs of sorts. Getting anywhere with our green passport is an ordeal. We have had sanctions levied on us on counts of aiding and abetting terrorism to child labour and what not. If the US has used trade sanctions as leverage to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programme, we have been meted out the same treatment back in 1998 after conducting the nuclear tests.
We mocked the outpouring of grief — which may have been staged and must have appeared contrived to western eyes — but how can we forget how we behaved when one of our own leaders, Benazir Bhutto, died four years ago — with fist-thumping grief, tears, chaos, mayhem and bloodshed.
We scoffed at the leadership succession plan of North Korea, mocking a four-star general in his 20’s. But have we ever stopped to think that we have done something quite similar — made a barely adult teenager, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who was not even a resident of the country, the chairman of the biggest political party of Pakistan.
The malaise of dynasty is not limited to the PPP alone. If Asfandyar Wali is a third generation ANP leader, then Mian Nawaz Sharif is preparing ground to bring in his daughter, Maryam Nawaz , to counter the threat of the PTI and help his party shed the old fuddy-duddy image. And Imran Khan is probably planning to challenge the Election Commission on the issue of the enforcement of the law barring dual nationality holders from contesting elections, to ensure that his progeny be able to do the requisite politicking when their time comes.
Heaping scorn on a malicious dead dictator is fine, but ridiculing an entire nation for their collective bad fortune is just in bad taste. I wish Pakistanis had shown a bigger heart and extended compassion to the North Koreans. After all, who else should have been able to empathise with them like us?
Originally published in The Express Tribune.