The case of Pakistan’s blind cricket team captain Zeeshan Abbasi consuming water contaminated with soap solution in a Bangalore hotel on Saturday evoked such a slew of reactions across various social media platforms here that it revealed the fragile nature of bilateral relations.
Commenting on the response the incident triggered in Pakistan, leading columnist Abbas Nasir tweeted: “The reaction to the phenyl incident shows how little the jingoists need to get started.” But it was not only the jingoists who were at work. Some peaceniks also found it difficult to stomach the Indian contention that it was an accident caused by negligence on the part of the hotel staff.
Much of the commentary stemmed from what was put out by television channels as the news broke. “Zeeshan Abbasi was made to drink a glass of acid during breakfast in India,” Geo News reported, quoting the chairman of Pakistan Blind Cricket Council Sultan Shah as stating that the glass filled with acid was deliberately placed on the table.
As always, the first impression was difficult to shrug off despite the subsequent clarifications on Indian television channels. Even after clarifications were issued and the cricketer discharged from hospital, the initial report remained the reference point. Late in the evening, some were saying that Mr. Abbasi’s recovery notwithstanding, “every Pakistani must be careful of what they eat and drink in India.”
The Jamat-ud-Da’wah (JuD) was not alone in calling it a terrorist attack. In a tweet, the JuD said: “Acid attack against Zeeshan Abbasi is a blatant act of terrorism. Government of Pakistan should not risk lives of its players for Aman Ki Asha.” In similar vein was a tweet from ‘Showbiz Pakistan’ – a news portal on Pakistani showbiz. “Get well really soon Zeeshan and show these monsters how cruel you can be with your bat.”
The peaceniks were clearly at the receiving end. “A bottle of water from Aman Ki Asha becomes a bottle of acid from Aman Ka Tamasha.” They were being repeatedly asked if they believed in peace with India after this incident even as many wondered how New Delhi would have reacted had an Indian cricketer met the same fate here. “The Inter-Services Intelligence would surely have been named,” was a common observation even as others commented that this would have been an international scandal if a non-Pakistani cricketer had “drunk acid” in Pakistan.
Given that no cricketing nation is willing to play in Pakistan since the attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009, this incident brought up that issue with one commentator stating: “Serving acid in breakfast? What is it if not barbarity? And you say cricketers are not safe in Pakistan?”