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June 29, 2020

British Pakistanis fearful after report links them with corona import


June 29, 2020

LONDON: Media reports in the right-wing The Telegraph, The Sun and the Daily Mail alleging Pakistan and British Pakistanis for the spread of coronavirus cases in the UK have put the lives of over 1.5 million Pakistanis in danger and there are fears of a spike in racist and Islamophobic attacks on them.

The Pakistani community groups have called on the Public Health England (PHE) and British government to come clean on malicious allegations in the papers – linked with the government – accusing British Pakistanis of importing 50 percent of imported cases in the UK.

They said such reports were totally false, had malicious intent and clear bias against Pakistan. No reliable comprehensive data has been presented to support the claim published as an “exclusive” in Daily Telegraph and then re-published by other papers.

COVID-19 is a global pandemic, affecting the entire world and singling out Pakistan will not help anyone, Pakistani community leaders have said.

The lopsided media reports have made a sweeping claim on the basis of 30 coronavirus positive cases arriving in the UK from Pakistan at a particular time. This is not the entire data of imported cases to the UK from around the world, from the start of the viral disease until now.

Have these media outlets collected all the relevant data and did the PHE provide a comparative data while giving out data on Pakistanis to the right wing press? The Answer is ‘no’. The media outlets have grossly misused the Public Health England’s miniscule set of data to malign a country and have put the lives of 1.5 million British Pakistanis in danger, according to community groups.

The PHE has confirmed that it didn’t give out data on other countries to the press. Maligning a country on the basis of such skewed data is unethical and against the journalistic principles, according to Pakistanis in the UK.

The stats in the report say 65,000 passengers from Pakistan arrived in the UK by 190 flights w.e.f. 1 March till the filing of the ill-informed report carrying poor calculations in the British media.

Have these reports examined and presented the relevant data of all the international arrivals in the UK? The answer is ‘no’. Therefore, it is important to note that since March, according to information available, tens of thousands of flights have operated to and from the UK. And millions of passengers moved in and out of the country during that time. Many from high-risk countries. If one looks at the statistics of operations of all the airports then the figure of flights will be well above one hundred thousand.

Just a comparison of the figures pertaining to Pakistan with other regions strongly indicates that targeting one country was not really out of concern for public health and safety but the motive was something else!

This shows the mala fide intent of the media outlets as they have singled out Pakistan ‘only’ and mala fide intention also at the PHE which released selected data on Pakistanis while staying silent about other nationalities and in effect working in collusion with the press to target Pakistanis.

The reports are extremely dangerous for the lives of 1.5 million Pakistani Diaspora. They have put the blame of the coronavirus spread on the Pakistani community in the UK. This type of blame game at the very outset of the breakout of disease resulted in attacks and hate crimes against particular ethnic communities in the UK, India and elsewhere in the world. This report comes at a time when Black Lives Matter protests are raging across Britain calling for justice and fairness.

The WHO clearly warned against blaming any country for the viral disease, let alonean ethnic community. These media reports have yet again put the lives of 1.5 million Pakistani Diaspora living in the UK in danger. The reports can potentially trigger hate crimes and racist attacks on the British Pakistanis.

Many Pakistanis have expressed serious concerns about their safety and welfare, stating that the thoughtless propagandist reports have put their lives in danger. The British Pakistanis have urged the UK Government to come clean. They also said it is the responsibility of the UK government to take action against such racist media reports.

The community leaders said Covod-19 could best be fought with communal harmony and understanding, not by inciting hatred and blaming against a community. They said media outlets must remember that the British Pakistani Doctors were among the first to die in the UK's fight against Coronavirus.

These are extraordinary times and responsible journalism is the need of the hour, they said. It is unfortunate that a section of press has chosen a divisive approach, they opined. Liberal Democrat Health and Social Care spokesperson for House of Lords Sal Brinton commented: “This is a very misleading headline - please make it clear that this is 30 cases since 4 June. Not, as the headline implies, during the whole pandemic.”

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s advisor on overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari regretted false reports in three papers.He tweeted: “How did Pakistan start exporting Covid with no cases when the UK already had more? What kind of data evidence supports it since 1 Mar while UK only started passenger screening in Jun? Pathetic irresponsible reporting by Telegraph/Daily Mail/Sun. Shameless racism & tabloid sensationalism on display!”