After words of taunt over a Coronavirus ward were seemingly not conveying the right images, leaders in Balochistan on Thursday started an emoji war. Current and former chief ministers, MPAs and spokesmen all took part. They laughed, cried and rolled on the floor, while Twitter watched.
It began with poetry. “This is just really sad,” Sardar Akhtar Mengal commented on a journalist’s tweet that claimed the isolation ward had been set up overnight at the BMC for Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Thursday visit. “This is just really bad,” rhymed Balochistan government spokesman Liaquat Shahwani’s reply. The government says the ward had been there for at least two weeks.
Then came sarcasm. “We are all delusional. You guys are doing a brilliant job – keep it up,” Mengal tweeted. “Indeed. Thanks!” was Shahwani’s curt reply. Playing with words then ran its course. It was time to show.
Mengal threw at him ten emojis: one Face Screaming in Fear, five Faces with Tears of Joy and four Rollings on the Floor, Laughing. Shahwani replied with seven, but was careful of variety. His were three Thinking Faces, one Face With Stuck-Out Tongue, one Face With Stuck-Out Tongue & Winking Eye, one Crazy Face, and one Face With Stuck-Out Tongue & Tightly Closed Eyes.
Mengal took a step back. He shared a quote: “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.” A step back in the sense that though this suspiciously looked like it was aimed at Shahwani, he had not tagged him and had chosen to tweet it with the Eyes emoji rather than that of a dog.
He then retweeted something that said Shahwani was a “paid professional liar” and regularly jumped sinking ships, complete with a Titanic style emoji.
Shahwani then went on a rampage. He tweeted. He retweeted. He made hashtag after hashtag. He thanked people. He said his chief minister Jam Kamal’s amazing work in the fight against the Coronavirus had left their rivals jealous. “This is only the beginning. We will show you. Keep watching.”
He made a video in which he was at pains convincing people that the BMC ward had in fact been established two weeks ago. He made Jam Kamal record and share a video too.
Sana Baloch, an MPA from Mengal’s party, jumped to his leader’s defence. He termed the ward that Imran Khan had visited a “mega hoax like many others in Balochistan”. He then retweeted a tweet that said: “Imran Khan has been had.”
The emoji game was fun while it lasted. They have now returned to sharing normal, dull stuff. They had to up their game and introduced GIFs to keep it interesting. They shouldn’t have at least used the entire stock of the humble emojis in one go. But they will lock horns again and here are a few suggestions for their future online wars.
They should ask Twitter to introduce emojis of the protesting doctors who were recently beaten up in Quetta. They could turn the Taftan Coronavirus camp and all the hospitals of Balochistan into tiny Twitter-usable images. Better still, they could volunteer to make emojis of themselves so they could be even more picturesque next time.
This would work. But there is another way. A way that is too painful, yet creates a more vivid impression of reality in Balochistan. For that they don’t even have to look far. They just need to ask for an emoji of Mama Qadeer or of the old mother who had waited for five years for her missing son before she died alone last week.
The writer is a member of staff. Twitter: @naimat_haider