Former Sindh home minister and current PPP leader Manzoor Wassan’s recent visit to flood-affected areas in Khairpur stirred controversy due to his very strange comments comparing the flooded areas to Venice, Italy.

Pakistan is facing a climate emergency after monsoon rains wreaked havoc across the country this year, resulting in flash floods. The death toll has crossed 1,000 with over 30 million people displaced. The economic losses accumulate to at least $10 billion, with Sindh in particular suffering damages of over $1.6 billion (Rs355 billion) as all major crops have been destroyed.

At a time when Pakistanis all over the country are focused on extending a helping hand and doing as much as they can to alleviate the suffering of those who have not only lost their loved ones but also their homes and livelihoods, Wassan’s remarks in a now viral clip are not only tone deaf but extremely insensitive and unnecessary.

In a video interview with Geo, Wassan is on a boat talking about how the scene before him is making him reminisce about his trip to Italy. “You can see for yourself — if you’ve ever been to Italy, this is Venice’s scenery, the way there are villages, houses submerged in water. The same kind [I saw] when I had visited Venice.”

According to Geo, the politician, who has represented Khairpur in the Sindh Assembly, also said, “In this area, I have my 1,500 acres of my own private land which consists of gardens destroyed completely due to floods.”

Netizens are disturbed and offended — and rightfully so. They have taken to Twitter to vent their frustrations with such disappointing leaders. “Meet Mr. Manzoor Wassan Sahab, who is in love with Venice, Northern Italy’s top tourist attraction. After horrible destruction from rains and floods in Sindh, he has found similar unique, magical and spectacular scenery in Khairpur. Creative genius explains here,” a Twitter user sarcastically criticised the PPP representative.

Pakistani Twitter users pointed out that people have lost their homes, their crops and their lives, and this is how Wassan chooses to describe the situation. Calling him “shameless,” they condemned the comparison of drowned cities — where people and animals are sick and dying — with a popular tourist spot.

Referring to his tone-deaf remarks that indicated a clear disconnect, a netizen said he is “devoid of grace, logic and a sense of reality”.

Another video is making rounds on social media shows Wassan on the same boat, seemingly waving away flood affectees. Netizens called it a “trend” for politicians to show up for publicity but not actually help those who need it. Pointing out their insensitivity, one user said, “The poor people affected by floods have no idea that Manzoor Wassan is not here for help but to tour Venice.”

Frankly, we are unable to understand what the ex-minister was trying to convey by making such an irrelevant and inconsiderate comparison. His tone doesn’t seem to indicate humour nor does it seem to make any sense to compare a First World country’s famous tourist spot with a Third World country’s disastrous situation that has taken lives and left people homeless and devastated.

There is a time and place for things and speaking in a town inundated by water with its people and their homes literally submerged was not it. Whatever his intention was — a bad attempt at being funny, comparisons of grandeur or romanticising a horrible situation — it fell flat.

The situation is extremely sensitive and those affected by floods are in a fragile state. If that is not within the person visiting’s capacity to speak to them with basic human decency and kindness, we suggest they take a crash course on empathy or don’t go at all.

If you want to do something for the people who are struggling, here is a list of organisations you can donate to.

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