New Delhi: At a time when Hollywood is turning its attention to Pakistan floods and Angelina Jolie is planning to fly down to extend support, American talk show host Jimmy Fallon found it “too funny” when Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif fumbled with a headset at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Samarkand.
Sharif faced an awkward moment on 15 September, when he visibly struggled with his headphones during an interaction with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This incident drew an audible chuckle from even the latter. Sharif then called the technical team to help fix his translation device but to no avail–the earphones simply kept falling.
The clip went viral on social media and the incident was both criticised and defended. The Pakistani opposition tweeted the clip, calling it an “embarrassment” for the country.
The clip was subsequently shared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Making fun of the incident, Fallon quipped, “the surprising thing is that Shehbaz Sharif is the prime minister of the 220 million population of the world.”
Pakistanis did not echo Fallon’s sentiment and found his comments in “poor taste.”
Well, Pakistani PM Shehbaz Sharif got "featured" on Jimmy Fallon show. 🤦 pic.twitter.com/vBMEXaNqki
— OSINT Insider (@OSINT_Insider) September 17, 2022
‘Deeply offensive and tone deaf’
Social media users were quick to point out that while everyone chose to entertain the US comedian’s joke about the country’s PM, no one had ever raised their voice against the devastating floods that these “220 million people” had been reeling under.
“Deeply offensive that @jimmyfallon chose to mock 220 million people of Pakistan for a leader allegedly put in place after US-instigated regime change, while completely ignoring the suffering caused by devastating floods & climate change. Tone-deaf much?” one user, Tariq Hasan, wrote.
Others called his remarks “exceptionally callous.”
It’s exceptionally callous and in bad taste for @jimmyfallon to mock the PM of a country which is suffering from the worst natural calamity in its history. A comedian is all about the his timing and this joke just fell horribly flat. Use your massive platform to to better.
— Sophia Saifi (@SophiaSaifi) September 18, 2022
The joke comes at a time when floods have inundated the country’s key provinces, affecting 33 million and killing 1,500.
“Cannot stand white people and their hypocrisy. @jimmyfallon chose to joke about Shahbaz Sharif on his show but radio silence on floods and funds. That’s white people for you,” said Soha, another Twitter user.
Pakistanis also urged Fallon to get out of his “comfort zone” and extend a helping hand.
Yo, @jimmyfallon / @FallonTonight and @nbc, maybe now is the time to get out of your comfort zone (white bubble) and do something good for the 50 million suffering for the developed world's ruination of global climate. Pakistan needs help, and at this rate, others will too, soon. https://t.co/kCGxkXZIqK
— Hassaan Ahmed حسان احمد (@ancienthydra) September 18, 2022
Twitter user Hareem pointed out, “Pakistanis celebrating Jimmy Fallon making fun of Shahbaz Sharif, a leader of a country devastated by environmental catastrophe – wholly a product of the first world – are perfect examples of peak colonial subject (slave) behaviour.”
The Opposition’s stand
The opposition, too, left no stone unturned in making the most of this incident. It was quick to share the viral videos, with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member, Fawad Chaudhry tweeting, “Crime Min and his cabinet is the PR nightmare for Pakistan”.
Calling him a “total embarrassment,” another PTI member Shireen Mazari tweeted, “CrimeMinister made it on US TV but on a comedy show where he is the butt end of the joke!”
The prime minister, however, seemed oblivious to all the furore. Tweeting about the SCO meet he said, “Leaving Samarkand on a satisfactory note. There is now a renewed awareness about the potent threat of climate change.”
Leaving Samarkand on a satisfactory note. There is now a renewed awareness about the potent threat of climate change. SCO countries understand it is capable of reversing all our material development & pushing us backward by decades. All the more reason for a united front.
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) September 16, 2022
(Edited by Zoya Bhatti)