If it’s not on social media, did it even happen? Official Twitter accounts and Facebook pages of the government, as well as those belonging to MNAs and MPAs of the opposition, often publish photographs as evidence of something they did or something another individual/political party failed to do. From official meetings with foreign representatives to the battle against encroachments, everything is systematically photographed and tweeted. Quite often these photographs are picked up by local news channels and turned into hourly headlines, causing the new government to be both applauded and mocked. But irrespective of the reactions, the camera keeps on clicking. Since forming the federal government, PTI has strategically used photographs to both document their actions and keep the public engaged. The camera is there when our Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (despite heading for the United States to attend the United Nations General Assembly session) stands in an immigration line, at the Islamabad International Airport, like all the other passengers; PTI tells the people to pause and watch their men challenge the status quo. When the President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi waits behind two men at a buffet dinner the camera goes click again, and the photo of the head of our state is shown as proof of equality superseding all else in Naya Pakistan. As actions always speak louder than words, almost anything and everything is photographed to make a political statement. One can’t forget the old saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words.’ Look and see: PTI is not making false promises, it is translating those promises into visible change. And thus, when Sindh Governor Imran Ismail is fined for speeding in the federal capital, a photograph is taken and shared on social media even before the payment can change hands. Consequently, it becomes evident that there is one rule of law for all in Naya Pakistan. No one will be spared. However, as someone who has worked as a photojournalist, I can safely say that a photograph never tells the complete story. Not everything should be considered a political opportunity. There is a time and place for pictures. The pictures, when circulated by the party itself appear as carefully crafted compositions behind which there is no truth. But this is only one way of looking at the photo ops. Yes, there are perks our ministers enjoy of which the party will never take pictures. But there is nothing surprising about this. They are ministers holding positions of immense power after all. The difference between them and the common people can never be completely erased. Yet, PTI is attempting to blur the lines when possible – even if it is momentarily. They are trying to inculcate the idea of a united Pakistan in the face of deep monetary divides. The exercise may be completely futile, but it is worth a try. Even Da Vinci was called mad when he first proposed the idea of humans flying in the air. Nonetheless, there are instances when PTI’s needs for pictures crosses ethical boundaries. A recent photograph of Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar holding a bouquet next to a child who lost his parents in the Sahiwal attack was not received well by the public. Social media users were displeased because the child was fast asleep. The CM’s visit was exposed as a disastrous photo op. But it wouldn’t have been any better if the child was in fact awake or the flowers were toys. Using someone’s pain and personal tragedy for political mileage it despicable. Nonetheless, it has now become the norm for politicians to take pictures with those who have lost a loved one while offering their condolences. PTI alone is not to be blamed. Leaders of PMLN and PPP visiting family members of a martyred solider or civilians who lost a brother to a bomb blast also take similar photographs. The camera must click because if it’s not on social media, did it even happen? And if there is no picture documenting the event, then there will be criticism about how the government/politicians couldn’t be bothered to visit those grieving. We live in an age where being seen and heard in public via (social and/or mainstream) media wins more than half the game. With the divide between reality and the two dimensional version of events created for social media platforms (like Facebook and Twitter) fading away, we have reached a point where the current moment matters less that the comments and retweets to come. While photographs are important for making an impact, political parties need to draw a line somewhere. Not everything should be considered a political opportunity. There is a time and place for pictures. When it is a matter of life and death, solidarity cannot go hand in hand with publicity. Imagine being photographed in your worst moments; that is simply cruel. Humanity needs to outweigh politics, and for this, I ask all politicians to end this trend of taking photographs with those grieving the loss of a loved one. A simple press release stating your visit in such cases will always be sufficient. Don’t give into the habit of making a spectacle. The writer has a Masters in media with a distinction from the London School of Economics. She Tweets @mawish_m Published in Daily Times, January 25th 2019.