The case of an Islamabad shopping mall, its poverty-shaming poster and angry Pakistanis on Twitter

The case of an Islamabad shopping mall, its poverty-shaming poster and angry Pakistanis on Twitter

A poster allegedly displayed by one of the capital's poshest shopping malls has come under fire for its "sick" messaging.
13 Nov, 2021

A picture shared on Pakistani Twitter recently triggered the anger of many users of the platform and one look at the contentious image will tell you exactly why.

The image in question shows a banner with a deeply insensitive and classist message, purportedly displayed at Centaurus Mall, a posh shopping mall located in the heart of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. The picture is reportedly from the resident entrance of the mall and was posted online by lawyer and talkshow host Abdul Moiz Jaferii.

The poster in the image appears to be a 'public service message' teaching affluent mall visitors to learn from their lower income counterparts who, despite their so-called poverty and lack of social standing, manage to follow Covid-19 safety precautions by using leaves as face masks.

The poster's messaging, which is disturbingly callous and dehumanising, was noticed by various politicians, writers and other Twitter users who voiced their anger at its classist tone. PPP Senator Sherry Rehman called out the "poverty-trashing caption".

One user rightfully reminded everyone that lessons can be imparted without degrading individuals or entire social groups in the process.

Former finance minister Miftah Ismail was clearly disturbed by what he saw as well, as were many others.

Another Twitter user also captured the offensive poster on camera.

This isn't the first time Centaurus Mall has become the centre of controversy. In 2015, the mall implemented a visiting fee for entering and shopping within its premises. In a public notice, the administration of the mall included an exhaustive list of people who would be exempt from paying the fee, which included everyone who could easily actually afford to pay the fee. Many considered the measure discriminatory along class lines and called it out on social media.

It is difficult to believe that this poster went through a vetting process before being put up and no one saw anything wrong with it. Shame people for not wearing masks all you like, but there was no need to include this picture. The implication is, of course, that being poor has an inverse effect on being responsible. As Senator Rehman put it, the poster is both dehumanising and classist because it implies that the people seeing the poster should somehow be "better" than those pictured in it and with their money comes a sense of responsibility and civic sense.

Here's some advice for the mall management — next time you want to make a point, use your own pictures to do so. Don't needlessly put down other people in an attempt to shame your patrons into acting responsibly.