Social media in Pak politics
Gone are the days when we use to wait for a morning paper to know about the national and international affairs—because of social media we get the information as it happens. Today, in this advance world of information technology we are very much interconnected with the world around. Text messages, emails, facebook, twitter, blog spheres and other social media tools have replaced traditional media, like Radio, Print and Television.
Internet has been perhaps most outstanding innovation in the field of communication and research, today a big chunk of world population uses the internet for multi purposes, Internet World Stats (IWS) estimated that there are around 2,267,233,742 internet users in the world which is 32.7% of total world population. While a regional breakup suggest that 44.8% of total internet users are Asians. Interestingly, among World’s top 20 internet user states, China stands at number first, India at third and Pakistan at twentieth. According to the study, In December 2011 Pakistan’s total population was population approximately 180 million out of which around 30 million used internet, which count 15.5 % of total population of Pakistan. Facebook is the most visited Internet site in Pakistan, followed by Google, YouTube, Blogs, Wikipedia, twitter, LinkedIn and others. Pakistan is at 26th in world Facebook users ranking; currently there are more than 6 million Facebook users in Pakistan. 51 per cent of 6 million Facebook users from Pakistan belong to 18-24 years of age group. Twitter is said to have around more than 3 million users in Pakistan (more than the population of our capital city, Islamabad) and this rate is increasing rapidly. 140 characters of a Twitter post is powerful beyond its size.
Internet penetration is dramatically increasing in our country as Pakistan Telecommunication Ltd (PTCL) and other telecommunications are now offering affordable and speedy internet services now. Our involvement and interest in Social networking can be judged when government, particularly Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) was vastly criticized by every field of life in Pakistan when it blocked tweeter for more than eight hours on May 20. Next day, it was a front page story on mainstream papers with editorials and opinions.
Now the question arises that what social media does and how is it effective? This new media is effective in many ways; firstly, it provides a platform to the people where they can write, share and express their ideas without any fear and compulsion. Secondly, it provides an opportunity to get-together and united for a purpose or a cause. Thirdly, this media gives people an amazing power, sociable feels very powerful on social media. Fourthly, it is an excellent source of connectivity; one can stay connected with family, friends and the World easily. Just get an internet connection and you are connected with the world. Fifthly, social media is a great forum where one can raise social, political or any other issues and make the people and concerned authorities hear. Sixthly, it informs you well, social media is the sea of information and one can keep itself well informed and well educated via these forums. Lastly, it generates and shapes an opinion or policy, Arab spring, UK riots’ and others are the good examples of this.
It is well know that Americans use Social Media to run their elections campaign. Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande too, used social media every effectively in French Presidential elections held in April-May this year. Surprisingly, it really played very important role in helping Hollande to win presidential elections. Today, Political parties in Pakistan are also making good use of Social Media; most of the political parties have official webs, Facebook and Twitter pages. This shows that they have now recognized the power and significance of this new media. Social networks are the best medium for our political parties to attract and engage their followers and voters. Political Parties including PPP, PTI, PML-N, MQM and others operate their official tweeter, Facebook and other social networks to communicate, engage and inform people about their events and policies.
Politicians too have their individual accounts. Imran Khan, Marvi Memon, Bilawal Bhutto, Shahbaz Sharif, Perviz Musharaf and others have big fan followers on social forums. This shows their interest to defend their party and engage with people via social media. However; Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tahreek e Insaf (PTI) is using social media more effectively and strategically than others. Diplomatic channels and Diplomats are not behind in this race; they are actively engaged with their fan followers on social media forums. Pakistan ambassador to US Sherry Rehman, former ambassador Hussain Haqqani is amongst.
It will be no wrong to claim that these forums are playing very effective and constructive role in our society and in the politics of the country. According to the reports 50 per cent of the registered voters are between eighteen to thirty five years of age, political parties cannot ignore the fact that this segment of population uses the internet and social networks the most.
Social media is challenging the traditional political patterns and it is introducing the new political paradigms. Our political parties have to own and adopt these new practices because social networks will definitely make some differences in future elections, and those who will ignore it, may lose.