Saturday, 23 February 2013


Today at any gathering of communicators, journalists and marketers, the impacts and possibilities of social media for connecting groups and social networking are some of the most vigorous talked about topics? Not only since Barack Obama’s successful use of online communication, but also among politicians of all persuasions and ages. Also, the new medium increasingly attracts the interest of civil society activists, policy makers, and development organizations.

The political scene in Pakistan is in full heat midst all the uncomfortable steam of the governance chaos, economic instability, war on terror, energy crisis and all that is constantly aired on the domestic and global news and media. Despite all this chaos and pitfalls of democracy in Pakistan, the political stage is getting ready for the best election drama of the new millennium, a moment in history that everyone across the world will be interested in following. What will be the future of Pakistan and its governance? 

Now hardcore politics is not the focus of this discussion but more about how the political parties and key political actors have taken to the InternetWorld Wide Web and Social Media to heat up the political battleground for upcoming elections. There is not a single domestic television program, anchor or analyst who may not be using the Internet and World Wide Web as a means to have an interactive dialogue with their audiences and citizenry of Pakistan.

According to Jared Cohen, Director Google Ideas, “Ten years ago, the number of people who had access to the Internet was 361 million; today it’s two billion. In the year 2000, (only) 300,000 people in Pakistan were using cell phones; today it’s 100 million. You can’t say technology doesn’t matter.” Reportedly, there are over 20 million internet users and three million bloggers in Pakistan. Considering these statistics, technology and ultimately, social media can shape the future of the country. 

People tweeting on news, political and social affairs are usually journalists and avid internet users, but also politicians. The assassinated Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer was known for his activity on Twitter, sending out regular messages with comments on daily politics. The Minister of the Interior Rehman Malik and the former mayor of Karachi, Syed Mustafa Kamal also use the micro blogging services.

During the Pakistan Blog Awards 2011 ceremony in Karachi, Imran Khan stated that social media played an important part in harboring a revolution in any country because most of the social media activists and users are the Youth acknowledging this role played by the young during the Arab Spring and revolutions in the Middle East and Northern Africa. His rally was broadcast live by the party Social Media Team across the world using a live stream generating a continuously rising following of over 30,000 viewers mostly from around the globe.

Also Prime Minister Mr. Muhammad Nawaz Sharif's party is also now seemingly using its provincial government infrastructure to initiate and lead a Social Media effort. PML (N) official website mostly portraying its leader's imagery is located here. Mr. Shahbaz Sharif has a Facebook Page here and Twitter following here that appears to be more personality driven than party driven but lacking the following that Imran Khan and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf enjoy online.

While on the other hand, Facebook and Twitter allowed the protesters to write history as they pleased by shaping a narrative and sticking to it. Consequently, electronic media helped create negative sentiments against the government. While Facebook was the meeting point for cyber activism, Twitter was useful in spreading the word out to the broader world. It greatly helped in gaining the attention of the world community.

Conclusively, social media is on the rise, and it has helped young people be heard. With over 63% of Pakistan’s population under the age of 25, social media empowers young people and ensures socio-political transformation in the country. With the growth of Internet in Pakistan, the rapidly expanding online population is feeling more empowered than ever to engage in free expression as part of their growing political and social activism.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


A small bright dot on the bleak South Asian landscape is the recent progress in the log jammed relationship between India and Pakistan. They have taken the first tentative steps towards normalizing relations. The steps may not be significant but the signals they send are more important the two nuclear weapons armed countries want to steer away from conflict of any kind between them and recognize the importance of trade and settlement of issues through diplomacy. 

Though, India and Pakistan may not agree or be comfortable with each other on their regional or diplomatic issues, but when it comes to broader view which includes international affairs and diplomacy, India and Pakistan have similar theory. This is the reason why India supported Pakistan for the temporary seat in UN Security Council for the term of two years. Also this is not the first time when India and Pakistan had supported each other on international forum. As it has been a part of diplomacy to maintain good relations. 

Also goodwill gestures from each country do come time to time, but they are often overshadowed by conflicts of past. Haroon told reporters at the Karachi airport that: “Many of the countries that Pakistan had considered as friends were no longer its friends, but India supported us in becoming a non-permanent member of the 15-member Security Council,"

Basically, born out from the furnace of animosity, India and Pakistan, the twin brothers have a history of unique relations. There is much in common between Republic of India and Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The diplomatic relations developed soon after independence but these relations did not ensure good friendship. The blaming process started soon after the inception of Pakistan while the 8 issues were the main reasons of conflict between India and Pakistan these are Kashmir issue, Water crisis, Sir Creek issue, Rann of Kutch, MFN status, Siachen issue, State sponsored issue, Nuclear Deterrence. 

Moreover, India–Pakistan relationship exists in the long shadow cast by the US, China and Russia over South Asia a shadow made darker by US policy that drives its relationship with India and the war in Afghanistan. Equally significant is China’s enduring relationship with Pakistan, its trade relationship with India and its evolving rivalry with the US. Russia has made no bones about its interest in the Central Asian States and opposition to US plans for missile defense. 

The US-Pakistan relationship though important for both in the context of the present situation has developed a fragility that forces Pakistan to seek long term strategic stability. Pakistan and India can and should understand and learn to live with each other’s security concern if their bilateral understanding grows and matures.  Singh told reporters accompanying him on his return, after attending the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran on October 31 2012 that.“I am very keen to visit Pakistan and I am grateful for the invitation. But I also mentioned to President Asif Ali Zardari that we have to create a proper atmosphere.”

Furthermore, India and Pakistan for 65 years have been at loggerheads over various issues and the same issues continue to dog their relationship today, but in spite of this, it is important that both countries keep up this dialogue. India too, growth has slowed, deficits are running high and the rupee has fallen in recent months. Increased trade diplomacy is, therefore, important to the economic well being of both countries. In addition to that, the strengthening of economic ties will bring the countries closer to each other and build enough confidence to tackle long standing issues such as Siachen.“Make no mistake: New Delhi’s decision to allow Pakistani individuals and firms to invest in India is far more than just a political gesture. It is a move that has the potential to drastically reshape the Pakistani economy, and mostly for the better."

However, it feels good to know that we are reviving our relationship with India through cricket too. It will give more opportunities to both the countries to clear misconceptions and learn to trust each other. Diplomatic relations between any two such countries is very sensitive and any goodwill gesture like this is seen as a ray of hope. Ateeque Shaikh, treasurer, Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace & Democracy said that: “Cricket is the only game which is enthusiastically watched by people of both the countries, so why not use it as a platform to bring everybody together? This revival effort must not be limited only to cricket but also be extended to other games and fields.”

Also India has time to time hosted educational as well as a medical team from Pakistan for training and learning process. On the other hand various batches of Indian students have visited Pakistan to understand and explore the people and culture often hindered by hardcore media and politics. Similarly, the signing of the visa accord shows that both countries are willing to translate all that talk into some action.  On the other hand, Pakistan has decided to grant Most Favored Nation status to India due to which India will be able to export an estimated 6800 items to Pakistan, up from 2000 at the present. Bilateral trade is expected to rise to $ 6 Billion in the next three years from $ 2.7 Billion. 

Apart from this recently the statement of Indian Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor regarding his army’s capacity to fight on two fronts upset a lot of people in Pakistan. This also shows that there is a conflict of interest between the Indian army and the Indian Government. Moreover, if we see on blogs the comments on peoples we come to know that there are people on both sides who oppose the relationships and even worst comments came from both sides but still these peoples are in the minority. 

After all, it may be rightly pointed out that not much has changed on the ground from these positive steps, but this is just the beginning and provided that if we keep working with each other, the day just might come when we are able to put a bitter past behind us and start a new life as cordial neighbors. Also India and Pakistan must solve the Kashmir issue which is the basis for all enmity between them; if the Kashmir issue is resolved according to the wishes of Kashmir people many things between them will be normal. A senior Pakistani government official and economist rightly noted: “Once the governments make a breakthrough and remove barriers, it will be the private sector and the individual agent driving trade”