Saturday, November 5, 2011

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Prior to his recent successful rally in Lahore that drew at least 100,000 people, Imran Khan’s energized young supporters employed social media to spread his message, and the participants and observers offered play-by-play accounts of the rally on Twitter. This is a first in Pakistan's political history for a serious contender for high office.



With near 265,000 Facebook fans, Imran Khan is only surpassed by former President Pervez Musharraf's 433,000 fans. None of the other politicians come close.



Half the population of Pakistan is below 20 years and 60 per cent is below 30 years. With this youthful population and rapidly expanding Internet access, the use of social media is growing in the country. Over 5,000,000 people in Pakistan use Facebook. Although this only targets about 3% of the population, this translates into more than a quarter of the Internet users in Pakistan having a Facebook account. Half of them are between the ages of 18-24, and an additional quarter are between ages 25-34.



It appears that Pakistan's political campaigns are entering a new and exciting phase. The youth no longer feel stifled by the heavily censored state electronic media which dominated the national landscape for most of Pakistan's existence, nor are they intimidated by the old and powerful politicians. In fact, the new talent does not rely even on the corporate-owned commercial media that have emerged and become powerful during the last decade of President Musharraf's rule. 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.



With expanding educational opportunities, rising middle class and growing access and use of the modern social media by the nation's youth, Pakistan is now in the midst of a dramatic social and political transformation that is likely to change the face of politics in the coming decades. The arrival of this new era has the potential to eventually end the old feudal style politics of patronage, and replace it with a truly participatory democracy and vastly improved governance.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Twitter Revolution in Pakistan

Pakistan's Demographic Dividend

Pakistan Protest Music

Comparing Ralph Nader and Imran Khan

Imran Khan to Obama: Leave Afghanistan

Pakistan Launches 100 MBPS FTTH Broadband

Obama Campaign's Success on Social Networks

Pakistani Social Network

Imran Khan's Facebook Page

Pervez Musharraf's Facebook Page

46 comments:

Shams said...

If Imran Khan was able to only get 100,000, it was a failure, which the military is trying to portray as a success, since the ISI is trying to build pressure on both PPP and PML-N to release its pressure on the army. PML-N recently rejected the DHA bill in the national assembly, and so did some other parties. Imran Khan may also get support from ANP, which could give him an entry into Karachi.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a Guardian story on Imran Khan:

..."As I stood there, watching them, I knew the moment had come," Khan, who is the leader of the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insafr party, said. "Now nothing can stop us. This is a revolution, a tsunami. We will not just win the next elections – we will sweep them."
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Over 100,000 people crammed into a historic Lahore park. Many were middle-class Pakistanis – young, urban, educated – drawn by Khan's rhetoric and their anger at conventional politics.

"This is the emergence of a new force. The cry for change is resonating across Pakistan," said Ayaz Amir, a parliamentarian from rival Nawaz Sharif's party, who was there. "Young, old, professionals, women – I've never seen such people at a public meeting in Pakistan before."

The sight, Amir added, had "scared the living daylights" out of his own party.

But others are sceptical that Khan represents real change. "We've heard this rhetoric many times before," said Badar Alam, editor of Herald magazine. "I'm cautious about it. I don't know what agenda he is really promoting."

Khan is visibly buoyant. For years he has campaigned on a platform of what some call "anti-politics" – virulent criticism of the graft and patronage that infect Pakistani politics. Now, he says, he has been proved right.
------------
His plan for the economy is to "inspire" Pakistanis to pay tax – currently only 2% do so. "We just need to have some austerity and collect taxes. If we do that, we can balance our budgets," he said.

In power, Khan said, he would cut off American aid. "I want to be a friend of the Americans, not their lackey. Aid is a curse for a poor country; it stops you making the required reforms and props up crooks."
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"Anyone who thinks this country will be taken over by Taliban are fools. There's no concept of a theocracy anywhere in the Muslim world for the past 1,400 years. If I came to power, I could end this conflict in 90 days – guaranteed."
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Yet Khan is defiantly proud that his newfound success is vindication against what he calls the "liberal, westernised elite" – wealthy, English-speaking Pakistanis who, he claims, are out of touch with the realities of their own country. "I call them coconuts: brown on the outside, white on the inside, looking at Pakistan through a westernised lens," he says.

His political views are firmly rooted in a particular view of Islam. He does not favour changes to the notorious blasphemy law – a virulent debate that led to the assassination of his friend Salmaan Taseer last January. "The time is not right. There would be bloodshed. We need to worry about other things," he says.
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But the main opposition challenger, Nawaz Sharif, has failed to capitalize on this misfortune. His N-league party, which controls the Punjab government, has grown unpopular for failing to contain an outbreak of dengue fever in recent months. Sharif is also estranged from the powerful military, which launched him into politics in the 1980s, due to his long-standing rivalry with Pervez Musharraf, the general who ousted Sharif from power in 1999.

The turmoil has emboldened challengers. One is Musharraf, who currently lives in exile in London, and has vowed to return to Pakistan next March. But the general faces numerous obstacles, including court prosecutions, security threats and opposition from the army leadership. The other is Khan, until recently viewed as a fringe player in national politics, seen most often on chatshows and protests against drone strikes........

Anonymous said...

Imran says will end conflict in 90 days i am ready to give him 90 weeks but if nothing happens then we'll back the old parties. I am going to vote for change just this one time.

Suhail said...

Shams:

Population density is high in the Bhati Gate and lower Mall area where PML-N held their rally....so the nmbers in PML rally could be just because of that. But Minar-e-Pakistan has big open spaces, wide roads all around and separated from the Walled City by big spaces of Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque, so difficult to fill up. Imran's rally was certainly strong in terms of public participation.

I was in Islamabad last week and every single person I talked to has become an Imran follower. Same is the case with every Lahori I've talked to; previously the same or similar Lahoris were all for PML-N. It seems that the sheep phenomenon has set in Central and Northern Punjab, and the public (sheep) of these areas are all for Imran now. Pakhtoon areas of KP are reputed to be already supportive of Imran much ahead of his show in Punjab. So in the next elections, Imran's party (TI) will probably win a lot of seats in KP, Central and Northern Punjab. The main losers will be PML-N, PML-Q and ANP who presently claim a lot of public support in these areas. PPP may try to separate Southern Punjab into the new Seraiki province where it may still get to a position of strength through traditional landlord politicians. MQM remains unaffected; its rally in Karachi was certainly very impressive and demonstrates that Mohajir public (sheep) are still with MQM.

The Sindh/ Karachi situation may experience a greater polarization with PPP becoming more Sindhi nationalist, ANP focusing even more on Karachi Pakhtoons if they lose out to TI in KP, and MQM getting limited to Mohajirs rather than expanding out to other groups as they've been trying to do.


If Army/ISI do play a role, then TI and MQM would likely be on the same side after the elections.

Riaz Haq said...

Suhail:"But Minar-e-Pakistan has big open spaces, wide roads all around and separated from the Walled City by big spaces of Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque, so difficult to fill up. Imran's rally was certainly strong in terms of public participation."

Imran's rally did not appear to be a rent-a-crowd brought together by paying public money looted from the govt treasury by the local party bosses and landowners....a technique used by the PPP and the PML. It was made up of mostly urban middle class youth tired of the PML and PPP incompetence and corruption.

Shams said...

Regardless of how you put it, if Imran is as popular as Suhail claims he is, a crowd of 100,000 in Lahore is still less than what would get together if one were to climb up an electrical pole and starting banging it with a stick.

I am not convinced Imran is a threat to PML-N, unless ISI funds him or if he is funded by a third country.

Umar Ahmed said...

Imran Khan alone cannot do anything. There are people in the TEI who take bribes as well given to them by military businesses. The military will decide who wins in the end.

Anonymous said...

Imran has lots of plans for the people of Pakistan but will have to stand trial before the other parties and media before the elections for his casanova past.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times report on "Social media playing major role in reshaping society":

KARACHI: Advisor to Sindh Chief Minister Sharmila Farooqi has said that the social media was emerging like a revolution, enabling to connect with the people around the world without any boundaries of language, caste, creed or distance.
This she said while speaking as a chief guest at a three-day workshop on social media for media professionals at Arabian Sea Country Club Karachi on Saturday, organised by the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF).
Fourteen media professionals, working in the conflict-zone of the country, participated in the workshop. Farooqi said that social media had brought the world closer and also increased individual to individual contacts, which helped in disseminating the information within seconds.
She said that in the present era of technology, the social media had become so important and an easier way to become a source of information as well as connectivity to get maximum response from the people.
Farooqi appreciated the
PPF for organising such an informative workshop for the media professionals.
Speaking on the occasion, Secretary General PPF Owais Aslam Ali said that journalists could get maximum benefits from the social media as they could bring their work before the world without any limitations of space and time.
He said that through this workshop, the journalists could get knowledge and learning through which they could build their credibility.
They said social media is the future of journalism as it gives journalists the maximum space and time for their news, views and opinions without any editing and restriction with maximum reach and connectivity.
On the occasion, journalists from Quetta, Landikotal, Bajaur Agency, FATA and Swat shared their experiences. ppi


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\10\09\story_9-10-2011_pg12_4

Suhail said...

Pakistanis have a sheep mentality. You offer them the best in the world and they'll not even listen to you. But if somehow you get to a position where you have the sheep following, then you give them crap and they'll happily take it.
To your comment on Lahore crowd: If you want to hold a public meeting, despite the big population, you'll not be able to get 100 people to listen to you for one hour unless you rent their time. This will hold true for both Lahore and Karachi. Imran's position was similar previously. Though he kept on selling the same ideas, he could not get to attract the sheep (crowds) and thus considered a non-serious contender. The Lahore rally has changed the perception and now the sheep phenomenon seems to have set in. In the coming days, his following will keep on fast increasing with more and more sheep joining him. The last sheep following was for Bhutto in the 60s and then on a limited scale for Altaf Husain in the 80s. Nawaz has always conducted his politics by dispensation of money, renting people's support. He never had the sheep following though still has the obsession of being a big public leader. Don't forget that he got into the politics business with big money most likely given to him by Osama in early 90s.
A point to note is that Imran's core following is of the educated upper middle classes. PPP's bulk following is the poor and uneducated rural populace of Sindh while MQM's core followers are the half-educated Mohajir lower middle classes. The well educated Mohajir upper middle classes have had little to do with MQM and are not welcomed to MQM either.

Riaz Haq said...

Suhail:

What you call "sheep following" is called "momentum" in America.

It is "momentum" that helps attract funds to the campaign of a candidate who is seen as a winning horse by people and corporations betting with with their money to help their own agendas.

Umar Ahmed said...

Riazbhai, how do you see Imran dealing with the threats to Pakistan. Pakistanii Taliban, USA, and India. He has stayed quiiet on those issues. Will he do what the military wants regarding foreign policy or will he chart a new path?

Riaz Haq said...

Umar: "Will he do what the military wants regarding foreign policy or will he chart a new path?"

From what little I know about the man, I think Imran Khan is no one's puppet. He's his own man and will do what he thinks is right, whether you or I or anyone else agrees with him or not.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from the MQM website:

Founder and Leader of Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Mr Altaf Hussain has congratulated Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Imran Khan and other leaders and workers of his party on their successful public meeting in Lahore. Mr Hussain said that the PTI public meeting was the breath of fresh air in the political atmosphere of Pakistan. He said this while talking on telephone to the office-bearers and workers of the MQM in the Punjab House. The MQM workers requested Mr Hussain to hold a public meeting in Lahore. Mr Hussain said that a date for the public meeting would be announced after discussing the suggestion with the Co-ordination Committee.

http://www.mqm.org/

Umar Ahmed said...

Riazbhai, you have probably mentioned this before but politicians are a "SPOILED" bunch. Imran is a fresh apple among a large basket of rotten ones and ultimately he will become rotten too.

Too many times Pakistanis have been promised the world only to have their hopes dashed later.

I like the guy but isn't it too early to tell??

Suhail said...

Another point of note is Shams's reference to ISI support. Army/ISI are bigger stakeholders in Pakistan than the political parties so usually play a role in the elections; 2008 elections were an exception and we've seen the disastrous results. They are thoroughly disgusted with the way the country is being managed and has been managed in the past by Nawaz Sharif and Benazir/Zardari, so should be a natural supporter of Imran. A negative for Imran can be the US if they are in opposition to Imran and decide to pressurize Army/ISI to keep Imran out and let Zardari continue. Given the highly irrational decision making of the US that we've seen over the years, this possibility remains.

Riaz Haq said...

Suhail: "They are thoroughly disgusted with the way the country is being managed and has been managed in the past by Nawaz Sharif and Benazir/Zardari, so should be a natural supporter of Imran."

The Army and the ISI know that sound economic policy is an essential part of sound national security policy.

Suhail said...

Shams:

You're not allowing more than 100,000 heads of sheep in Imran's rally, though the estimate in the map below indicates it can be 400,000 plus. I think you should not be discriminatory against Imran and allow for a figure far greater than 100,000. Comparison with MQM sheepheads is immaterial because the two are different flocks, Punjabi and Mohajir sheep. Even if it sweeps Karachi MQM will only land up with 25 seats in NA, but if Imran is successful in Punjab, he'll end up with 100+ seats and in a position to form a government.

Mayraj said...

http://tribune.com.pk/story/289015/pti-to-form-anti-corruption-cell-expose-assets-of-sharifs-zardari/
PTI to form anti-corruption cell, expose 'assets' of Sharifs, Zardari

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times blog by Huma Yusuf about Pakistan stalled census 2011:

Yet Population Year is drawing to a close and no census is in sight. There are many reasons: the precarious security situation, repeated flooding in many parts of the country, lack of resources to train the 225,000 census takers required to conduct the head count in time. But the main reason is politics. The major parties draw their power from rural constituencies, and by highlighting the extent of the country’s urbanization, a census would lead to the creation of new urban constituencies.

With an eye toward the national elections slated for 2013, many Pakistani politicians are doing everything in their power to circumvent or delay a count. The country’s largest parties, the governing Pakistan Peoples Party and the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N, are particularly threatened by the prospect of reduced rural constituencies. Newcomers such as the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, the founder of Tehreek-e-Insaf, which enjoys significant support in Punjabi cities, stand to gain.

Gerrymandering is not rare in boisterous democracies. But in Pakistan, it can be a matter of life and death. In Karachi, from where I have been reporting for eight years, many of the political parties are based on ethnic groups, and a revised count would lead to a revised political balance. Fears that this might happen are fanning ethnic violence. More than 2,100 people have been killed in Karachi in political assassinations over the past two years — a death toll not seen since 1995, a year of widespread ethnic and political violence. Muhammad Jalil, a community organizer in Lyari, one of the worst-affected slums of the city, told me in August that everyone — women, teenage footballers — is exposed to the violence. “Political activists and gangsters are not the only ones targeted. Entire communities are vulnerable.”

Since the 1980s, ethnic Pashtuns and the Urdu-speaking Mohajirs, migrants from northern India, have clashed over access to property and jobs in Karachi. Criminal gangs with ties to political parties — including the ruling P.P.P. — had been warring over smuggling rackets and extortion rings. But as election year approaches, it is Karachi’s shifting demographics that are driving much of the violence.

Until recently, the Mohajirs were the city’s clear majority, accounting for 48 percent of the population, according to the 1998 survey. But military operations against militant groups in northwestern Pakistan since 2007 have increased the flow of Pashto-speaking migrants into Karachi. By some estimates this group now represents 22 percent of the city’s population, up from about 12 percent in 1998. So now the M.Q.M., the Mohajirs’ representative party, fears that a census documenting the expansion of Karachi’s Pashtun population would lead to a redistricting that would favor its local rival, the A.N.P......


http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/03/in-pakistan-a-census-count-turns-into-a-body-count/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a piece by Pankaj Mishra published in Businessweek:

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) -- During the worldwide depression of the mid-1930s, the poet and Islamic modernist Muhammad Iqbal, often called Pakistan’s spiritual founder, wrote a poem dramatizing the inadequacies of Western political and economic systems.

Democracy and capitalism had empowered a privileged elite in the name of the people, Iqbal felt. But he was not much fonder of Marxism, which was then coming into vogue among anti- colonial activists across South Asia and the Middle East:

But what’s the answer to the mischief of that wise Jew That Moses without light, that cross-less Jesus Not a prophet, but with a book under his arm For what could be more dangerous than this That the serfs uproot the tents of their masters

(Rooh-e-Sultani Rahe Baqi To Phir Kya Iztarab
Hai Magar Kya Uss Yahoodi Ki Shararat Ka Jawab?

Woh Kaleem Be-Tajalli, Woh Maseeh Be-Saleeb
Neest Peghambar Wa Lekin Dar Baghal Darad Kitab

Iss Se Barh Kar Aur Kya Ho Ga Tabiat Ka Fasad
Torh Di Bandon Ne Aaqaon Ke Khaimon Ki Tanab!)
------------
In any case, Tunisians voting for Ghannouchi and Pakistanis flocking to Khan’s rallies are not the radical revolutionaries or closet theocrats they are often made out to be by a paranoid local elite and a global liberal intelligentsia. Rather, these are people who have simply failed to develop the habit of seeing Islam as a purely religious phenomenon, separate from economics, politics, law and other aspects of collective life.

Whether liberal and secular elites like it or not, there are a large number of socially conservative Muslims who wish to see the ethical principles of Islam play a more active role in public life. The mind-numbing division between “moderates” and “extremists” that often passes for profound understanding of Islamic societies in the West simply fails to account for this invisible majority of Muslims, who are unlikely to plump for secular liberalism either now or in the near future.

For many nationalist and reflexively conservative Pakistanis, Imran Khan’s belief that “if we follow Iqbal’s teaching, we can reverse the growing gap between Westernized rich and traditional poor that helps fuel fundamentalism” is not the empty rhetoric it may sound to a Westernized Pakistani.

Indeed, the history of South Asia and the Middle East has repeatedly shown that the failure of modernizing endeavors, and the widespread suffering it unleashes, has always enhanced the moral prestige of Islam. In the eyes of its victims, the debacle of modernization and secularization has also diminished the credibility and authority of local elites as well as their Western sponsors.

The classic example, of course, was Iran. Visiting the Islamic Revolution after the fall of the secularizing Shah, the French philosopher Michel Foucault claimed that “Islam -- which is not simply a religion, but an entire way of life, an adherence to a history and a civilization -- has a good chance to become a gigantic powder keg, at the level of hundreds of millions of men.”

The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran that Foucault rashly cheered on has, in another generational shift, run its course. And revolution per se may be far from the minds of young Pakistanis and Tunisians trying to regain control of their national destiny. But the powder keg of political Islam that Foucault spoke of remains dry elsewhere in the Muslim world; and its potency is only likely to increase as Western political and economic systems and ideologies seem, to many Muslims, feeble, and yet so malign.


http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-11-17/islam-offers-a-third-way-in-pakistan-and-tunisia-pankaj-mishra.html

Najam said...

Opinions about Imran Khan are divided.I also do not like him much,particularly his arrogant manners and day dreaming ,and also the type of people joining his party.What sort of revolution he will bring through notorious people like Masood Sharif,Our Adamjee class fellow Jahangir Tareen ,from people who were with coward Musharraf and leftovers of PPP and Q league, is difficult to comprehend.

Are the people of Pakistan going to fall in another trap by establishment man,whose recent statements about Kashmir,about Islamic forces and about USA should alarm people of days ahead?

Haseeb said...

Najam: "I also do not like him much,particularly his arrogant manners and day dreaming ,and also the type of people joining his party."

The biggest problem Pakistanis have is their expectations of “Perfection” from some leaders. If they are not perfect then Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Altaf Hussain or even the Devil will be okay.

Imran Khan is one of the few leaders who can provide some hope of better governance for Pakistan in the near future. If he gets elected with majority he will be much better than what we have today. At least he is NOT corrupt or a shoe-licker of USA.

Unless you can suggest some other good (not perfect) leader to be elected please support the only fair chance Pakistan has for the next election and stop undermining him by looking for perfection.

Riaz Haq said...

Haseeb: "The biggest problem Pakistanis have is their expectations of “Perfection” from some leaders."

Our neighbor India also has a lot of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats but they are still better off politically because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is Mr. Clean. I see Imran Khan as Mr. Clean for Pakistan, and his presence at the top will help improve the situation in Pakistan.

Moin said...

I agree with Riaz's assessment. At this time it is a rarity for some one to be "clean" specially in Pakistan.

Lets look at it this way, if IK's party loses, conditions in Pakistan may become worse but not better. If it wins there is some hope that things may change for the better.

I say we are due for a change and want to see a new party in power with a new agenda. Lets give it a shot.

Salman said...

I agree and so do my children who see a ray of hope at the end of tunnel......salman

Siraj said...

Imran Khan was arrogant when he put Pakistan Cricket on winning streak and won the world cup and he was arrogant when he built the Shaukat Khanam.

He has been arrogant all along. He is still arrogant – this is clear from the way he addresses his political opponents. This is not a quality one would be proud of ! But an arrogant is better than a plunderer, a money sucker parasite and a dacoit.

Arrogant he is and womanizer he was but he is not corrupt (or let us say not so corrupt) – he has not given up against strong odds and he is a determined soul, He has a knack of delivering results. He may not be the best choice but he is the only choice. The people of Pakistan have started seeing him as their only hope. The success at Meenar e Pakistan was a manifestation of people desire for a change. Even his strongest adversaries have started realizing that he is now a force to reckon with.

The people are with him now, the young, the old, men and women – I had seen it with my eyes when I went to attend his gathering at neti -geti bridge.

I like to take morning walks. Last week while walking on the lawn of Askari - IV parks, I met with an acquaintance who said, “In the last election I supported MQM and my wife was with JI. This time over my wife has announced that she would vote for IK and I have decided that I will do the same.” The good thing is that he is not alone – a large number of friends, relatives and people from power industry that I come across are telling me the same thing. This change is the result of unprecedented loot and plunder and injustice brought upon by the present rulers.



Until now it was said that IK was a one man show. Now that people have started joining him the critics say that all those joining him are corrupt. Is it really the case or we have suddenly raised our standards too high ---

He has to induct comparatively honest, less corrupt and influential people in his ranks, he is after all out to win the election which is the target to achieve the goal. Let us remember that there is no crop of angels waiting to be picked up

Riaz Haq said...

Rising per capita income and a growing, young population spending more time online and at Western movies are helping build a mass market in Pakistan, according to Businessweek:

One way to take a city’s economic pulse is to check out where locals shop. In Karachi, Pakistan, shoppers are flocking to Port Grand, which opened in May. Built as a promenade by the historic harbor for almost $23 million, the center caters to Pakistanis eager to indulge themselves. This city of 20 million has seen more than 1,500 deaths from political and sectarian violence from January to August. At Port Grand the only hint of the turmoil is the presence of security details and surveillance cameras. “The whole world is going through a new security environment,” says Shahid Firoz, 61, Port Grand’s developer. “We have to be very conscious of security just as any other significant facility anywhere in the world needs to be.”

Young people stroll the promenade eating burgers and fries and browsing through 60 stores and stalls that sell everything from high fashion to silver bracelets to ice cream. Ornate benches dot a landscaped area around a 150-year-old banyan tree. “Port Grand is something fresh for the city, very aesthetically pleasing and unique,” says Yasmine Ibrahim, a 25-year-old Lebanese American who is helping set up a student affairs office at a new university in Karachi.

One-third of Pakistan’s 170 million people are under the age of 15, which means the leisure business will continue to grow, says Naveed Vakil, head of research at AKD Securities. Per capita income has grown to $1,254 a year in June from $1,073 three years ago.

The appetite for things American is strong despite the rise in tensions between the two allies. Hardee’s opened its first Karachi outlet in September: In the first few days customers waited for hours. It plans to open 10 more restaurants in Pakistan in the next two and a half years, says franchisee Imran Ahmed Khan. U.S. movies are attracting crowds to the recently opened Atrium Cinemas, which would not be out of place in suburban Chicago. Current features include The Adventures of Tintin and the latest Twilight Saga installment. Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol is coming soon. Operator Nadeem Mandviwalla says the cinema industry in Pakistan is growing 30 percent a year.

Exposure to Western lifestyles through cable television and the Internet is raising demand for these goods and services. Pakistan has 20 million Internet users, compared with 133,900 a decade ago, while 25 foreign channels, such as CNN (TWX) and BBC World News, are now available. And for many Pakistanis, reruns of the U.S. sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond are a regular treat.

The bottom line: With per capita income rising quickly, Pakistan is developing a mass market eager for Western goods.


http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/pakistans-consumers-flex-their-newfound-muscle-12012011.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on a discussion at Inst of Business Admin in Karachi, Pakistan:

A vigorous difference of opinion among technocrats, economists and corporate leaders on a number of socio-economic issues was witnessed during an interactive session held at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) on Saturday. And at the end it was unclear whether democracy was the answer, or a dictatorship, as advocates for both arguments came up with pretty convincing logic.

Speaking at the session organised by IBA in collaboration with Blinck, a youth resource group, under the title of “New Year Resolutions for the Economy of Pakistan,” panellists candidly expressed disagreements over the questions of foreign aid, democracy and the interplay of policy-making and implementation at the national level.

“Many people think that a non-democratic set-up is a panacea for the economic problems of Pakistan. They’re wrong. A non-democratic government is not sustainable,” said Ishrat Husain, former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, who is currently serving as dean and director of IBA. “Democracy is slow and messy. It takes two steps forward and four steps backwards. Yet it’s the only option. The democratic process shouldn’t be interrupted.”

Husain said military regimes do make an extra effort in the beginning to improve the economy because they have not yet developed a constituency of their own. “But later on, they start making compromises.”

Claiming that a democracy needs low poverty and high literacy rates to prosper, Gillette Pakistan CEO Saad Amanullah Khan said Pakistan had only two eras of development: first, in the early 1960s, and second, during the first three years of the Musharraf government. “I don’t care if a dictator is there as long as he revamps the economy,” Khan said.

He said that the idea of a government led by technocrats that could bring the economy back on its feet had its relative merits. Khan emphasised the need for adopting a national vision for long-term growth, adding that the entire nation should work towards its realisation. “Go to Proctor & Gamble or Gillette, and they’ll tell you their five-year goals in detail. But ask a government representative what the vision for Pakistan is for the next five years, you won’t get any definite answer.”

Disagreeing with Khan, Husain said Pakistan did not need any more “visions,” as the problem existed in their implementation only. “The country is full of pious documents. These are beautifully written policy papers that nobody reads. We all agree on the substance of policy, but the implementation is the real issue.”

Responding to a question, former Asia editor for The Economist Simon Long said it was wrong to attribute Pakistan’s dismal economic performance of six decades to its culture or laid-back attitude to work. He said that 35 years ago people often assumed China’s poor economy was a consequence of Confucianism. He said it was now obvious that Confucianism had nothing to do with the slow growth in the economy of China.

Talking about Pakistan’s economic indicators, Long said an economy with a tax-to-GDP ratio of less than 9% was not sustainable. He said it was hard for him to understand how Pakistan’s economic managers would bring down the fiscal deficit in next two to three years.

In response to the comment of a business student that Pakistan should stay away from all kinds of foreign aid and assistance to achieve self-reliance, Husain said the assumption that the Pakistani economy depended on US aid to survive was wrong. “Isolationism won’t solve our problems. Transfer of knowledge and technology is important. You’ve to be outward-oriented.”


http://tribune.com.pk/story/301827/failed-rescue-act-too-many-visions-for-pakistan/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a brief excerpt from Time Magazine about "Protestor" as "Person of the Year" for 2011:

Once upon a time, when major news events were chronicled strictly by professionals and printed on paper or transmitted through the air by the few for the masses, protesters were prime makers of history. Back then, when citizen multitudes took to the streets without weapons to declare themselves opposed, it was the very definition of news — vivid, important, often consequential. In the 1960s in America they marched for civil rights and against the Vietnam War; in the '70s, they rose up in Iran and Portugal; in the '80s, they spoke out against nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Europe, against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, against communist tyranny in Tiananmen Square and Eastern Europe. Protest was the natural continuation of politics by other means.

And then came the End of History, summed up by Francis Fukuyama's influential 1989 essay declaring that mankind had arrived at the "end point of ... ideological evolution" in globally triumphant "Western liberalism." The two decades beginning in 1991 witnessed the greatest rise in living standards that the world has ever known. Credit was easy, complacency and apathy were rife, and street protests looked like pointless emotional sideshows — obsolete, quaint, the equivalent of cavalry to mid-20th-century war. The rare large demonstrations in the rich world seemed ineffectual and irrelevant. (See the Battle of Seattle, 1999.)

There were a few exceptions, like the protests that, along with sanctions, helped end apartheid in South Africa in 1994. But for young people, radical critiques and protests against the system were mostly confined to pop-culture fantasy: "Fight the Power" was a song on a platinum-selling album, Rage Against the Machine was a platinum-selling band, and the beloved brave rebels fighting the all-encompassing global oppressors were just a bunch of characters in The Matrix. (See pictures of protesters around the world.)

"Massive and effective street protest" was a global oxymoron until — suddenly, shockingly — starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester once again became a maker of history.

Prelude to the Revolutions
It began in Tunisia, where the dictator's power grabbing and high living crossed a line of shamelessness, and a commonplace bit of government callousness against an ordinary citizen — a 26-year-old street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi — became the final straw. Bouazizi lived in the charmless Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, 125 miles south of Tunis. On a Friday morning almost exactly a year ago, he set out for work, selling produce from a cart. Police had hassled Bouazizi routinely for years, his family says, fining him, making him jump through bureaucratic hoops. On Dec. 17, 2010, a cop started giving him grief yet again. She confiscated his scale and allegedly slapped him. He walked straight to the provincial-capital building to complain and got no response. At the gate, he drenched himself in paint thinner and lit a match.


Read more: http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2101745_2102132_2102373,00.html #ixzz1h2cwmt4W

Riaz Haq said...

Imran Khan attends blog awards in Karachi, talks about revolution:

To the audience’s delight, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan made a surprise entrance at the second Pakistan Blog Awards that kicked off Friday evening at the Regent Plaza hotel.

Acknowledging bloggers in Pakistan, Imran said that a silent revolution is building up in Pakistan and that the bloggers are a vital part of the revolution.

“Political class is in a state of shock due to this revolution,” the PTI chief said. Stand-up comedian Sami Shah had his reservations about Imran’s presence, saying, “It turned political all of a sudden”. However, Shah said that the event was a positive step.

The awards were attended by prominent, as well as the not-so-prominent faces of the Pakistani blogosphere and cyberspace. The popular opinion remained that the blogosphere has shown an exponential growth.

“This year around, it is great,” blogger Sana Saleem said. “You can gauge the importance of media from the fact that almost every news organisation’s website has a blog now,” she added.

Applause roared across the hall, which housed around 300 people, as Rabia Gharib, the host for the event started to announce the winners.

“Each nomination represents a different hue of Pakistan,” Gharib said.

“The environment is electric,” remarked CEO P@sha Jehan Ara. “Blogs are definitely going to go a long way.”

Jehan Ara, who began blogging a few years back, said that there were about 25 blog nominations in every category.

However, prominent talk-show host Faisal Qureshi said, “Pakistani blogs have quantity, but don’t have quality. We are a nation of complainers, not advocacy. We should be more responsible about our content,” he added.

“Internet usage is converging in Pakistan, which is helping new and social media,” said Badar Khushnood, the Google Pakistan’s country consultant. “There is always a certain level of noise and hype, but in my belief, blogs have done a lot of good to citizen journalism.”


http://tribune.com.pk/story/311277/internet-advocacy-blogs-in-pakistan--no-more-a-silent-revolution/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report Imran Khan's Karachi rally on Dec 25, 2011:

More than 100,000 people rallied in support of Pakistani cricket legend and opposition politician Imran Khan in the southern city of Karachi on Sunday, further cementing his status as a rising force in politics.

His message of cracking down on corruption and standing up to the U.S. has found new resonance at a time when Pakistanis are fed up with the country’s chronic insecurity and economic malaise.
----------
Khan has been especially popular with the country’s urban middle class youth, and many of the people at the rally were young Pakistanis wearing Western clothes.

Two prominent politicians who have joined Khan’s party in recent months include former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who had a falling out with the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, and Javed Hashmi, who was a key member of the main opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.

Khan’s rising popularity could be a concern for the U.S., given his harsh criticism of the Pakistani government’s cooperation with Washington in the fight against Islamist militants.

He has been especially critical of U.S. drone strikes targeting militants in Pakistan and has argued that the country’s alliance with Washington is the main reason Pakistan is facing a homegrown Taliban insurgency.

Despite Khan’s rising popularity, it’s unclear how much he can shake up the political scene in the next national elections in 2013. Both the PPP and the PML-N have strongly entrenched bases of support that will be difficult to challenge.

It’s also unclear exactly what Khan would do if he did win significant political power. He has yet to offer many specifics about how he would fix problems like corruption.



http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia-pacific/pakistan-cricket-legend-turned-opposition-leader-cements-political-aspirations-with-huge-rally/2011/12/25/gIQAxK94GP_story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts of Imran Khan's interview with PressTV:

"People are sick and tired of these old political families who pretend that they are protecting democracy. People are sick of them plundering the country. Their wealth is lying outside. Their interests are outside. Their properties are outside. They don't pay any taxes. And then it's family parties. So, the father's already preparing their sons to take over.

This sort of politics has become redundant in Pakistan because Asif Zardari co-opted all the political parties in this broad coalition, and he gave them a piece of the cake. While they were all enjoying the perks and privileges of power, a wild caption was going through the roof. Never have people suffered in Pakistan as now. "

"Let me get the record right. All the parties, all political parties supported Musharraf against Nawaz Sharif because Nawaz Sharif was going to bring in the 15th amendment where he would have become the Amir-al-Muminim - he would have become the commander of the faithful.

Using a Shria law, he would have just assumed dictatorship powers. So, we all stood up against him.

When Musharraf came in and he announced that he had ended sham democracy and was going to bring in general democracy, all of us supported him. "


http://www.presstv.ir/detail/217866.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a blog post titled "A Pakistani Spring?" by Huma Yusuf in NY Times:

KARACHI – While I was living in Washington on a research fellowship last year, Pakistanis often urged me to use the opportunity to promote Pakistan’s “positive aspects” to Americans. With the country steeped in ethnic and sectarian violence and regressing along the Human Development Index, this seemed like a challenge, and I’d struggle to muster compelling examples.

No longer. An exciting shift is now underway in Pakistan: the young are becoming politically engaged. In coffee shops, beauty salons and workplaces, instead of gossiping or deconstructing the latest televised drama, youngsters are arguing about the merits of various politicians. As a journalist, I can’t walk into a social gathering without getting grilled by my peers and their younger siblings about this policy or that. Older Pakistanis who have long bemoaned the apathy of the country’s educated, middle-class youth are sighing in relief at this newfound activism. As one elderly family friend put it, “Your lot has finally woken up.”

Unlike their counterparts in the Arab world, young Pakistanis are less inspired by revolutionary rhetoric than in producing results through the existing system. They are demanding issue-based politics and sound government policies to reduce corruption, create jobs and recalibrate U.S.-Pakistani relations. Blogging in the Express Tribune, Muhammad Bilal Lakhani describes the evolution, “A visible and growing number of young, educated professionals in Pakistan are channeling their energies to incrementally improve the system by engaging with the current set up.”

Pakistani youngsters’ desire for change and a greater stake in their country’s future has fueled the unexpected success of the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. He boasts more than 150,000 followers on Twitter and more than 330,000 Facebook likes. The student wing of his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (P.T.I.) party counts over 4,000 members in Karachi. A P.T.I. rally in Lahore in October attracted more than 7,000 students and thousands of young voters; with so many fresh faces in the crowd, the line between political gathering and rock concert seemed blurred.

And this energy goes beyond P.T.I. supporters. Several social media sites have hosted online voter-registration drives for the 2013 general elections. Many of these are not affiliated with any political party; they are simply seeking to boost youth participation at the polls. Pakistan’s mainstream political parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party (P.P.P.) and the Pakistan Muslim League-N (P.M.L.N.), are launching youth-oriented campaigns and showcasing a new generation of politicians. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, of the P.P.P., is encouraging private media outlets to emphasize youth-oriented programming. The opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, who heads the P.M.L.N., recently drafted a new strategy to revamp his party’s Facebook presence and, in a bid to entice young voters, promised to distribute 300,000 laptops to students if he is elected.

The heightened political engagement of Pakistan’s youth is especially significant these days as judicial activism and military interference in the political arena threaten the country’s democratic foundations. Now that’s a positive aspect of Pakistan I’m happy to highlight to Americans or anyone around the world.


http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/a-pakistani-spring/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on Pakistanis on Facebook:

According to latests statistics, over six million Pakistanis use Facebook, putting the country on number 26 in the list of countries where Facebook users are based.

The figure, which social media researchers put at 6.08 million people, includes 4.14 million men and 1.94 million women.

Although that sounds like a lot of people, the figure is significantly less than half of the Pakistan population that has access to the internet. According Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, more than 20 million Pakistanis are online, which means that the number using Facebook is only 32.86% of the total online population.

While this is a significant indication of the potential that Facebook can still exploit in Pakistan, what is an even more important fact that comes out of the research is that the number of new users who signed in for a Facebook account increased by one million in the six months between August 2011 and January 2012.

The research shows that 5.19 million Pakistani Facebook users are over the age of 18 years. The appeal continues to be more for men, as 3.57 million of these users are men while 1.59 million are women.

The research shows that the greatest number of Facebook users (55.4%) is between the age of 18 and 24 years. The number of people in this age group who use the website is 3.03 million. The lowest number of users is, not surprisingly, in the age group of above 65 years which constitutes barely 1% of the total internet population.

Out of the users whose relationship status is single, 617,900 are women and 87,600 are men. More than 12,000 men are in a relationship compared to 71,680 women. The number for women is once again the highest, with over 95,720 married as compared to 15,120 men.

Among the users, 2.02 million people are college graduates, 1.46 million of whom are men while half a million are women.

Facebook, which was launched in 2004 but opened its doors to the public in 2006, has over 800 million active users worldwide.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/330906/over-6-million-pakistanis-on-facebook/

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts of a NY Times blog post on voting rights for overseas Pakistanis:

.....the diaspora found much cause for celebration in last week’s announcement by the Election Commission of Pakistan (E.C.P.) that 3.7 million Pakistani expatriates will be allowed to vote in the next general elections, scheduled for spring 2013.

A leading Pakistani-American has hailed the decision as an opportunity to strengthen the “solidarity and integrity of our motherland.” Suniya Qureshi, the executive director of the British Pakistan Foundation, a charity that aims to mobilize the diaspora in Britain, told me on Tuesday that the decision is the “right way for the Pakistan government to chart out a relationship with the overseas community and create ownership among the diaspora.”

But back in Pakistan, the E.C.P.’s announcement has sparked the latest round of political mudslinging. The idea of granting Pakistani expats voting rights only gained traction when the political upstart Khan petitioned for it in the Supreme Court. His political opponents claim that Khan stands to gain most from the change since his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (P.T.I.) party enjoys widespread support in the diaspora. Some analysts and pro-government activists also say it undermines President Zardari’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, which has recently clashed with the court over corruption cases against the president, leading to contempt-of-court charges against the prime minister.

It is unlikely that any nefarious politics motivated the ECP’s announcement. For once, the matter boils down to simple economics. Remittances from expatriate Pakistanis are the backbone of Pakistan’s economy. The inflows ease the country’s current account deficit and boost its foreign exchange reserves. In 2010, remittances accounted for more than 5 percent of the country’s G.D.P. Between July and December last year, overseas Pakistanis sent back $6.3 billion, almost 20 percent more over the same period the year before. The World Bank ranks Pakistan among the top ten recipients of remittances.

Engaging the diaspora by allowing expats to vote is a way of keeping the money flowing. As Qureshi puts it, “British-Pakistanis are hugely passionate about the country, and there’s a growing appetite to influence things and improve governance.”

In the long run, though, these new voting rights may also prove to be a test of allegiance. The E.C.P. has ruled that Pakistanis holding dual citizenship are not eligible to vote. Will Pakistani expats put off applying for a second nationality in order to retain their right to vote back home?

My butcher, who became British in the late 1990s, says he wouldn’t trade his red passport for a ballot: “It’s easier to complain about the politicians back home than try to do something about their shenanigans.”


http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/24/pakistani-expats-given-right-to-vote-back-home-to-ensure-remittances/

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of a David Brooks' NY Times column on why political participation is important for idealistic youth:

Often they are bursting with enthusiasm for some social entrepreneurship project: making a cheap water-purification system, starting a company that will empower Rwandan women by selling their crafts in boutiques around the world.

These people are refreshingly uncynical. Their hip service ethos is setting the moral tone for the age. Idealistic and uplifting, their worldview is spread by enlightened advertising campaigns, from Bennetton years ago to everything Apple has ever done.

It’s hard not to feel inspired by all these idealists, but their service religion does have some shortcomings. In the first place, many of these social entrepreneurs think they can evade politics. They have little faith in the political process and believe that real change happens on the ground beneath it.

That’s a delusion. You can cram all the nongovernmental organizations you want into a country, but if there is no rule of law and if the ruling class is predatory then your achievements won’t add up to much.

Furthermore, important issues always spark disagreement. Unless there is a healthy political process to resolve disputes, the ensuing hatred and conflict will destroy everything the altruists are trying to build.

There’s little social progress without political progress. Unfortunately, many of today’s young activists are really good at thinking locally and globally, but not as good at thinking nationally and regionally.

Second, the prevailing service religion underestimates the problem of disorder. Many of the activists talk as if the world can be healed if we could only insert more care, compassion and resources into it.

History is not kind to this assumption. Most poverty and suffering — whether in a country, a family or a person — flows from disorganization. A stable social order is an artificial accomplishment, the result of an accumulation of habits, hectoring, moral stricture and physical coercion. Once order is dissolved, it takes hard measures to restore it.

Yet one rarely hears social entrepreneurs talk about professional policing, honest courts or strict standards of behavior; it’s more uplifting to talk about microloans and sustainable agriculture.

In short, there’s only so much good you can do unless you are willing to confront corruption, venality and disorder head-on. So if I could, presumptuously, recommend a reading list to help these activists fill in the gaps in the prevailing service ethos, I’d start with the novels of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, or at least the movies based on them.

The noir heroes like Sam Spade in “The Maltese Falcon” served as models for a generation of Americans, and they put the focus squarely on venality, corruption and disorder and how you should behave in the face of it.

A noir hero is a moral realist. He assumes that everybody is dappled with virtue and vice, especially himself. He makes no social-class distinction and only provisional moral distinctions between the private eyes like himself and the criminals he pursues. The assumption in a Hammett book is that the good guy has a spotty past, does spotty things and that the private eye and the criminal are two sides to the same personality.

He (or she — the women in these stories follow the same code) adopts a layered personality. He hardens himself on the outside in order to protect whatever is left of the finer self within.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/13/opinion/brooks-sam-spade-at-starbucks.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Al-Arabiya report on Bannu Jail inmates with cell phones & Internet access to Facebook & blogosphere:

A high profile Pakistani prisoner, who escaped on Sunday along with 383 other inmates, was reportedly contributing to several social networking sites including Facebook and blog sites while he was in prison, a report revealed late Monday.

Adnan Rashid was on death row at Bannu Central Prison in northwestern Pakistan for his alleged attempt to assassinate former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in 2003.

But despite the high profile charges against him, Rashid enjoyed the use of cell phones inside the death cell he was held in, allowing him to keep in touch with several journalists through text messaging, the Pakistan-based Dawn news website reported.

Rashid, a former junior technician of the Pakistan Air Force, was among some 384 prisoners who escaped early Sunday from the jail after an attack by insurgents armed with guns, grenades and rockets, officials said.

The attack, claimed by Pakistan’s Taliban movement, started at around 1:00 a.m. (2000 GMT) and continued for two hours, with militants in cars and pick-up trucks shooting and lobbing grenades to force their way into the prison, a senior security official told AFP news agency.

“We have freed hundreds of our comrades in Bannu in this attack. Several of our people have reached their destinations, others are on their way,” a Taliban spokesman said on Sunday.

Rashid was arrested in early 2004 on charges of the alleged assassination attempt, but had continued to plead his innocence while in prison, claiming “that his only crime was that he had voted ‘No’ in the referendum held by the then military president Gen. Musharraf,” the Dawn reported.

As a prisoner, he was questioned by the media in interviews uploaded on to social networking site Facebook, in which he argued against flaws in laws concerning the Pakistani army, air force and navy, while urging the Supreme Court to intervene in his case and those of others who had been detained with him.

In one letter to the Chief Justice, Rashid claimed that at the time of the assassination attempt, he was on duty in Quetta and was picked up by intelligence personnel.

He had recently sent a text message to a group of recipients, who were not identified by the newspaper, which states: “There are millions of cases pending before high courts and Supreme Court, 99.9 percent of these are actually appeals against verdicts of lower courts. Billions of rupees are being spent on higher civil courts so why not this judicial system is replaced by military courts; these are swift, require no judge, no special courtrooms or bars, and most interesting court martial are unchallengeable so no more need of high and supreme courts. It saves time and money of nation. What do you think? From a court martial convict.”


http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/04/17/208348.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP story on TTP threatening to assassinate PTI chief Imran Khan:

The Taliban have threatened to kill a Pakistani cricket star turned politician if he holds a planned march to their tribal stronghold along the Afghan border to protest U.S. drone attacks.

Although the Pakistani Taliban also oppose the strikes, which have killed many of their fighters, spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said they would target Imran Khan because he calls himself a ‘‘liberal’’ — a term they associate with a lack of religious belief. He also warned they would attack anyone who participates in upcoming elections.

‘‘If he comes, our suicide bombers will target him,’’ Ahsan told The Associated Press in an interview Monday in the militant group’s stronghold of South Waziristan. ‘‘We will kill him.’’

The threat could come as a surprise to many in Pakistan who have criticized Khan for not being tough enough on the Pakistani Taliban and instead focusing most of his criticism on the government’s alliance with the U.S.

Some of his critics have nicknamed him ‘‘Taliban Khan’’ because of his views and his cozy ties with conservative Islamists who could help him attract right-wing voters in national elections likely to be held later this year or early next year.

Khan, who is the founder of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party, has gained momentum over the last year after more than a decade in politics. He is perhaps the most famous person in Pakistan because he led the country’s cricket team to victory in the 1992 World Cup.

Khan was once known for his playboy lifestyle and marriage to British socialite Jemima Khan. But they divorced several years ago, and he has since become much more conservative and religious. Khan has described himself as a liberal in various TV interviews, but he has also made clear that he is a practicing Muslim.

Ahsan, the Taliban spokesman, seemed to ignore that distinction and said the militants didn’t want Khan’s help in opposing drone attacks. Khan has said he is planning to lead thousands of people in a march to Waziristan in September to demonstrate against the strikes.

‘‘We will not accept help or sympathy from any infidel,’’ said Ahsan, referring to Khan. ‘‘We can fight on our own with the help of God,’’ he said, as drones buzzed overhead.

The spokesman for Khan’s party could not be immediately reached for comment.

Ahsan said the Taliban consider anyone who participates in elections, even Islamist parties, as infidels and will target them.

‘‘The election process is part of a secular system,’’ said Ahsan. ‘‘We want an Islamic system and will create hurdles to secularism.’’

An AP reporter interviewed Ahsan at a remote compound on a forested mountainside in South Waziristan. He was taken there from a compound in the Shawal area that housed several dozen Taliban fighters armed with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and anti-aircraft guns. Artillery fired by the Pakistani army regularly pounded the ground near the compound.

The military launched a major offensive against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan in 2009 and has claimed to have largely cleared the area. But the militants regularly launch attacks, and the interview held with the AP indicated they move relatively freely.

Ahsan arrived for the interview in a pick-up truck with two other Taliban commanders. He was wearing a white shalwar kameez — the loose-fitting shirt and pants common in Pakistan and Afghanistan — and a woolen Chitrali cap. He spoke with an assault rifle laid across his lap, and he and the other commanders fired into the air in celebration at the end of the interview.


http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/2012/08/08/taliban-threaten-kill-pakistani-cricket-star/iyBKHdYYWlK4yykTjy3lsN/story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times piece on Imran Khan written by Indian journalist Pankaj Mishra:

On a cool evening in March, Imran Khan, followed by his dogs, walked around the extensive lawns of his estate, sniffling with an incipient cold. “My ex-wife, Jemima, designed the house — it is really paradise for me,” Khan said of the villa, which sprawls on a ridge overlooking Himalayan foothills and Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. “My greatest regret is that she is not here to enjoy it,” he added, unexpectedly poignantly. We walked through the living room and then sat in his dimly lighted bedroom, the voices of servants echoing in the empty house, the mournful azans drifting up from multiple mosques in the city below.
-----------
“Why can’t the West understand? When I first went to England, I was shocked to see the depiction of Christianity in Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian.’ This is their way. But for us Muslims, the holy Koran and the prophet, peace be upon him, are sacred. Why can’t the West accept that we have different ways of looking at our religions?

“Anyway,” Khan said in a calmer voice, “I am called an Islamic fundamentalist by Rushdie. My critics in Pakistan say I am a Zionist agent. I must be doing something right.”

Those adept at playing Pakistan’s never-ending game of political musical chairs have begun to take note of Khan. His party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice, or P.T.I., as it is called), has never won more than a single seat in Pakistan’s 342-member National Assembly. But a recent Pew opinion poll reveals Khan to be the country’s most popular politician by a large margin, and his growing appeal has drawn together two rivals from the establishment parties — the suavely patrician figure of Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister from 2008 to 2011, and Javed Hashmi, an older street-fighting politician from Punjab, Pakistan’s politically dominant province — who are now, in Khan’s hastily improvised hierarchy, vice chairman and president of the P.T.I. respectively.

Khan’s campaign strategy is simple: he has promised to uproot corruption within 90 days, end the country’s involvement in America’s war on terror and institute an Islamic welfare state. ....
------------
I had already read Khan’s speech, peering over his shoulder in the car; it was not much different from what he said in previous rallies. Like many in the audience, I left before 5 p.m., late in Abbottabad’s valley, where darkness sets in early. On the way back to Islamabad, I stopped at a grocery store to buy some water. The owner, watching wrestling on his small television set, was a bit reluctant when I asked him to switch over to Khan’s rally. “Has Imran come?” he asked. “Is he speaking now? People have been waiting since noon.”

I told him the crowd was starting to disperse. “Of course they will,” he retorted. “They have to travel long distances in the hills.” He snorted when I said that the lateness of Khan’s speech was due to the media’s schedule. After some channel-hopping, I caught a brief clip of Khan at the rally repeating his gibe about Bilawal Bhutto’s lack of Urdu. The depleted crowd, it seemed clear, was not going to make history for Imran Khan, or supersede Abbottabad’s reputation as the town where a semiretired terrorist found marital bliss. But he seemed more relaxed than he was in Sialkot and Mianwali. The TV channels had clearly not betrayed him. And for once his groupies, spellbound by the cameramen, had not abandoned Khan onstage.


www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/magazine/pakistans-imran-khan-must-be-doing-something-right.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on Indian govt blocking or censoring social media following panic exodus on NE migrants from Bangalore:

Indian authorities have cracked down on social networking sites following unrest and an exodus of migrant workers fearing revenge attacks.

The government threatened legal action against the websites if they did not remove "inflammatory" content.

Facebook and Google have removed some material, but only in cases where it broke rules on hate speech and inciting violence.

The government said Twitter's response had been "extremely poor".

However, it acknowledged this "may be in part because they don't have an office in India".

Twitter could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Doctored videos

Authorities claim that threatening messages and pictures - which they allege have mostly originated in Pakistan - have been sent over the web to migrant workers following clashes between tribes in the north-east Indian state of Assam last month.

Fearing more violence against ethnic minorities, thousands of people have fled the cities of Bangalore and Pune in recent days.

The government has said social networking sites were used for scaremongering.
----------
It is an unwelcome distraction as India tries to position itself as a developing hub for hi-tech business and commerce in Asia.

Google has said that between July and December 2011 there was a 49% jump in requests from India for content to be removed from its services, compared with the previous six months.

In 2011, the government sought greater access to the tight security system used on Blackberry smartphones.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19343887

Riaz Haq said...

Here's ET on Facebook and Linked-in user population in Pakistan:

Users of social networking website Facebook in Pakistan have crossed the eight million mark, revealed statistics provided by Social Bakers. The number of Pakistani Facebook users stands at 8,008,720.

The steady increase in users has put Pakistan at 28th place in the ranking of countries that use Facebook.

The highest number of Facebook users (more than 160 million) is in the United States, followed by Brazil with more than 63 million and India with more than 62 million users.

According to the statistics, the total number of Facebook users in Pakistan grew by more than 1,383,900 in the last six months.

The statistics revealed that the age group with the highest number of Facebook users in Pakistan (3,990,800) lies in the age bracket of 18-24 and the second largest group in the age of 25-35.

According to the data, more men use Facebook in Pakistan than women.

Around 70% Facebook users are male, while 30% are female.

LinkedIn

The number of LinkedIn users in Pakistan has reached 1,472,143 (more than one million), as revealed by Social Bakers.

Pakistan stands at rank 10 among all countries that use LinkedIn.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/486676/pakistan-crosses-8-million-facebook-users/

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from various articles about Obama re-election campaign's chief scientist Rayid Ghani:

Mother Jones:

A political novice, Ghani came to the campaign from Chicago-based R&D firm Accenture Technology Labs, where he specialized in building algorithms from various data sets—like consumer shopping habits—to help businesses improve their bottom lines. In one of his more recent projects, Ghani developed a model to estimate, with 96 percent accuracy, the end price of an eBay auction—information that could then be used to sell price insurance to queasy users worried about coming up short. At OFA, his skills have been put to use on Project Dreamcatcher, which uses text analytics to gauge voter sentiment.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/10/obama-campaign-tech-staff

Dawn:

“What I really did there was explore and figure out what I wanted to do, which ended up being a research career in some form of artificial intelligence and machine learning,” Ghani said. “I was motivated by two goals: One was to study and understand how we (humans) learn and two: I wanted to solve large practical problems by making computers smarter though the use of data.”

That eventually led him to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh for graduate school where he studied Machine Learning and Data Mining.

It was during this period that he started working at Accenture Technology labs as chief scientist, before joining Obama For America.

At Accenture, Ghani mined mountains of private data of given corporations to find statistical patterns that could forecast consumer behavior.

“We were a small group of people who were kind of looking at the next generation of tools that would be beneficial for businesses,” he said. “We were trying to find new approaches to analysing data and see how we could apply it to businesses.”

In today’s data-centric world, the one-size-fits-all model is no longer an efficient use of a company’s resources. More and more, corporations are looking for increasingly targeted approaches to attract consumers.


http://dawn.com/2013/01/21/obamas-secret-weapon-in-re-election-pakistani-scientist-rayid-ghani/

GigaOm:

During a recent interview, Obama for America Chief Scientist Rayid Ghani compared his team’s social media approach in 2012 to the shift in web content from reposted print material to material designed for the web. For many organizations, he said, the prevailing strategy is “‘I used to use email, and now I’m just going to put the same information on a Facebook page.’” However, the president’s campaign used an abundance of online and offline data in order to hyper-personalize messages and get the most bang for its buck in terms of outreach.

Essentially, Ghani explained, the campaign was able to match up supporters’ friends against voting lists and determine how it should approach supporters to reach their friends. If someone was going to spread a message to 20 people, the campaign wanted to ensure they reached 20 people most likely to take action in some way. Because Ghani’s team had done so much work integrating its myriad data sets into a single view, it was better able to decide who could be most easily persuaded to vote for the first time, to donate money, to get active knocking on doors or perhaps even to switch sides.

That it was coming from friends rather than the campaign was critical to the strategy’s success, too. “The more local the contact is,” Ghani said, “the more likely [people] are to take action.”


http://gigaom.com/2012/12/08/how-obamas-data-scientists-built-a-volunteer-army-on-facebook/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn newspaper poll story:

Pakistani voters appear divided on many questions of the day – including who to vote for in the upcoming elections and what issues are most critical for the country at present – according to the Political Barometer, an opinion survey conducted by the Herald in partnership with the Sustainable Development Policy Institue (SDPI), an Islamabad-based think-tank.

Of those respondents who say they have registered for the upcoming elections, 29 per cent expressed an intention to vote for the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). 24.7 per cent pledged support for the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PMLN) while 20.3 per cent indicated a preference for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

The survey’s findings indicate that the PTI’s support is derived from all age groups – 22.9 per cent of those between 18 to 35 years, 18.6 per cent of those between 36 to 50 years, 18.4 per cent of those between 51 to 70 years and 7.7 of those above 70 years support the PTI, dispelling the notion that its vote bank is rooted in the younger generation.

The highest proportion of those aged between 36 to 50 years (32.5 per cent) indicate a preference for the PPP. Similarly, 46.2 per cent of those aged over 70 expressed a preference for the PMLN.

Compared with respondents’ voting histories, the PMLN’s vote bank appears to have remained stagnant while the PPP’s seems to have declined significantly.

It appears that the PTI has a stronger urban base, while a higher proportion of rural respondents indicated that they would vote for either the PPP or the PMLN in the upcoming elections

Predictably, the highest level of support for the ruling party was pledged by Sindhis, 55 per cent of whom said that they would vote for the PPP in the impending elections.

This was followed by Seraiki-speakers at 46 per cent.

Forty-four per cent of Hindko-speakers said that they intended to vote for the PMLN, closely followed by Punjabis at 43 per cent.

The same proportion of Hindko-speakers – 44 per cent – also expressed an intention to vote for the PTI, indicating a close contest between the two parties (PMLN and PTI) within that particular demographic.

It is worth noting that while 34 per cent of Pakhtuns stated that they would vote for PTI, only 11 per cent expressed the same vis a vis the Awami National Party (ANP).

47 per cent of Baloch said that they would vote for the Balochistan National Party–Mengal.

On average, approximately a third of those earning up to 30,000 rupees each month indicated a preference for the PPP whereas, among those earning more than 30,000 rupees, support for the party dropped to 10.8 percent.

This is in keeping with the party’s traditional pro-poor image.

No such trend could be determined for the PMLN, whose level of support remained similar across all income levels.

Those earning in excess of 250,000 rupees each month (the highest identified income bracket in the survey) expressed the maximum intention to vote for either the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) or the PTI, at 33 per cent each.

While this figure may appear anomalistic in the MQM’s case – support for the party within the second highest income bracket (those earning between 100,000 and 250,000 rupees each month) was only four per cent – it was possible to identify a rough direct trend between level of income and support for the PTI.

In general, it appeared that support for smaller parties declined with increasing levels of income.....


http://dawn.com/2013/02/09/elections-2013-survey-indicates-close-contest/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on free tweeting in Pakistan:

Whenever a country that has a history of internet censorship gains better access to one of the internet’s most important tools, it’s big news.

And that’s exactly what has happened today. Starting today, Pakistan’s largest provider of cellular services has announced that its prepaid customers can tweet away – for free.

“Data charges for accessing Twitter have been made ZERO for all Mobilink prepaid subscribers. Subscribers don’t require to subscribe to this offer since it is available for all prepaid subscribers by default,” says Mobilink.

That means that users can tweet and retweet all they want without incurring any data charges. This removes one of the impediments from Pakistani Twitter users, who have faced state censorship of Twitter in the past.

Back in May of 2012, the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority shut off Twitter access for the entire country for approximately 8 hours following the circulation of content deemed blasphemous on the network. Some speculated that the move had less to do with the specific content and more to do with a simple test as to whether a state-wide blockage was feasible.

As far as the rest of the internet goes, the Pakistani government has a history of censorship in the areas of so-called blasphemy and pornography. Recently, that censorship has moved to content that falls in the realm of political speech. In a country with this track record, free access to Twitter is a significant opportunity for its people – considering access remains open.

There are some caveats to the deal. Mainly, tweets must be sent via mobile.twitter.com – not Twitter’s native apps.

Also:

“[G]oing on external links will result in data charging. Whenever a subscriber clicks on an external link, he will be shown a notification indicating that standard data charges apply to view the link. External link will be opened after subscriber’s consent only.”

But for the purposes of simply communicating (being that all-important amateur reporter), this is a great thing for Pakistani tweeters.


http://www.webpronews.com/pakistans-mobiilink-offers-free-tweeting-to-its-customers-2013-04

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a WSJ story on how some people are using fake twitter accounts to boost their "followers":

One day earlier this month, Jim Vidmar bought 1,000 fake Twitter accounts for $58 from an online vendor in Pakistan.

He then programmed the accounts to "follow" the Twitter account of rapper Dave Murrell, who calls himself Fyrare and pays Mr. Vidmar to boost his standing on the social network. Mr. Vidmar's fake accounts also rebroadcast Mr. Murrell's tweets, amplifying his Twitter voice.

Mr. Murrell says he sometimes buys Twitter ads to raise his profile, "but you'll get more with Jim." He says many Twitter users try to make their followings look bigger than they are. "If you're not padding your numbers, you're not doing it right," he says. "It's part of the game."

Mr. Vidmar offers a window into the shadowy world of false accounts and computerized robots on Twitter, one of the world's largest social networks. Surrounded by a dozen computers at his home overlooking a golf course near the Las Vegas Strip, Mr. Vidmar has been buying fake accounts and unleashing them on Twitter for six years.

Today, he says he manages 10,000 robots for roughly 50 clients, who pay Mr. Vidmar to make them appear more popular and influential.

His are among millions of fake accounts on Twitter. Mr. Vidmar and other owners manage them to simulate Twitter users: they tweet; retweet, or forward, other tweets; send and reply to messages; and follow and unfollow other Twitter accounts, among other actions.

Some entertainers pay for fake followers. But false accounts can be political tools as well. In 2011, thousands of fake accounts disrupted anti-Kremlin protesters on Twitter.

The fake accounts remain a cloud over Twitter Inc. in the wake of its successful initial public offering. "Twitter is where many people get news," says Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self. "If what is trending on Twitter is being faked by robots, people need to know that. This will and should undermine trust."
-------
Mr. Ding, the Barracuda Labs researcher, says the fake-account market is "going very strong." He and other researchers say Twitter doesn't appear to be applying the Berkeley researchers' techniques to root out other fake accounts.

Mr. Vidmar's robots have helped make his clients "trending topics" on Twitter, giving them special mention on Twitter users' home pages. The trending topics appear just below the "promoted trend" that the company sells for as much as $200,000 a day. The trending topics aren't marked as "sponsored," so they appear more genuine.

Rapper Tony Benson says hiring Mr. Vidmar to promote his account on Twitter is "the best decision I ever made." Mr. Vidmar's robots made the rapper, known as Philly Chase, a trending topic so often around Philadelphia that he attracted attention from local newspapers. Prominence on Twitter led to gigs, fans and ways to promote his videos, Mr. Benson says.

Mr. Vidmar uses software to follow tens of thousands of accounts for his clients, another tactic Twitter prohibits. Being followed prompts many Twitter users to return the favor, and follow his clients.

In September, Mr. Vidmar used software to follow more than 100,000 Twitter users in a week for the Australian rock band The Contagious; that boosted the band's following by 20,000.

The band has a "verified" account, meaning it has taken extra steps to prove to Twitter that the account is real.


http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304607104579212122084821400