Thursday, May 31, 2018

Pakistan Elections 2018: Significance of Social Media, Minorities

Pakistan's 46 million young voters of ages 18-36 years, up from 41 million in 2013, will likely have the biggest impact on the outcome of the elections this year.  Among other notable changes in the electorate is the number of non-Muslim voters that has jumped 30%, significantly faster than the 23% growth in overall voter registration in Pakistan since the last elections in 2013, according to data from the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Pakistan's young demographics and soaring use of social media platforms will almost certainly have a major impact on how political party candidates reach out to voters in general elections scheduled for July 25, 2018. The use of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other social media apps may even make the Pakistani election campaigns and outcomes vulnerable to manipulation by both domestic and foreign players. It is a fact that was recently acknowledged by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his testimony to the United States Congress earlier this year.  Pakistani authorities will have to be on high alert to stop any attempts to manipulate the voters.

Young Electorate: 

There are 17.44 million voters between 18 and 25 years  and 28.99 million between 26 and 35 years. These 46 million young voters, up from 41 million in 2013, will likely have the biggest impact on the outcome of the elections this year.

Pakistan's online population of over 55 million is predominantly from 18 to 35 years age group. Social media platforms will play a very important role in reaching this demographic group to bring them out to vote.

Social Media Campaigns: 

Major political parties, particularly Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are keenly aware of the importance of social media in the upcoming elections. Both parties have very active social media teams on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other platforms.

Foreign actors may also try to influence Pakistani elections in the same way that the Russians are alleged to have influenced recent elections in the West.

Social media news feeds are driven by users' profiles to reinforce their preferences and prejudices.  Newsfeeds are customized for each user. Any posts that don't fit these profiles don't get displayed. The result is increasing tribalism in the world. American and British intelligence agencies claim that Russian intelligence has used social media to promote divisions and manipulate public opinion in the West.  Like the US and the UK, Pakistan also has ethnic, sectarian and regional fault-lines that make it vulnerable to similar social media manipulation.  It is very likely that intelligence agencies of countries hostile to Pakistan will exploit these divisions for their own ends. Various pronouncements by India's current and former intelligence and security officials reinforce this suspicion.

Pakistan Voter Population by Age Groups. Source: Dawn

Electoral Map:

There are nearly 106 million registered voters eligible to vote in general elections scheduled for July 25, 2018, says the Election Commission of Pakistan.  This figure includes 59 million male and 47 million female voters.

Punjab tops the list with the largest number of registered voters with a total of 60.67 million,  23% increase from 2013. It is followed by Sindh with 22.39 million registered voters, 18% increase over 2013.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the third largest province with 15.32 million registered voters, 25pc higher than 2013.  Balochistan has just 4.3 million registered voters but it's a increase of 29% over 2013. Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have 2.51m voters.

Among other notable changes in the electorate is the number of non-Muslim voters that has jumped 30%, significantly faster than the 23% growth in overall voter registration in Pakistan since the last elections in 2013, according to data from the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Hindus make up the bulk of the non-Muslim population in Pakistan. Their numbers increased from 1.6% to 1.73% or 3.593 million individuals, according to 2017 Pakistan Population Census.

The population of Dalits (Kohli, Bheel and Meghwar communities in Sindh) has also increased from 0.25% to 0.41% of the total national population. Together, the Hindu and Dalit population adds up to 2.14% of the total population.

Krishna Kumari Kohli recently made history by becoming the first-ever Hindu Dalit woman Senator in the upper house of Pakistan, according to media reports.  Her election represents a major milestone for women and minority rights in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Hindu population of the areas that now constitute Pakistan was 15% in 1931 India Census. It declined to 14% in 1941 India Census. Then first Pakistan Census in 1951 showed it was 1.3% after the massive cross-border migration of both Hindus and Muslims in 1947. During the partition, 4.7 million Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India from what became Pakistan, while 6.5 million Muslims migrated from India to Pakistan. Since 1951, the Hindu population of what is now Pakistan has grown from 1.3% to 2.14% now.


Pakistan's young electorate and soaring use of social media platforms will shape the election campaigns of major political parties in this year's elections scheduled for July 25, 2018. The use of Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and other social media apps may even make the Pakistani election outcomes vulnerable to manipulation by domestic and foreign players. It's fact that was recently acknowledged by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in his testimony to the United States Congress earlier this year.  Pakistani authorities will have to be on high alert to stop any attempts to manipulate the voters.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

South Asia Investor Review

Social Media: Blessing or Curse For Pakistan?

Planted Stories in Media

Indian BJP Troll Farm

Kulbhushan Jadhav Caught in Balochistan

Lowdown on PTM and Manzoor Pashteen

Use of Social Media in Pakistan Political Protests

Riaz Haq's Youtube Channel


Riaz Haq said...

Only half of #Pakistan’s adults registered to vote. Kohistan district of #KP is lowest 20% registered, while the #Jhelum district of #Punjab has highest 77% registered. #Balochistan's Kech has 24%, #FATA 29%, #Sindh's Tharparkar 35%. #Elections2018

In a shocking revelation, the Election Commission of Pakistan has found that only half of the country’s population is registered as voters. While there are understandably several reasons for the distressingly low number of voters ranging from their awareness, low motivation and logistical issues, it calls for serious attention from the political management to address this alienation.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Haripur has the highest percentage of voters i.e., 66 percent, Orakzai Agency in FATA also 66 percent, Awaran in Balochistan and Karachi Central in Sindh have 63 percent voters each.

Among provinces, Punjab is on top on the list is with 55 percent of its population as registered voters, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA 50 each, Sindh 47 while Islamabad has 38 percent of its population as voters. Balochistan is at the bottom with 35 percent of its population as registered voters.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s “war generation”, now aged 18-25, comprisesome 17.5 million people, or 17 percent of the voting public, and could have the decisive say in Pakistan’s forthcoming general election on July 25.

Unlike their elders, their ballot box decisions would not be moulded by the power struggles of competing political dynasties predating their births. That is particularly true of middle-class youngsters in northwest Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, once the epicentre of the TTP rebellion.

At the last election, the province maintained its historic tradition of voting for a different party every time, elevating Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) from the political wilderness into the national limelight. If he is successful in his bid to become prime minister, Khan must persuade KP voters to kick the habit.

Crossing the confluence of the Indus and Kabul rivers, the natural border of hilly KP and the rolling plains of populous Punjab, I wondered if Khan’s rallying call of “change” had convinced first-time “war generation” voters from the urban middle class - on paper, the natural constituency of the PTI. Their importance lies not so much in numerical strength as in their influential role as social trendsetters.

In Peshawar’s affluent University Town shopping district, I find that they—like their contemporaries in Islamabad—are focused on aspirational goals, many of which fly in the face of the conservative traditions embraced by the narratives of political parties.

Take, for instance, 21-year-old Noreena Shams, an energetic young woman who manages to pursue multiple careers as an engineering student, businesswoman, education activist and professional sportswoman with equal determination.

She is the survivor of a TTP vehicular suicide bombing attack which destroyed her family’s home in July 2010. Located next to the entrance gates of a paramilitary fort in Timergara, the administrative centre of northern Dir district of KP, the house was routinely in the line of night-time fire from TTP militants entrenched on facing hillsides. As such, the family was not particularly perturbed when shooting erupted around 1am that fateful night.

Rather than evacuating the upper storey bedroom they shared, they dozed until the suicide vehicle, under fire from troops in the fort, crashed into the wall of the property and exploded. The force of the blast tossed the family from their beds and rained shattered glass on them.

In an interview with TRT World, Noreena recalled dragging her physically disabled elder sister Sairah from the room and fleeing with her mother and three other siblings to the basement of the partially collapsed structure.

“The house was practically destroyed. Our servant, who was sleeping in the hujra (an unattached reception room), was convinced the entire family had been killed. The local community was amazed we had survived,” she said.

Since then, she has defied the ultra-conservative social mores of her native Dir, which had prompted her parents to name their third daughter Noorena; in Pashto. It means “no more girls”.

Having started playing sports with her brothers and soldiers from the fort while disguised as a boy named Noor Islam, she has become Pakistan’s No. 2 woman squash player and is ranked 118 worldwide.

Riaz Haq said...

Three minority candidates elected on general seats in Pakistan

For the first time in Pakistan's history, three minority candidates were elected on general seats in the National Assembly and the Sindh Assembly.

People voting in favour of these candidates shows that the people of Sindh have rejected the politics of hate, and elected people regardless of their religion.

Interestingly, all three candidates were contesting on the ticket of Pakistan Peoples Party.

It is pertinent to note that majority of the Hindu voters reside in Sindh, of which 40% live in two districts; Umerkot and Tharparkar.

Here's a list of the three candidates who have been voted by the people of Sindh:

Mahesh Kumar Malani

Pakistan Peoples Party's Mahesh Kumar Malani clinched victory in the NA-222 constituency of Tharparkar after securing 106,630 votes.

On the other hand, his main competitor Arbab Zakaullah managed to secure only 87,261 votes.

Hari Ram

PPPP's Hari Ram was proven to be victorious in PS-147 Mirpurkhas 1 constituency after securing 33,201 votes.

His competitor from Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Mujeeb Ul Haque, secured 23,506 votes.

Giyanoo Mal

PPPP's Giyanoo Mal secured victory in PS-81 constituency of Jamshoro after getting a total of 34,927.

Independent candidate Malik Changez Khan was the runner-up after securing 26,975 in the said constituency.

Riaz Haq said...

A game of votes: Some interesting stats about Pakistan’s General Elections 2018
Most Popular Party? Highest Turnouts? What if most of TLP voters voted for PMLN?

Province Wise Analysis
Province Total Registered Total Polled Total Rejected Turnout % Rejection %
Punjab 60,646,558 34,321,422 910,492 56.59 2.65
Sindh 22,392,999 10,554,507 408,520 47.13 3.87
KPK 17,600,839 7,530,245 241,505 42.78 3.21
Balochistan 4,300,040 1,854,889 104,357 43.14 5.63
Pakistan 104,940,436 54,261,063 1,664,874 51.71 3.07
National average of Turnout was 51.8% and Rejection was 3.1%. All provinces other than Punjab had lower Turnout and higher Rejection than the National average. Sindh was close to National average in Turnout and KPK was close to National average in Rejection.

Top 10 Parties in Pakistan
Party Total Votes Total Seats Poll % Seat %
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf 16408879 116 30.90% 43.00%
Pakistan Muslim League (N) 12595438 64 23.70% 23.70%
Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians 6849586 43 12.90% 15.90%
Independent 5894539 13 11.10% 4.80%
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal Pakistan 2341685 13 4.40% 4.80%
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan 2138038 4.00% 0.00%
Grand Democratic Alliance 1257351 2 2.40% 0.70%
Awami National Party 790038 1 1.50% 0.40%
Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan 729767 6 1.40% 2.20%
Pakistan Muslim League 515258 4 1.00% 1.50%

Riaz Haq said...

The bane of Pakistani politicians: young voters with mobile phones
Long-established politicians are being confronted by youths disappointed their leaders are not living up to their campaign promises and videos of the encounters are going viral

The crowd of young Pakistanis, many armed with mobile phones, surround the politician’s car and begin streaming live footage of something extraordinary: angry voters asking their elected representatives what have they done for them lately.

A titanic 46 million people below the age of 35 are registered to vote in elections on July 25 – many of them savvy social media users who are posting videos complaining about the powerful.

In one clip, influential politician, landowner and tribal chief Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan is filmed in his car in the central city of Multan surrounded by young men chanting “thief” and “turncoat”.

To be held accountable in such a public manner is virtually unheard of for most Pakistani politicians, especially in rural areas where many of the videos have been filmed.

There feudal landowners, village elders and religious leaders have for decades been elected unopposed. Many are known to use their power over residents to bend them to their will.

Dubbed the “electables”, these politicians command huge vote banks. Most also take a flexible approach to ideology, and are highly courted by political parties, who view winning their allegiance as a passport to power.

But videos like the one of Bosan have gone viral in the weeks leading up to the polls, shared thousands of times in a country of some 207 million people, of whom roughly a quarter use 3G and 4G internet, according to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority.

They have also made their way on to Pakistan’s numerous and raucous television channels, ensuring they are also broadcast to audiences without access to social media.

Analysts are watching closely to see whether these moments of accountability might disrupt the way the major political parties have long relied on rural politicians and their huge vote banks as a short cut to power.

The videos’ popularity is a sign of simmering resentment against corrupt politicians among Pakistan’s youth, said Sarwar Bari, an analyst at the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), a democratic watchdog.

Historically apathetic, young Pakistanis first emerged as a political force in the 2013 elections, when a generation who grew up idolising cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan voted for his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party in droves.

Under-35s represent a massive proportion of the total electorate of 106 million voters registered in the 2018 elections.

More than 17 million are in the 18-25 age bracket, with a huge chunk set to cast their ballot for the first time.

The Asia Foundation noted in a recent report that many young people are increasingly engaged in the democratic process, usually through social media.

If so, and as concerns over election rigging mount before the vote, the impact of uncensored content such as the viral videos could become significant, analysts say.

“Social media has emerged as a democracy strengthening tool,” said Shahzad Ahmed, director of Bytes for All, a digital rights group.

Bari, who predicts a “massive” election turnout, said if even half the young voters who have seen and shared such videos go to the polls “it will strengthen the trust of the people in the democratic system”.

Pakistanis only started to receive high-speed mobile data in 2014 and its use has spread at one of the highest rates in Asia.

Access for young people to social media is helping to create a more democratic and participatory form of government, said Maham Khan, a 21-year-old student of international relations at the Quaid-i-Azam university in Islamabad.

“Basically the youth is actually using social media ... to bring about slow social revolution,” she said.

Riaz Haq said...

Facebook Says It Removed Pages Involved In Deceptive Political Influence Campaign
Tim MakJuly 31, 20181:06 PM ET

Facebook announced Tuesday afternoon that it has removed 32 Facebook and Instagram accounts or pages involved in a political influence campaign with links to the Russian government.

The company says the campaign included efforts to organize counterprotests on Aug. 10 to 12 for the white nationalist Unite The Right 2 rally planned in Washington that weekend.

Counterfeit administrators from a fake page called "Resisters" connected with five legitimate Facebook pages to build interest and share logistical information for counterprotests, Facebook said. The imminence of that event was what prompted Facebook to go public with this information.

In a blog post from the head of Facebook's cybersecurity policy, the company says that those accounts were "involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior" but that their investigation had not yielded definitive information about who was behind the effort.

However, Facebook's top security officials said the campaign involved similar "tools, techniques and procedures" employed by the Russian Internet Research Agency during the 2016 campaign.

There are not many details presented about the origin of these pages, but there is a link established between a page involved in organizing Unite The Right counterprotests and an IRA account.

Facebook noticed that a known Internet Research Agency account had been made a co-administrator on a fake page for a period of seven minutes — something a top Facebook official called "interesting but not determinative."

The actors behind the accounts were more careful to conceal their true identities than the Internet Research Agency had been in the past, Facebook said.

While Internet Research Agency accounts had occasionally used Russian IP addresses in the past, the actors behind this effort never did.

"These bad actors have been more careful to cover their tracks, in part due to the actions we've taken to prevent abuse over the past year," wrote Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook. "For example, they used VPNs and internet phone services, and paid third parties to run ads on their behalf."

Both the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate intelligence committee were less reserved about placing the blame for this campaign on the Russian government.

"The goal of these operations is to sow discord, distrust, and division in an attempt to undermine public faith in our institutions and our political system. The Russians want a weak America," said Sen. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of that committee.

Added Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the panel, "Today's disclosure is further evidence that the Kremlin continues to exploit platforms like Facebook to sow division and spread disinformation."

This most recent political influence campaign consisted of pages with names like "Aztlan Warriors," "Black Elevation," "Mindful Being" and "Resisters."

The pages were created between March 2017 and May 2018 and had a total of 290,000 followers. Over this time period, they generated 9,500 posts and ran 150 ads for about $11,000. They also organized about 30 events, only two of which were slated for the future.