Parties using social networking for reaching out to the people | Pakistan Today

Parties using social networking for reaching out to the people

Phenomenon of social networking sites has been increasing for the last few years, but its growing use by politicians and their parties is welcomed by the populace. Thousands of fans are getting latest updates about their favourite parties and leaders on just one click.
Parties who are finding it difficult to make their presence felt in the political landscape of the country are taking serious steps to promote themselves through Facebook and Twitter. Parties with the dominant presence in the parliament, including the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), are now also using these websites to interact with the public.
Twitter, primarily used for status updates, is quite popular among the famous politicians. Ambassador to the US Hussain Haqqani, former member of the National Assembly (MNA) Marvi Memon, President Asif Ali Zardari’s Press Secretary Farah Naz Asfahani, Interior Minister Senator Rehman Malik, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan and others actively use Twitter.
Cyber experts claim that these sites could play an important role in the coming election campaign, as people would be hesitant to attend processions. Parties such as the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) and PTI are using Facebook and Twitter the most to pursue their political ambitions. They said that the effective use of these websites could open new options for voters, whereas, negative use in the form of hate mongering or propaganda could damage the party’s reputation.
Imran has 67,190 followers, Haqqani is followed by 11,331, Asfahani has 3,978 followers, Malik has 14,839 followers while Marvi enjoys 13,602 followers on Twitter. According to sources, all aforesaid celebrities have personal Twitter accounts.
Former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf has the largest fan following (as a politician) on Facebook with 412,031 fans, fan page of PPP has 12,089 members, another page named as “We want Imran Khan To Be The Next Prime Minister of Pakistan” is getting immense popularity and has about 354,175 fans. PTI also runs other official pages of PTI and its leader has 0.08 to 0.15 million fans.
Former PM and PPP chairperson Benzair Bhutto’s page also has more than 10,000 fans. Pages of President Zardari and Sindh Member of Provincial Assembly (MPA) Dr Zulfiqar Mirza have more than 4,700 fans, whereas Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif has about 6,200 fans but the official control of these pages could not be confirmed.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is also popular on the cyber world but its official fan page could not be traced. A private fan page named as “MQM Television” however has 29,045 fans. Fans claim that these sites update them about the latest happenings regarding political parties but emerging parties such as the APML and PTI should also focus on the grass root level, as elections would be held in polling stations and not Facebook.
No major official presence of the PML-N, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) could be traced on Facebook or Twitter. Social media proved to be a catalyst in the recent uprisings in the Arab world, where protestors used it as an effective medium to assemble thousands of people by arranging events on Facebook. They also used Twitter to update the happenings in the protests, which ignited the public outburst. Citizens said they would not want an adventure through these sites, as there was democracy in the country unlike the Arab World, but a positive change through ballot papers would be welcomed.
Member of the PTI social media team Moosa told Pakistan Today that his party has formed special cells of social media for the promotion of their leader and party. “The PTI cyber wing also runs live video streaming during our processions, which is watched by hundreds on the internet,” said Moosa. Professional cyber expert Danish Gondal said that increasing use of social networking sites by political parties was encouraging. He said that parties could use technology more effectively by hiring professionals for this purpose. Voting on crucial issues, sharing of press releases, photos and videos of party functions through internet could definitely serve the cause of the parties.
Citizens claim that the popularity of politicians and their parties could not be determined through Facebook or Twitter as majority of the public still lives in rural areas where the internet is not available. Student of Lahore School of Economics Bilal Saeed urged political parties to share their manifesto on social media sites, so that they could get direct suggestions and critiques from citizens. He said that direct public interaction was the biggest advantage of these sites, where parties could rectify their mistakes by taking proposals from citizens. Politicians could also minimise finances during election campaigns by maximizing the use of such sites, Bilal added.

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