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Pakistan polls: Social media playing a big role in the run-up to Feb 8 polling day

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NewsDrum Desk
New Update

Peshawar, Feb 7 (PTI) Social media is playing a key role in generating a vote bank for the mainstream national parties in the general elections in Pakistan, voting for which is slated on Thursday.

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Jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party is leading the social media campaign for its candidates contesting as independents on multiple different symbols after the Supreme Court ruling stripped off its electoral symbol, the iconic cricket bat, in a case related to intra-party elections.

Amir Shahzad, a member of PTI’s social media team, told this correspondent that the party realised the importance of social media much before any other party in Pakistan and how, Khan already being a celebrity helped. “His messages on social media spread like wildfire, which successfully tarnished the reputation of all other leaders,” he said.

Khan’s party was so successful in building narratives within minutes after any event that it baffled all other parties, he added.

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Mainstream political entities such as Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Pakistan (JUIF), Awami National Party (ANP), and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), popular as Jamaat, have also developed their social media contacts for the first time for coming general elections.

Pointing out that these other parties joined the social media club very late, Abid Hussain, an independent analyst, said, “Even big parties like the PML-N miserably failed to counter social media campaigns of PTI. It is only recently that (party vice president) Maryam Nawaz took charge of this area and started a visible campaign to promote their vision and mission.” Khan and his party have regularly alleged that the powerful military establishment has turned every stone to keep him away from riding back to power and that this election did not offer a level playing field. Since 2022, Khan has been convicted in four cases and sent to a total of more than 30 years of imprisonment.

However, the PTI workers are still hopeful that they will stage a comeback in the February polls and a major focus area is social media.

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“Not just today, we hired many social media experts and they worked on opinion making of masses, especially youngsters on a very big scale 2010 onwards,” Shahzad said.

The PTI had recruited 25,000 social media influencers during their 10 years of government in the KPK (two tenured from 2013 to 2022) at a monthly salary of Rs 25,000 each. They were removed by the sitting caretaker KPK government soon after coming into power.

Hussain said, “In present elections, the social media of PTI seems to be on the back foot due to obvious reasons. On the other hand, PML-N has a very clear edge on all other parties because they have many success stories to sell, like motorways, electricity, atom bomb blasts, stock exchange, dollar rate, petrol price etc etc.” “Neutral voters seem to be picking up these comparisons and tilting towards PMLN. All other parties are still in their infancy on social media,” he added. PTI CORR NPK AKJ NPK NPK

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