Social media election: Digital platforms take centerstage in campaign strategy for Pakistan 2024 polls

Social media election: Digital platforms take centerstage in campaign strategy for Pakistan 2024 polls
Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan's supporters wear scarves with prints of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party as they listen to a virtual election campaign on phones at Khan's PTI office in Islamabad on February 3, 2024. (AFP/File)
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Updated 07 February 2024
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Social media election: Digital platforms take centerstage in campaign strategy for Pakistan 2024 polls

Social media election: Digital platforms take centerstage in campaign strategy for Pakistan 2024 polls
  • Young voters constitute 45 percent of the electorate, including about 22 million of those recently added to the electoral roll
  • Political parties say digital platforms provided them innovative ways to reach out to people and enlist their support

ISLAMABAD: Members of the social media teams of Pakistan’s major political parties said on Wednesday digital platforms were extensively utilized in the lead-up to the general elections tomorrow to influence young voters, as experts pointed out that politics and social media had become inseparable in today’s Internet age.
According to Pakistan’s election commission, young voters constitute 45 percent of the nearly 129 million electorate this year. To connect with around 73 million social media users, political parties and independent candidates leveraged digital platforms to convey their messages and sway potential voters.
This trend was particularly evident in Imran Khan’s Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which frequently complained of a lack of a level playing field, citing the arrests of its leaders and supporters in recent months that led to restrictions on its public gatherings.
As a result, the PTI relied on virtual rallies by utilizing social media platforms and, for the first time, used artificial intelligence (AI) to disseminate messages from Khan, who has been incarcerated in a high-security prison in Rawalpindi.
“To counter abductions and arrests, we initiated virtual gatherings and rallies that began from Dec. 17,” Jibran Ilyas, a key member of the PTI’s social media team, told Arab News. “These proved highly successful as many of our leaders had gone into hiding.”
He said one of the significant innovations done by his team was the use of AI to spread Khan’s message, adding it captured people’s attention in the country and was also appreciated by those living abroad.
“We used the AI technology to replicate Khan’s voice, which was highly successful, as people were eager to hear his message,” he continued.
Ilyas called the last few months a “period of adversity” for his party, though he maintained that the PTI’s digital innovations were vital to rejuvenate its supporters.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Khan’s rival political faction, was not far behind when it came to the use of social media forums.
“In this election, our primary target audience was the youth, particularly the approximately 22 million new voters who were added to the electoral list,” Abubakar Umar, a top member of the PML-N’s social media team, told Arab News.
“Therefore, we concentrated on digital platforms to connect with them, recognizing their preference for social media over newspapers or television,” he said, adding his party had placed greater emphasis on digital outreach ahead of the elections to highlight its achievements during the previous tenures.
“We made a concerted effort to enhance our social media presence,” he continued. “The feedback from our supporters had been encouraging, reflecting that our efforts were successful.”
The Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) digital media head, Sharjeel Inam Memon, said social media was also a key part of his political faction’s election strategy since it provided a valuable way to communicate directly with the people of Pakistan.
“It is particularly important for young, urban voters who are regular social media users and don’t always read newspapers or watch evening news bulletins on television,” he told Arab News.
Memon said the PPP used social media platforms to communicate with two key audiences.
“On the one hand, we used platforms like Facebook, TikTok, X, Instagram and WhatsApp to speak to [our party supporters], giving them information about events happening near them and opportunities to become part of the campaign,” he informed.
Other than that, Memon added, it used the social media to share messages of hope and help with struggling people in different parts of Pakistan.
Nighat Dad, executive-director of the Digital Rights Foundation, said all political parties had heavily relied on the Internet technology to promote their agendas and campaigns.
“Digital campaigning holds immense value, which became obvious during the 2024 elections, as platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are increasingly utilized by millennials and younger demographics,” she told Arab News.
“This diverse approach to election campaigns across multiple platforms has garnered sympathy for suppressed political parties and significantly influenced voter mindsets,” she added.
Asad Baig, who founded Media Matters for Democracy, maintained many people believed social media operated in a separate realm, disconnected from real-world politics.
“Pakistan boasts nearly 72.9 million social media accounts, a significant number compared to registered voters in the country,” he noted.
Baig told Arab News the majority of these individuals potentially engaged with social media in some capacity.
“Social media platforms, in particular, play a crucial role in influencing the opinions of those who are not firmly aligned with any specific party or ideology,” he continued, adding that this sizeable demographic presented an opportunity to sway voters, making social media narratives an invaluable tool for garnering support.


Pakistan commends UAE leadership for ‘swift’ response to record-breaking rains

Pakistan commends UAE leadership for ‘swift’ response to record-breaking rains
Updated 24 April 2024
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Pakistan commends UAE leadership for ‘swift’ response to record-breaking rains

Pakistan commends UAE leadership for ‘swift’ response to record-breaking rains
  • Pakistan’s foreign minister telephones UAE counterpart, expresses sympathy over devastation caused by torrential rains
  • Heavy rains lashed UAE last week, turning streets into rivers and hobbling Dubai airport, world’s busiest for global passengers

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday commended the United Arab Emirates (UAE) leadership for its swift and efficient response to the devastation caused by record-breaking rains in the desert country. 

Heavy rains lashed the desert country last week, turning streets into rivers and hobbling Dubai airport, the world’s busiest for international passengers.

The rainfall was the UAE’s heaviest since records began 75 years ago, dumping two years’ worth of rain on the desert country. 

“Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar held telephone conversation with Foreign Minister His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed of United Arab Emirates to express deepest sympathy on the devastation caused by recent torrential rains,” Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said. 

“He commended the leadership of the UAE for the swift, efficient and timely administrative response to this natural calamity,” it added. 

The foreign ministry said both representatives also exchanged views on matters of bilateral and global importance. 

Pakistan’s PM Sharif last Friday telephoned UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, urging both countries to collaborate to tackle the impacts of climate change. 

Sharif had lauded the UAE president for his “outstanding leadership qualities” and strong commitment to ensure the welfare of the Emirati people. 

Pakistan has been prone to natural disasters and consistently ranks among one of the most adversely affected countries due to the effects of climate change. Torrential rains have killed more than 90 people in the South Asian country this month, according to authorities.


Malala Yousafzai faces backlash for Clinton musical co-credit

Malala Yousafzai faces backlash for Clinton musical co-credit
Updated 24 April 2024
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Malala Yousafzai faces backlash for Clinton musical co-credit

Malala Yousafzai faces backlash for Clinton musical co-credit
  • Malala Yousafzai co-produced “Suffs” musical with Hillary Clinton, which depicts American women’s struggle for right to vote
  • Yousafzai has been condemned by some for partnering with Clinton, an ardent supporter of Israel’s war on Palestine

LAHORE: Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai faced a backlash in her native Pakistan on Wednesday, after the premier of a Broadway musical she co-produced with former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The musical, titled “Suffs” and playing in New York since last week, depicts the American women’s suffrage campaign for the right to vote in the 20th century.

However Yousafzai, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, has been condemned by some for partnering with Clinton, an outspoken supporter of Israel’s war against Hamas.

Pakistan has seen many fiercely emotional pro-Palestinian protests since the war in Gaza began last October.

“Her theater collaboration with Hillary Clinton — who stands for America’s unequivocal support for genocide of Palestinians — is a huge blow to her credibility as a human rights activist,” popular Pakistani columnist Mehr Tarar wrote on social media platform X.

“I consider it utterly tragic.”

Whilst Clinton has backed a military campaign to remove Hamas and rejected demands for a ceasefire, she has also explicitly called for protections for Palestinian civilians.

Yousafzai has publically condemned the civilian casualties and called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The New York Times reported the 26-year-old wore a red-and-black pin to the “Suffs” premier last Thursday, signifying her support for a ceasefire.

But author and academic Nida Kirmani said on X that Yousafzai’s decision to partner with Clinton was “maddening and heartbreaking at the same time. What an utter disappointment.”

Israel’s military offensive has killed at least 34,262 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

The war began with an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of around 1,170 people, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Clinton served as America’s top diplomat during former president Barack Obama’s administration, which oversaw a campaign of drone strikes targeting Taliban militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan’s borderlands.

Yousafzai earned her Nobel Peace Prize after being shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban as she pushed for girl’s education as a teenager in 2012.

However the drone war killed and maimed scores of civilians in Yousafzai’s home region, spurring more online criticism of the youngest Nobel Laureate, who earned the prize at 17.

Yousafzai is often viewed with suspicion in Pakistan, where critics accuse her of pushing a Western feminist and liberal political agenda on the conservative country.


Pakistan’s foreign minister calls for early resumption of PIA flights to Europe

Pakistan’s foreign minister calls for early resumption of PIA flights to Europe
Updated 24 April 2024
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Pakistan’s foreign minister calls for early resumption of PIA flights to Europe

Pakistan’s foreign minister calls for early resumption of PIA flights to Europe
  • Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar meets EU ambassador to discuss bilateral ties, trade and matters of mutual interest
  • PIA flights to Europe and the UK have been suspended since 2020 following Pakistan’s infamous pilot license scandal

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday stressed the resumption of direct flights from the country’s national airline to Europe, the foreign ministry said, in his meeting with EU Ambassador Riina Kionka during which both sides discussed bilateral relations, trade and matters of mutual interest. 

PIA flights to Europe and the UK have been suspended since 2020 after the EU’s Aviation Safety Agency revoked the national carrier’s authorization to fly to the bloc following a pilot license scandal that rocked the country. The issue resulted in the grounding of 262 of Pakistan’s 860 pilots, including 141 of PIA’s 434.

Kionka and Dar discussed Pakistan-EU bilateral ties and important issues of mutual interest during their meeting, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) said. Dar told Kionka Pakistan views the EU as a “valued partner” and an important factor of stability during the current volatile times. 

“FM emphasized the significance of direct flights between Pakistan and European countries in view of large diasporas,” MoFA said. “In this regard, he stressed on the need for an early resumption of PIA flights to Europe.”

Both sides also expressed satisfaction over the “significant progress” of Pakistan-EU institutional mechanisms and resolved to maintain the upward trajectory of their relations by increasing their high-level interactions.

“FM vowed to further strengthen the existing strategic partnership in all areas, inter alia, trade, migration, climate change,” MoFA said. 

“The EU side assured their full cooperation to Pakistan in achieving the objectives of economic diplomacy.”

The EU is Pakistan’s second most important trading partner, accounting for over 14 percent of the country’s total trade and absorbing 28 percent of Pakistan’s total exports. Pakistani exports to the EU are dominated by textiles and clothing.

Pakistan’s GSP+ status is a special trade arrangement offered by the EU to developing economies in return for their commitment to implement 27 international conventions on human rights, environmental protection and governance. 


Pakistan, Egypt among countries who pay most in surcharges to IMF— report 

Pakistan, Egypt among countries who pay most in surcharges to IMF— report 
Updated 24 April 2024
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Pakistan, Egypt among countries who pay most in surcharges to IMF— report 

Pakistan, Egypt among countries who pay most in surcharges to IMF— report 
  • Indebted member countries paid about $6.4 billion in surcharges between 2020-2023, says report by US think tanks 
  • Surcharges do not hasten repayment, instead punish countries already struggling with liquidity constraints, critics say

Countries, mostly middle and lower-income, have been burdened by surcharges on top of interest payments on their borrowings from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), widening global inequities, according to a report by US think tanks. 

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

Indebted member countries paid about $6.4 billion in surcharges between 2020-2023, the report from Boston University’s Global Development Policy Center and Columbia University’s Initiative for Policy Dialogue released on Tuesday showed.
And the number of countries paying these surcharges has more than doubled in the last four years.
The IMF is expected to charge an estimated $9.8 billion in surcharges in the next five years, according to an earlier report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.
Critics of the policy argue that surcharges do not hasten repayment and instead punish countries already struggling with liquidity constraints, increase the risk of debt distress and divert scarce resources that could be used to boost the struggling economies.
BY THE NUMBERS
Countries such as Ukraine, Egypt, Argentina, Barbados and Pakistan pay the most in surcharges, the report showed, accounting for 90 percent of the IMF’s surcharge revenues.
These surcharges, levied on top of the fund’s increasingly steeper basic rate, are IMF’s single largest source of revenue, accounting for 50 percent of total revenue in 2023.
KEY QUOTES
“IMF surcharges are inherently pro-cyclical as they increase debt service payments when a borrowing country is most need of emergency financing,” Global Development Policy Center’s director Kevin Gallagher said.
“Increasing surcharges and global shocks are compounding the economic pressure on vulnerable countries.”
CONTEXT
Data published by the Institute of International Finance earlier this year showed global debt levels hit a record of $313 trillion in 2023, while the debt-to-GDP ratio — a reading indicating a country’s ability to pay back debts — across emerging economies also scaled fresh peaks.
IMF shareholders agreed last week on the importance of addressing challenges faced by low-income countries, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday.


ICC names Pakistan’s Sana Mir as Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier ambassador

ICC names Pakistan’s Sana Mir as Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier ambassador
Updated 24 April 2024
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ICC names Pakistan’s Sana Mir as Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier ambassador

ICC names Pakistan’s Sana Mir as Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier ambassador
  • Sana Mir led Pakistan in 137 of 226 international matches she played during her career
  • Mir says will guide teams and players on how to deal with pressure in the tournament

ISLAMABAD: The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Wednesday named Pakistan’s former iconic cricketer Sana Mir as its ambassador for the upcoming Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier tournament. 

Former skipper Mir, considered widely as Pakistan’s best woman cricketer to date, will keep a keen eye on the tournament which would see 10 women’s teams battle it out for two spots at the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup 2024. 

The first four matches of the tournament will take place tomorrow, Thursday, which is scheduled to go on till May 7. 

The 10 teams have been divided into two groups of five, with the top two from each group entering the semifinals. The winning semifinalists confirm a trip to Bangladesh for the T20 World Cup later this year.

“ICC named Sana Mir, who represented Pakistan in 226 international games, 137 of them as skipper, as the ambassador of the Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier on Wednesday, 24 April,” the cricket regulatory body said in a post on its website. 

Mir told ICC the tournament would provide an excellent opportunity for fans to witness exciting cricket. 

“The women’s game has become more and more competitive in recent years,” Mir said. “And the 10 nations involved in the Qualifier possess a number of quality players.”

Mir featured in several ICC tournaments during her impressive career. Her most memorable one was in the 2008 ICC Women’s Qualifying Series for the Women’s Cricket World Cup where Pakistan went all the way to the finals. 

Sana won the joint Player of the Series award for the tournament. The Pakistani icon said she aims to share her expertise and experience with the international players as ambassador. 

“My aim is to talk to the various teams and players during the Qualifier and help guide them on how to deal with the pressure of these events and what it takes to succeed,” Mir explained. 

“Pakistan had a great record in these events, and I in particular have fond memories of the 2008 edition of the 50 over World Cup qualifier event that I played.”

Mir said that while Sri Lanka and Ireland were favorites to qualify for the World Cup, others had a chance to cause major upsets too. 

“Teams like Scotland, Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, and Zimbabwe surely have the potential to cause major upsets,” she said. “And make their way through to the semis and eventually to the final as well.”