Musings on Pakistani social media – Part II – Liberal edition

I am so glad I went off the grid when I did as shit is really hitting the fan. My twitter timeline is depressing and when people tweet quotes from Pakistani TV talkshows transmitted after a tragedy, I wonder why do people torture themselves by tuning into them but more importantly how do they keep their sanity after listening to the bullshit that passes for discussion on evening talk shows.

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Around couple of months ago I wrote a post titled Musings on Pakistani social media-Twitter edition in which I bashed PTI calling them naive for buying the hype they themselves create on social media and believing that large number of PTI trolls and their RTs of pro-PTI material on social media will translate in to overwhelming majority at the ballot box.

Couple of years ago, one of the starry eyed supporter of PTI named Zohair Toru became famous or rather infamous for displaying such naivete:

The video went viral. Shandana Minhas’s Cafe Pyala did a post on it: The Poor, Sensitive, Hot and Bothered Revolutionaries! . The below translation of the video is picked from Cafe Pyala:

“See what is happening with our sisters and mothers in this demonstration. We are all from good families. We have come out on to the streets to raise slogans for Imran Khan. We are being beaten by our own police. They’re pushing us. We have come for a revolution, for your country. Every person here has come out of his house for this. Who would do such demonstrations in such heat [otherwise]? The police is shoving us, for what? For a foreigner? For Raymond Davis? He caused such bloodshed in Lahore and ran away to his home. See what is happening with Afiya Siddiqui. Nobody has such justice. We have all come out on the streets. Our homes have curtains too. Our women also do purdah. But when revolution requires it, every person in the home comes out on the streets. [To off camera supporter] Am I lying? I’m saying the correct thing, right? Everyone comes out. Sir, look our own police is beating us, how can we bring about a revolution? You tell me, you’re from the media. If you’re with us, only then will the revolution come about. If the police don’t beat us up, only then will the revolution come about. Now look at Imran Khan. What need does he have for this, he’s a very rich man. He’s standing up there on the stage and addressing people and even he is getting pushed around. Everyone’s getting pushed left, right and centre. This brother here, he’s totally sapped by the heat. Do we have any need of coming here?”

We all had fun with him. Garmi mein Kharaab and Inquilaab kaisay aaye ga became catch-phrases. One only needs to read the comments on Cafe Pyala post on how we (including myself) had a lot of fun at Toru’s expense.

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I have grown more mature (at least I like to think that) since then. Yesterday I tweeted this

What brought this on. If you have been following Pakistani news which I don’t much but occasionally get the pulse of the nation through my twitter TL, we are losing the counterinsurgency or counter-terrorism war with Pakistani Taliban aka TTP. Recently TTP had huge successes for example jail-breaking hundreds of their colleagues from D.I.Khan Jail, killing a serving Pakistani General and yesterday there was that despicable attack on church killing 81 people.

Subsequent to all these attacks, educated tweeps became very excited blaming everything on PTI and Imran Khan.  The outrage starts from the moment the news hits the wires till the day-end with all of the influential tweeps coming together in lambasting PTI and RTing PTI bashing posts till the time their fingers are tired from incessant tweeting or they find some other diversion in another window of their browser. The outrage is mellowed down the next day and by third day everyone has moved on.

In their excitement they forget that Imran Khan barely managed to secure enough votes to form a coalition government in KP province otherwise it was quite easy to have a different party ruling the province in KP. They also fail to notice that Imran Khan does not get the same air time on TV as before and does not wield much influence in KP (as many PTI insiders will tell you) either. Young starry eyed too-young-to-vote crowd might still look to him but that doesn’t translate into much influence either in the party nor in the government. Moreover, though he gets the majority blame for stating that we should negotiate with Taliban before we take the full-court-press offensive against them, an All Parties Conference was called and it was agreed by all stakeholders (right wing, secular, military) that negotiations with Taliban to be given a chance.

The [interior] minister said that leaders of all the major political parties were on the same page with regard to national interests. He said that it was a good omen that all the leaders have shared their views and ideas for bringing peace in the country and no personal or party agendas were pushed during the meeting. He said that the resolution adopted by the APC was an outcome of the consensus not only among political leadership but also the military leadership. He hoped all political and military leaders would continue to join hands for national interest and hopefully the security situation would improve by leap and bounds. He also mentioned that the attitude of the military leadership encouraged political leaders to move towards peace process and initiate negotiations with Taliban.

But if one logs on to facebook or twitter, it is as if Imran Khan alone is spearheading the negotiations and all the other stakeholders including military are against it. A friend’s status update:

Then there was this

I am not reproducing here what was and is being said on twitter. The crux of it is that “it is all Imran Khan’s fault and 140 characters are not enough to express my outrage”.

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Musharraf and his supporters were also equally naive believing that social media represents the ground realities. Wusatullah Khan did a brilliant piece on it

اگلے پانچ برس تک جب سیّد صاحب دیارِ غیر میں پاکستانی جمہوریت کے فروغ میں اپنے مدبرانہ کردار پر روشنی ڈال ڈال کے شل ہوگئے تو انہیں دوبارہ سے بے یقینی کے گدلے ساحل پر پھنسے ہوئے پاکستان کو صاف پانیوں میں دھکا دینے کے لیے ٹگ بوٹ بننے کا خیال آیا۔ مگر اس وقت تک اپنوں کے ہی زخم خوردہ سیّد صاحب کے پاس ذاتی مقبولیت کو جانچنے کا صرف ایک ہی پیمانہ بچا تھا یعنی فیس بک۔ چنانچہ انہوں نے چار لاکھ فیس بکیوں کی نیک تمناؤں کے سہارے دو دفعہ ملک میں خمینی اور بینظیر سٹائل میں اترنے کی دھمکی دی۔ ایک آدھ ٹیلی وڈیو جلسے کے ذریعے درجہ حرارت ناپا۔ اپنی مقبولیت کو جمع تقسیم کیا اور خود کو بدلے بدلے سے پاکستان میں دھکا دے دیا۔

جب وہ کراچی میں اترے تو لاکھوں انٹرنیٹیوں میں سے تقریباً ایک سو کے ٹھاٹھیں مارتے سمندر نے والہانہ استقبال کیا۔ مگر سیّد صاحب نے واپسی کی فلائٹ بک کرانے کو ایک بانکے کمانڈو کی روایتی شان کے خلاف سمجھا اور بلٹ پروف جیکٹ پہنے پہنے عمارت در عمارت گھومتے گھماتے عدالتی کمرے میں جا نکلے اور پھر بطور سلطان راہی مثالی حاضر دماغی سے کام لیتے ہوئے مشینی گھوڑے پر سوار وہ بہادرانہ پسپائی اختیار کی کہ اپنے ہی گھر کی جیل میں پہنچ کر دم لیا۔

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The people expressing outrage on twitter are not dumb and their anger is justified at the way things are moving in Pakistan. However, these were the very people who made fun of Zohair Toru and other such supporters of PTI for experiencing the reality for first time by stepping out of their air-conditioned homes, away from facebook and feeling the heat and police shoves (they had yet to face the police baton or rubber bullets but I think that is too much a price to pay for Inquilab for PTI supporters). The same people also made fun of PTI supporters’ love of social media saying that they have already elected Imran Khan as Prime Minister of Facebook Pakistan (I am guilty of this as well). However, my twitter timeline of last two weeks show that they are no better than PTI supporters when it comes to believing in non-existent power of social media.

The twitter revolutions and Taksim protests that were organized using Twitter gave this Pakistani “elite” (in terms of the strata of society they represent) tweeting class a delusion that protesting on twitter matters. It might matter in Arab countries where the press is not free and one is not allowed to criticize government in public or even very carefully in private. In Pakistan, the press is very vibrant and free and full of criticism of government. The amount of (deserving) criticism that was directed at previous PPP government was unprecedented. I don’t think even the current government much less military can absorb such criticism. But I digress. My point is the role of twitter in the aforementioned protests was to allow people to organize physical protests and express their anger and frustration at the government or at the prevailing affairs. The protests were not limited to tweeting about it. They organized protests using twitter, went to protests and then tweeted about it.

In our case, it has been two weeks yet our tweeps are limited to tweeting their outrage on the APC resolution, killing of major General and since yesterday on killing of innocents in a church. Not a single one of them has gone out or even suggested to go out and record their protests/anger/frustration before their political representatives or even at the local press clubs.

Despite knowing better, they are displaying a character which is epitome of naivete, the very character that they made fun of in Zohair Toru. This is why I said that Zohair Toru was better. He may be confused, naive, ignorant but at least he went out, away from his PS3 or keyboard or whatever the rich boys do, in the summer heat to stand up for what he believed in.

[UPDATE]

From Dawn:

The bloody attack was a reality check for the coalition partners of PTI, including Qaumi Watan Party and Jamaat-i-Islami. The ministers and MPAs fearing backlash could not dare to visit the LRH for almost three hours after the incident to console the angry mourners and ensure timely treatment of the wounded. There were no arrangements at the official level to provide coffins. Thanks to Al Khidmat Foundation which arranged about 100 coffins for packing bodies.

Al-Khidmat is charitable wing affiliated with the right wing Jamaat-i-ISlami, coalition partner in KP government.

What have left leaning people done except for tweeting to like minded people on twitter going to achieve?

Internet and elusive search for truth

Propaganda does not deceive people; it merely helps them to deceive themselves. – Eric Hoffer

It was believed that with the advent and ubiquity of internet and the huge information resources that internet puts at everyone’s disposal, creation of propaganda will become hard as people will easily seek out truths and will easily separate fact from fiction. However, recent events have shown that is hardly the case. Moreover, the arrival of social media such as Facebook and Twitter actually adds to the problem.

This was most notable in Pakistan during the Elections 2013 season. Columns were fabricated under the names of well known columnists and political analysts and shared via email, Facebook and Twitter. In pre-Internet times such fake news stories or columns circulated as faded photocopies. Very few people had access to news archives to be able to verify themselves whether such news item or column was ever written.

Now newspapers have their archives online and all one has to do is to visit the newspaper website and verify for oneself if such a column or news item had ever appeared on its pages. If recent experience has taught us anything, no one makes the effort of doing so. Whereas in earlier cases, spreading such false information required us to expend money and energy by photocopying and then delivering such papers, now it can be just done with a simple click of send or share button.

However, Pakistani nation eventually caught up to it as shown by election results and the supporters of political party that were faking such news items and columns lost sympathy of these journalists.

In case of Pakistan, the propaganda remained affected or deceived the Pakistani population. Probably because it was being done by a few die hard media savvy supporters of a particular political party. However, recent coup and subsequent events have shown that if there is a state machinery and intelligentsia behind a propaganda campaign, one can almost fool the whole world.

The campaign against the incumbent president started by “Tamarod” (arabic for Rebelion) by claiming that they have collected 22 million signatures nationwide from people demanding that the president step down. Whereas doubts were raised about authenticity of the signatures or even the numbers, they weren’t taken seriously. June 30, 2013 was announced as a day of protest against the president. A large number of people did come out and it was reported by local media and subsequently picked up by international media that more than 30 million Egyptians are protesting against the government which was also claimed as largest number of people protesting together in history of the world. This was repeated so much by the protestors themselves and the local channels sympathetic to them that they started believing it themselves.

From BBC

Pro-coup claims of 30M people is “gross exaggeration” and “impossible”

It has been claimed that Egyptians staged the biggest uprising in history in the last few weeks. It has been claimed that 30 million people took to the streets.

“I think that’s a gross exaggeration,” says Middle East correspondent Wyre Davies, from Cairo. “I think nationwide there were millions of people this time protesting against the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood, but nothing like the 30 or 40 million people some people quoted. That’s 45% of the population – that’s impossible; there are too many young people in Egypt for the maths to work.”

So where has the figure of 30 million protesters come from? It’s difficult to find a source for it, or for any of the other estimates for that matter.

“What we saw last week was a military coup – there’s no two ways about it,” he says. “And therefore the only justification for that logically is that this was a popularly-backed military coup. So it’s in the interests of the people who supported the overthrow of the president to say that they had these millions of people supporting them.”

The BBC website above does not allow for comments. When the absurdity of such huge numbers protesting was pointed out on other websites or blog posts, the authors were branded as stooges of Muslim Brotherhood or USA who do not want to see Egyptians progress. Moreover, unless someone goes to the original source of the estimate and checks its credibility, it is very hard to verify the numbers.

Finally, award winning journalist Max Blumenthal does a deep dive and proves it the numbers were fabricated and social media was used to full affect to forward this.

People, power, or propaganda? Unraveling the Egyptian opposition

Among the first major Egyptian public figures to marvel at the historic size of the June 30 demonstrations was the billionaire tycoon Naguib Sawiris. On June 30, Sawiris informed his nearly one million Twitter followers that the BBC had just reported, “The number of people protesting today is the largest number in a political event in the history of mankind.” Sawiris exhorted the protesters: “Keep impressing…Egypt.”

Two days after Sawiris’ remarkable statement, BBC Arabic’s lead anchor, Nour-Eddine Zorgui, responded to a query about it on Twitter by stating, “seen nothing to this effect, beware, only report on this from Egypt itself.” Sawiris seemed to have fabricated the riveting BBC dispatch from whole cloth.

On June 30, one of the most recognisable faces of Egypt’s revolutionary socialist youth movement, Gigi Ibrahim, echoed the remarkable claim, declaring on Twitter, “I think this might be the largest protest in terms of numbers in history and definitely in Egypt ever!” Over 100 Twitter users retweeted Ibrahim, while a BBC dispatch reporting that only “tens of thousands of people [had] massed in Tahrir Square” flew below the radar.

Some Egyptian opponents to Morsi appear to have fabricated Western media reports to validate the crowd estimates. Jihan Mansour, a presenter for Dream TV, a private Egyptian network owned by the longtime Mubarak business associate Ahmad Bahgat, announced, “CNN says 33 million people were in the streets today. BBC says the biggest gathering in history.”

There is no record of CNN or BBC reporting any such figure. But that did not stop a former Egyptian army general, Sameh Seif Elyazal, from declaring during a live CNN broadcast on July 3, just as the military seized power from Morsi, “This is not a military coup at all. It is the will of the Egyptians who are supported by the army. We haven’t seen in the last — even in modern history, any country in the world driving 33 million people in the street for four days asking the president for an early presidential election.” CNN hosts Jake Tapper and Christian Amanpour did not question Elyazal’s claim, or demand supporting evidence.

Three days later, Quartet’s Middle East special envoy Tony Blair hyped a drastically different, but equally curious, crowd estimate. In an editorial for the Observer (reprinted by the Guardian), Blair stated, “Seventeen million people on the street is not the same as an election. But it is an awesome manifestation of people power.” The former UK Prime Minister concluded that if a protest of a proportionate size occurred in his country, “the government wouldn’t survive either.”

Like the massive crowd estimates, Tamarod’s signature counts were impossible to independently verify. Increasingly it appeared that the numbers were products of a clever public relations campaign, with the Egyptian army and its political supporters relying on the international press and Western diplomats to amplify their Mighty Wurlitzer.

As stated above, it is important to go to the original source to verify numbers, facts etc. Though CNN and BBC carried themselves quite respectively above, however, in these days of Breaking News and ratings game, even they can fall victim to such propaganda.

Osama bin Laden corpse photo is fake

An image apparently showing a dead Osama bin Laden broadcast on Pakistani television and picked up by British newspaper websites is a fake.

The bloodied image of a man with matted hair and a blank, half-opened eye has been circulating on the internet for the past two years. It was used on the front pages of the Mail, Times, Telegraph, Sun and Mirror websites, though swiftly removed after the fake was exposed on Twitter.

In addition, our searching habits and Google ensure that we continue to believe in the propaganda. In his book, Filter Bubble, Eli Parser makes a very convincing case that Google is our gatekeeper to the information. As such, we now see the world through Google. If Google chooses only to show us results skewed towards one viewpoint, it will be swaying our opinion on that issue towards that side. It is a very powerful power that Google exercises over us and we freely allow it to exercise it.

Moreover, in order to improve its search results, Google continuously strives to personalize the search results for us. As such, when we are logged in at our personal or office computer, through cookies Google has an idea of our tastes, viewpoints, location etc and throws up the results that it thinks we want to see. By showing us those results that it considers we are looking for, it plays a crucial role in reinforcing our beliefs about certain topics by not showing opposite opinions or showing them in further down the results list.

Google’s filtering systems, for example, rely heavily on Web history and what you click on (click signals) to infer what you like and dislike…. it’s that behavior that determines what content you see in Google News, what ads Google displays—what determines, in other words, Google’s theory of you.

…According to the New Republic’s Jon Chait, the answer lies with the media: “Partisans are more likely to consume news sources that confirm their ideological beliefs. People with more education are more likely to follow political news. Therefore, people with more education can actually become mis-educated.”

Even if Google does not engage in personalization, websites and activists by using such processes as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or Google Bombing can ensure that for some search terms, certain results always appear on top thus creating a false image of websphere and consequently the world.

Whereas in theory Internet, social media and world’s most power search engine should have been making us better informed and bringing the world closer, the truth is that its actually quite an efficient medium to spread information and to reinforce our wrongly held notions.

 

Musings on Pakistani social media – Twitter edition

Caveats: I want to highlight four facts before you read this unstructured rant.

1. My political views are what are termed as “political islamist” or just “islamist”. So my observations and inferences that I have derived from them may be colored by those views.

2. The period I am covering here is from pre-May 2013 election till now.

3. I follow around 250 people on twitter and in addition say they Retweet (RT) 50 other people regularly so in effect my observations are based on tweets of total of 300 people

and most importantly, as brought to attention by one commentator,

4. I am generalizing here i.e., brushing with broad strokes. Its just a high level view of my observations.

Pre-election period

PTI by appealing to educated and plugged-into-social-media youth had really taken off and had become a formidable foe by engaging the disengaged youth. Other parties also took to twitter and facebook but one has to admit that PTI had the strongest presence on social media before the election. How they abused this position and how it ultimately fooled them into believing that being a majority on social media means being a majority in the parliament is covered by others extensively so I will not dwell on that.

All parties in Pakistan have an element of cult in them. Most people follow these parties not for the values or manifestos they have presented but because of their leaders. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has always been a cult of Bhutto on a national level, but under Zardari it has become a Sind regional party.

Supporters of PML-N mainly follow it for the Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbaz Sharif but its more of a personality following rather than a cult. The only party that is not a cult is probably Jamat-e-Islami but its too small a party. We also have Awami National Party (ANP) leadership of which remains in the ahl-e-bait of its founder Baacha Khan. But in relative terms, these parties are open to or at least tolerant of criticism of their actions as well their leaders.

On the other extreme, we have Muttahida Quomi Movement (MQM) a party of urban Sind headed by self-exiled leader Altaf Hussain. The cult eader status bestowed to him is extra-ordinary. They are highly intolerant of criticism and no newspaper which has offices or circulation in Karachi will dare to criticize them.

However, they failed to understand the impact of social media mainly twitter. MQM didn’t appreciate the fact that twitter allows people to express their frustrations and criticisms anonymously something which the general public couldn’t do on print and electronic media without fear of reprisal from MQM. So in of absence any criticism in public sphere, MQM fooled themselves into believing that people of Karachi will vote for them out of fear or will remain at home. However, quite a large number of people in Karachi were fed up with MQM and wanted to vote PTI (as no other party reached out to them or even talked to them) but when the voters reached polling stations, in some cases they weren’t allowed to vote, their vote had already been cast, or in some places MQM workers were filling ballot boxes with fake votes and at some places they strong armed the polling station staff to not reach the polling station on the allocated time_a fact which came to light in voting of national assembly seat from Karachi NA-250. MQM presumed that like earlier times people will take this silently. Surprisingly, people refused to be cowed down and in certain cases took to streets (which would never have happened earlier).

For MQM this was a first i.e., ordinary people protesting against them openly. They were at a loss as to how to counter this onslaught and it led to a few faux pas speeches by their leader Quaid-e-Tatheer Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai. (I have covered these  here “MQM’s reign of terror post elections 2013″ and “Why and How MQM Rabita Committee was beaten”). On the social media front, MQM was totally ill prepared for the criticism and abuses that started against them. People who would normally be discrete in their criticism of MQM even privately as they live and work in areas surrounded by MQM supporters took to criticizing MQM openly on Facebook where you are not anonymous. On twitter, frustrated Karachiites tagged MQM representative and became abusive towards them, towards MQM but most importantly towards Quaid-e-Tatheer Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai. MQM was not at all prepared for this barrage of criticism. This post “Social Media Strategy of MQM” makes it pretty clear how MQM deals with criticism generally and how trying the same tactics on social media actually backfired. Later they created a lot of fake accounts to tweet favorable news and occasionally create and tweet a lot of hashtags to get MQM related topics to trend such as #united4Altaf #onlyAltaf yesterday but its safe to say that MQM is still not able find its bearings on twitter. (For some twitter humor -> “Altaf Hussain and Titanic”)

The party that made the most use of social media pre-election was PTI led by former cricketer and philanthropist Imran Khan. The cult leader status that the supporters bestowed to Imran Khan was comparable to cult status of Quaid-e-Tatheer Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai amongst MQM supporters. PTI supporters would not tolerate any criticism of PTI much less Imran Khan and would stoop down to hurtling abuses to anyone daring to criticize or even trying to give suggestions to change their policies/manifestos etc. They earned the name “PTI trolls” as they would come down together on any journalist or analyst on twitter. They also created fake accounts of journalists/analysts and tweeted positive propaganda with respect to PTI and with respect to opponents, they spread malicious propaganda. This is what a fake account of, Jang/TheNews journalist and anchor of GEO TV program Jirga, Saleem Safi tweeted most probably operated by a PTI troll on election day. Tweets have since been deleted but I took a screenshot of them.

This and similar other tweets from other fake accounts upset Saleem Safi so much that he wrote a whole column in Urdu about it

I am having fun with it

Post Election Period

Once the elections were held, it was hard for PTI supporters to fathom that despite having such a huge presence on social media, how come the outcome was not what they desired. They went into denial mode claiming mass scale rigging. Absence of Imran Khan from the scene due to his fall from the lifter two days before the election also meant that there was no leadership to guide them. PTI was a major force in urban centres but failed to make any headway in suburbs and rural areas. As such, when the results showed that masses didn’t vote overwhelmingly for PTI, PTI supporters stooped to calling general public Jaahil (ignorant). You have to understand that these voters of PTI were mainly first time voters and educated elite of Pakistan who had never bothered to vote earlier and credit goes to Imran Khan for engaging them. They were teachers, professionals, businessmen, corporate CEOs and consultants educated from best Pakistani and western universities but they couldn’t take the loss at ballot box and still could not come to grips with the fact that a vote of someone living in rural area or not as highly educated as them or as successful as them is equivalent to their vote. There is a wonderful website which collected unquotable gems from these Harvard, Wharton, IBA, LUMS etc educated youth on social media. Do visit it Public shaming #Pakvotes as it will give you some insight into their mindset. A wonderful essay in this regard that I cannot recommend enough is The Disadvantages of Elite Education by William Deresiewicz, which is a must read.

Now that PTI has its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, focus of PTI trolls has shifted to actions of their own government and there is significant reduction in their social media trolling. Probably they too have realized that this trolling is actually destroying the little goodwill that they have left, if any.

Lets move to the other intelligentsia we have on social media. These are the so called English speaking journalists and analysts on twitter and can be described as left-of-centre in their leanings and probably hate PTI for its rightist leanings. They also despise the general public of Pakistan as when it comes to issues such as terrorism etc, general public leans right. They are best described in the following tweet

Pakistan especially KPK is facing a lot of terrorism. One such day was yesterday wherein a Terrorists strike in Quetta, Peshawar, NWA

As many as 49 persons, including security personnel, lost their lives and over 100 others sustained injuries in separate incidents of terrorism in Quetta, Peshawar and North Waziristan on Sunday.

Now if one followed the intelligentsia tweets yesterday, it was all outrage. There was empathy for victims but that was also a tool to express outrage. Outrage against terrorists? No. Outrage against PTI (as they rule in KPK) as well as common man as he is not fully behind the army in this War on Terror or because the common man opposes the Drone strategy

The above are a sample most read journalists/writers in English press of Pakistan and all they have to offer is to blame the common man or blame Punjab. The above is just a sample. Yesterday, my timeline was filled with such useless outrage from morning till night. It is not as if we are not fighting this war. We have been fighting this war for last 10 years. Here is a good piece of research Numbers of Terror on the myths propagated by these journalists in terms of number of people killed and as if our army is not fighting this war.

Twitter has widened the schisms in our society. These journalists consider the rest of the population as illiterate or unenlightened, it has actually polarized the society with the result that if these journalists/analysts/”though leaders” decide to bandy behind a particular issue, the rest of population believes there is a hidden agenda. Like PTI trolls and supporters, by just promoting their own causes and belittling the causes that the rest of the population wants to stand behind, they polarize the society. What they think is satire is actually read as affront by common man.  They don’t try to listen to other viewpoint or convince him of their arguments rather shove their views down common man’s throat. As such, common man refuses to listen to them and runs in opposite direction. As such, we all have our pet projects and causes which are mutually exclusive rather opposites. They are pro-drone, common man is anti-drone. The people who the common man have voted in want to use negotiation with Taliban as part of overall strategy because fighting them for last 10 years hasn’t resulted in any gains as far as common man knows so these people make fun of common man, his thinking, leave no opportunity to snark at it and consequently want nothing to do with negotiations. This polarization manifested itself clearly in case of Malala attack. The innocent minor girl faced a barbaric attack by Taliban. However, the vehemence with which the aforementioned journalists/analysts/thinks took up her cause and displayed their outrage actually distanced the common man from her. Whereas she needed the whole nation to stand behind her, the constant point scoring by our “intelligentsia” made sure that common man believe that she is part of some larger conspiracy or hidden agenda.

The intelligentsia continues to blame Zia ul Haq for creating this confused nation but they have only themselves to blame. Zia has been dead for more than 25 years. A whole generation has been born and grown up during this time. What have they to show for this 25 years to correct Zia’s wrongs? A few columns blaming Zia. 25 years down the line they will still be blaming Zia and all they will have to show for their efforts will be their satirical and hate filled columns, blogs and tweets. Lot of good they are doing.

Below is one of my sunni bias manifesting itself

Getting 100 people killed in a fortnight is a genocide of Karachiites. But we take it in a passing. 12 people were killed in Karachi day before yesterday. But a lot of people only feel outraged when its someone from minority because it allows them to push their agenda whatever that is.

This is till 1155am today: Karachi: Six killed in violent incidents, police encounter today. Only half a day has passed. Assuming pattern continues, around 12 will be killed today, which is a number equivalent to people killed in a bomb blast. But bomb blasts happen once a week or twice. However, this many people keep on dying on streets of Karachi everyday yet there is no outrage in any quarter.

A brilliant, thoughtful and well-structured read on selective outrage that we as a society show is Death of a Nation. Its a must read.

Social Media strategy of MQM

MQM does not take kindly to criticism. Whereas the same can also be said of PTI supporters who start hurling abuses at critics, however, MQM usually kills its critics. As such, you will never see a common man criticizing MQM in streets of Karachi.

The advantage of social media is that to an extent it offers the critics the anonymity or at least provides them a safe location to criticize MQM. MQM, which has always relied on its intimidating and threatening tactics as well as death to suppress its critics, is finding it hard to control criticism on social media due to this.

So their strategy boils down to this. Get the social media commentor to reveal his identity or location so that they can physically threaten them. This is best displayed by tweets of MQM MPA Irum Azeem (Jalal) Farooque (twitter handle @irumf) and MQM MNA Ali Raza Abedi (twitter handle @abidifactor). Here they stop short of mentioning death otherwise it is pretty clear that they are going to beat the shit out of their critics provided they find out their identities and location.

The following four tweets describe in words of MQM Senator Haider Abbas Rizvi “Shoshal” Media Strategy of MQM. This shows the fascist mindset of MQM. Whereas in case of PTI its their supporters and not their leaders that hurl abuses, in case of MQM its their parliamentarians that physically threaten them.

In the below tweet, MQM MPA Irum Azeem Farooque requests MQM MNA Ali Raza Abidi to invite the critics to a place where they can beat them.
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In the below tweet, she is requesting her MQM followers to try to find out the IP address of the critical tweeps so that MQM can threaten them or shut them up by reporting them as spam.

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Mohsin Soharwardi probably a disgruntled insider of MQM or may be sidelined in Altaf Hussain’s tatheer policies is very critical of MQM’s policies online. Below he describes how he is being approached by MQM MNA to reveal his location.

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The below is a screenshot of a direct message (DM in twitter lingo) sent by MQM MNA Syed Ali Raza Abidi to Soharwardi threatening him.

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Though the above mentioned are just images, you can reach the actual tweets by following links in my following tweet.

MQM’s reign of terror post elections 2013

MQM flag

I ran a pretty successful pro-Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai campaign, which is slightly different from pro-MQM campaign as in former we talk about Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai’s sacrifices whereas latter is about achievements of MQM. The pro-Altaf Bhai campaign is an Altafist campaign with slogans such as

ہمیں منزل نہیں رہنما چاہیے

جو قاید کا غدار ہے، وہ موت کا حقدار ہے

ِIn short, pro-Altaf Bhai campaign sees MQM as manifestation of Altaf Bhai i.e., Altaf Bhai is MQM and without Altaf Bhai, no MQM.

Anyway, running this campaign has endeared me to a lot of MQM guys. They have told me that PTI emerging as second largest party in Karachi has really shocked MQM.

Results show PTI has vote bank in MQM strongholds : DAWN

The number of votes polled are summarized in table below. Click on the table to enlarge it.

ecp PTI karachi

This has really challenged the narrative of MQM that they are the only representatives of people of Karachi as PTI is emerging as a strong contender. In Karachi, no one challenges MQM at least in MQM stronghold areas. Even if people support other parties, they usually keep it to themselves. The change came with PTI. People were fired up in their demand for change, boisterous in announcing their support of PTI and were convinced of PTI sweeping over not only Karachi but also whole Pakistan that they stopped fearing MQM. Earlier people would have been careful announcing that they will vote for any other party than MQM in MQM strong hold areas. However, with their PTI flags and stickers on their cars, they were not anymore.

On the other side, MQM which controls and monitors electronic media in Karachi but did not and could not monitor or control social media, rightly assumed that they will have a comfortable win in all areas of Karachi. However, mistakenly they also assumed that they can cow down PTI supporters with their intimidating tactics.

ONE

This happened with my cousin in North Nazimabad. His friend on the street for last 20 years asked him which party will me cousin vote for in the elections. My cousin replied that PTI. The tone of his friend suddenly changed and in all seriousness he said to my cousin, “If you vote for any party other than MQM, be ready to bear the consequences”. These are not empty threats. Consequences in MQM parlance means a bullet. My cousin still voted for PTI but to his friends he says that he voted for MQM.

TWO

Day after the elections when results started coming in, PTI got large number of votes in Federal B Area which also includes MQM’s HQ Nine Zero. For each National Assembly (NA) seat and Provincial Assembly (PA) seat there are multiple polling stations allowing people from a particular neighborhood block to vote there. If there was just one polling station for one seat, on some seats there were more than 250,000 votes polled during the day, you can assume how much chaos would have been at that polling station. So having multiple polling stations diversifies the crowd. If the PTI voters are diversified in a locality, the votes to PTI will be diversified across all polling stations for a particular seat and it will be hard to target a particular area. However, if a certain polling station receives unusually large number of PTI votes, one can safely assume that people in surrounding areas are collectively PTI supporters.

This is what happened at Aisha Manzil. Aisha Manzil and nearby Karim Abad has a few Agha Khani colonies i.e., gated communities of apartment buildings comprising of middle and lower middle income Aga Khanis. They were allocated a polling station. When the polling results from their polling stations came out, it was obvious that Aga Khanis voted overwhelmingly for PTI with MQM receiving negligible votes. This angered MQM. So on the night of May 12, MQM goons raided these colonies, separated all the voting age male members and have them beaten as a lesson. It didn’t matter that MQM had won from this constituency. They had challenged the MQM’s narrative of only representative and this was to ensure that when next time elections are held, this will be lesson they remember, and vote for MQM. Obviously, this was not reported in media as stated above MQM controls media in Karachi. However, if you have friends amongst Aga Khanis in Federal B Area, they will confirm that this actually happened.

THREE

Similarly Orangi Town is where majority of Biharis who migrated after secession of East Pakistan as Bangladesh in 1971 came to live. Its a lower middle income area and MQM has been the only party in Pakistan who has been talking about Biharis, their rights and repatriations of Biharis remaining in Bangladesh to Pakistan. As such, Biharis are the most ardent supporters of MQM. However, after seeing only rhetoric yet no efforts by MQM for the promises that were made, a lot of Biharis decided to vote for change i.e. PTI. For the reason that PTI supporters this time have been very obvious, it was very clear in that area that certain families voted wholeheartedly for MQM. They have been asked by MQM to clear the area within one week or to face the consequences. How will they manage it, nobody knows and nobody wants to even “appear” to care.

FOUR

Its normal for workers as well as politicians to become disillusioned with their parties. They may change political alliances on principle or they may change political alliances for money, power etc. However, if you have joined MQM, unless they throw you out, there is no way that you can leave them. To use cliched Hotel California line,

you can check in any time of night
but you can never leave

People leaving at worker level are usually killed or have to leave the city or country to save their lives. MQM tries to portray itself as an ideological party. If workers leave, it shows that there is something wrong in their ideology. As such, you will hardly find anyone saying that they are ex-workers of MQM.

The euphoria of change ie PTI had energized the whole nation. It also affected new young members of MQM who had recently joined MQM. Some of them moved over to PTI or started supporting it.

PTI started dharnas (or dharnis as they were very small in size) after election rigging starting with Teen Talwar and subsequently holding dharnas in other localities outside Karachi in various strong holds of MQM. One such dharna was held on Five Star Chowrangi in Karachi. It came close to turning violent as MQM also tried to stage a dharna at the same place in an effort to threaten the PTI supporters to disperse but the latter stood their ground.

Day 7 of dharnas: Stare down between PTI, MQM supporters: Express Tribune

Anyway, a friend of mine who works in MQM sector office of the area told me that MQM workers went over to PTI dharna as spectators or even participants and took pictures of PTI dharna participants on their mobile phones and have the pictures submitted in the MQM Sector Office. How will Sector Office use these picture or if they will use these pictures is anybody’s guess.

****

If you are in Karachi, it behooves you to not get carried away in euphoria. When I found out about above developments, I posted the following on my facebook page as a friendly warning to family members and friends as they weren’t taking any precautions criticizing MQM or Altaf Hussain on facebook as well as publicly.

FRIENDS AND FAMILY IN KARACHI

As you are aware, I have been running a pro Quaid e Tehreek campaign on social media. As such I have come close to few people in MQM.

All is not well at 90. Quaid e Tehreek has ordered Karkuns to “muththi khol dein”. This comes from a very reliable source. Agar Rabita Committee pit sakti hai, to aap log kis khait ki mooli hain.

Please don’t get carried away in Tabdeeli euphoria. Keep a low profile on social media but most importantly in your gali, mohalla, university or workplace.

Be safe. You will not be of any use to Tabdeeli revolution as dead people.

This is not a joke.

Unfortunately this upset my family and friends saying that I am trying to scare them from taking charge of their lives and trying to bring in change in situation of Karachi. They are really fired up to give up their lives for change as according to them living in fear is no life at all. To appease them, I quoted this dialogue of Mel Gibson from Braveheart to make amends with them

Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR FREEDOM!

We dont have to look to West for inspiration. The people of Karachi including mainly supporters of PTI from NA-250 but also from other parts of Karachi and supporters of other parties as well created their own such video Iss Halqay ko Halqa mat layna with a similar message.

****

Before we go on blaming MQM for its violent streak, we must understand that there is a reason for it. MQM is not the problem but a symptom of problem ie a vacuum of  justice and writ of state. MQM’s violent tactics thrived in this vacuum. If time and life permit me, a detailed post on why and how MQM came to be what it is today will follow soon.

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Why and How MQM Rabita Committee was beaten

[All updates will be at the end if this piece]

All the videos shared below are found on my earlier post Altaf Hussain : King of Hearts so apologies to those who were expecting newer material. The purpose of this post is to try to make sense of the events that led up to Rabita Committee being beaten.

Altaf Hussain had been making drunk speeches recently. According to my Dad, he has been making speeches after drinking cheap kachchi vodkas, which created an impulse in me to probe my dad further as how he came to know about side effects of cheap vodka but I digress.

He has always been a joker whenever he made those live performances (to call them anything other than “performances” such as speech etc would be dishonesty) and one can find tens of such video on youtube, however, for our current discussion it all started when Altaf Hussain threatened PTI protestors staging a dharna aka sit-in (or dharni according to MQM who claim Dharna comprises of a very large crowd) at Karachi’s Teen Talwaar roundabout against irregularities in polling of NA-250 National Assembly seat.

It was a peaceful dharna mainly comprising of upper class kids who before these elections and appearance of Imran Khan on political scene of Pakistan had been apolitical and had never really felt the terror of MQM like the people who live in middle class and lower class areas of Karachi. In his live speech to the protestors, Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai threatened these protesters that he will let loose his workers on them who will cut them up with swords.

Normally, it would have been enough to shut Karachi down. But the so-called youthias (a play on “youth” supporters of PTI) of PTI may not be politically savvy but they are social media savvy. And since Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai made this speech on live TV which all channels under instruction from MQM showed live, this really fired up the social media.

In subsequent days, PTI staged protests in different middle class areas of Karachi (which were about apparently polling irregularities but implicitly against MQM as MQM was the one party mainly engaging in irregularities in Karachi) such as Gulshan, North Nazimabad, Sharae Faisal which would have been unthinkable before the Teen Talwar protest.

Anyway, after the sword remarks by Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai, Rabita Committee (RC) goes into damage control mode. Raza Haroon comes on TV and explains that in Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai’s speech, sword was an allusion to three swords on the eponymous Teen Talwar Roundabout inscribed with founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s words Unity, Faith and Discipline. To anyone who has heard Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai’s speech this seemed absurd but you have to admit, it was the best they could come up with in short time. Anyway, it became a butt of jokes on social media.

Adnan Asim's Karachi City. 3 Talwar ( Swords )...

Couple of days later, Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai has a live press conference with journalists where he threatens the journalists and ECP:

It was becoming too hard for RC to control the damage that Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai was doing to himself and consequently to MQM.

Then tragedy strikes. One night before the repolling has to take place in NA250 and which MQM had boycotted, PTI office bearer Mrs. Zehra Shahid is gunned down which police immediately describes us mugging gone wrong and everybody else i.e. witnesses and media described as a case of targeted killing.

When news reaches Imran Khan leader of PTI, he releases a statement from his hospital bed, where he was being treated for spinal injury after his fall, that he holds Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai directly responsible for her murder and also holds British Government responsible for allowing Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai to run his party and killings from London.

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Despite it being an open secret that MQM has a militant wing and it engages in targeted killings on behalf of MQM as well as hires out its services to other local and international agencies, and whereas other parties do claim in their protests and publication that MQM has terrorized the city, it was the first time that Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai was reported by all the 24 hour news media as well as international media as being called a murderer and consequently running a terrorist organization.

MQM who has always controlled media with an iron hand was at taken aback as never any adverse news about MQM has been released in media as MQM has the ability to shut down channels as well as physically threaten their workers and journalists in Karachi. MQM was not prepared such a serious allegation which was “heard around the world”.

Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai wanted to make another live televised address to counter this allegation but RC stopped him saying that RC will take care of it. RC called a press conference and condemned Imran Khan for making a baseless allegation and later on also stated that they will send Imran Khan a Rs.50 Billion defamation suit.

However, Altaf Bhai was not satisfied with Rabita Committee’s statement and instead of calling the audience through RC (normal procedure) sends out an announcement of his speech to workers the same night by directly announcing it through electronic media.

The speech is made around 4 in the morning allowing workers to congregate as his announcement was sent out very late. In a performance worthy of Oscar award, Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai ended his speech by asking his workers that RC did nothing when Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai’s honor was challenged, will you, the workers, also will also remain quiet. Egged on by Hammad Siddiqui, workers get fired up and stand up.

We all know what happened afterwards. You can hear Farooq Sattar’s voice over the speaker in the end where he is pleading with the enraged workers “maafi maang to rahay hain hum”.

Not many people know this but Altaf Hussain when he was still in Karachi had Farooq Sattar beaten “aik joota fi kas” i.e., every worker was asked to beat him with one boot each. At the time, Farooq Sattar was trying to wrangle for more control in MQM and may be trying to weaken influence of Altaf Bhai.

In this beating, Babar Ghori’s clothes were torn, Raza Haroon received facial injuries and that is the reason he is not coming on media since then. But worst was reserved for Wasay Jalil. Altaf Bhai said “issay itni zor say joota maro ke mujhay yahan tak awaz aaye” (beat him so hard with a boot that I can hear the voice over the line [here in London]).

The workers are part of Karachi Tanzeemi Committee (KTC) i.e. organizing committee. It is headed by Hammad Siddiqui who is younger brother of MQM former MPA Adil Siddiqui. All the Unit Incharges and Sector Incharges report to Hammad Siddiqui and all MQM workers report to their respective unit incharges. So when workers beat RC members, it is said that Hammad had them beaten because RC and Hammad/KTC didn’t see eye to eye.

However, this doesn’t take away the fact Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai was listening while the beating was going on and didn’t stop it. In an effort of damage control for public consumption, all the workers who had participated in beating RC members were asked to submit written apologies next day.

Later that day workers convention is held wherein media is barred from reporting live. Through a press release it is made know that due to not following party discipline, Hammad Siddiqui-head of KTC is removed and KTC is dissolved. Hammad Siddiqui is being made a scapegoat here as Altaf Bhai was well aware when the beatings were going on.

However, RC being a public and positive face of MQM needed to be appeased and this what they asked for as a minimum as they wouldn’t dare ask for abdication of Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai.

Hammad Siddiqui is paying a heavy price for showing the exact loyalty that Quaid-e-Tehreek Pir Altaf Hussain Bhai demands from his workers. His membership of MQM has been cancelled and he has been barred from making any contact with workers and workers have been barred from making any contact with him.

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Situation on ground is very fluid right now. Arrival of PTI has shaken MQM to the core and they are going on a major rebranding exercise. RC both in London and Karachi have just been dissolved. It could be that RC Karachi was rebelling. There is also a tussle between RC Karachi and RC London. Former MQM MPA Tariq Javaid is back in town from London and it was earlier presume he will take over reins of KTC. The new organization structure will emerge from MQM worker’s convention set for 25th May 2013. If time and life permits, will write another post on how and why this rebranding is just a facade.

UPDATE 1:
All news media reporting that Hammad Siddiqui has left for Dubai. MQM has placed a ban in media since above events to not report anything without their permission. This means that news about Hammad leaving for Dubai is released by MQM themselves causing one to doubt its veracity. There are whispers that Hammad is being kept underground at safest place in Karachi ie MQM HQ Nine Zero in Azizabad.

UPDATE 2:
If you want to know how deep is MQM entrenched in security apparatus of Karachi, read this amazing piece on murder of GEO network journalist Wali Khan Babar – Roots of Impunity