Islamabad - After the deadline for electioneering came to an end at midnight on July 23 in accordance with the instruction of the Election Commission of Pakistan, an army of movers and shakers, opinion makers and proponents took to the social media to broadcast their messages to anyone who wants to hear them, and in support of or against politicians and political parties having antithetical point of view or ideology, all in trying to influence the target audience.
Twitter and Facebook remained replete with sharing of posts and tweets and re-tweets as the political battle had been turned into a single narrative — pro-Nawaz Sharif means ‘anti-state’.
“Imran Khan’s defeat will benefit India,” the sweeping statement pitched by PTI’s Andleeb Abbas instantly became popular and was re-tweeted by her party supporters.
The ongoing elections are taking place under extraordinary circumstances with one of Pakistan’s biggest political party’s leadership incarcerating in prison after a conviction in a corruption reference.
If the PML-N is desperate to win elections so is the PTI, as 65-year-old Imran Khan cannot have any better chance to win as the leader of its main rival is behind the bars and he has the support of his rivals’ adversaries.
Online disinformation and the spread of deceptive political messages are pernicious and the social media wings of political parties and establishment know it.
“#NawazSharifTraitor, #PrimeMinisterImranKhan, #YourFutureIsInYourHand, #Lets_Book_It, #NikloPakistanKiKhatir, #KhanVsAll, and PML(N) Lions,” were some of the popular trends, where mostly the irrational propaganda-driven 140 words, were venomous and largely personal attacks.
“Strongly condemn traitor #NawazSharif Statement on #MumbaiAttacks against #Pakistan Not only article 6 Should be imposed on him but all treason application’s filled in court against him should be tried at Military courts.
#Article6ForNawazSharif #PMLN #NawazSharifTraitor #OnlyPPP,” said Samir Mir Shiekh.
Another user put the entire blame of not hanging Indian spy Kulbhoshan Jhadev on Nawaz Sharif, completely bailing out the civil and military establishment.
“Now hopefully Kulbohshan case will be projected on international forum which was deliberately suppressed by traitor Nawaz,” said user @KhatijahFatima.
Those, who questioned if Nawaz was a traitor, why the establishment did not expose or stop him, when he was carrying out any anti-state activity, were labeled as friends of traitors. Similarly, those who questioned politicians were ridiculed and accused of being touts of the army.
Interestingly, in the hate game, it was not only politicians or their supporters or the establishment’s digital wing, but journalists also jumped into the fray despite the fact that who’s job is to remain neutral, but they seemed to be swept away by emotions.
“Conviction of Hanif Abbasi at midnight strengthened the PML-N’s claim of selective accountability and helped them to flash the victim card the postponement of vote in NA 60 by Election Commission comes in a bid to nullify this impression,” said Hamid Mir tweeting a story of a newspaper. Some of the politicians expressed their annoyance at media houses for siding with their rivals.
“In its hatred for IK & PTI Dawn has gone too far! Today it has a story “On the streets of Karachi” where reporter implies the murder of IK! This is beyond bias, it is spreading hate & inviting ppl to murder a national leader. Dawn must held accountable! Relevant extract below,” said PTI’s leader Shireen Mazari on her page, which was re-tweeted by several.
The PTI social media cell has been blamed for introducing the hate-speech in the country.
Some users pointed out that the real challenges for the country needed urgent attention.
“No matter who wins on July 25, Pakistan’s military-led establishment will continue to wield effective power. Jihadis and other religious extremists will continue to flourish. Pakistan’s international isolation and economic problems are also likely to endure.” wrote Bushra Gohar of the leftist Pashtun nationalist political party, the ANP.
Some of the users feared that soon after the election, the political fever would be over, but the deep hate - which has trickled during this election, may take things to further levels of destruction.