Facebook
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Social media, in Pakistan, is the medium of the young, poor, and disenfranchised. It is also the medium that does not run on the benevolence or largesse of the government. Large payments for infrastructure, logistics and generous government advertisements are not needed by bloggers and opinion makers on Social Media.

Oddly, this synchronizes with the expected verdict in Panama Case and also Dawn Leaks Enquiry Report is expected in the same time period. These observations lead many to believe that the whole case against social media is being made to silence the critics of government – unfortunately in the name of religion.

Social Media thus offers a true form of public run democratic media, like the original public gatherings in Athena, in ancient Greece or the public assemblies of the early four caliphs of Islam. In the days of “Khilafat-e-Rashida” (Rightly Guided Caliphs), ordinary poor muslims can stand up in the mosque and ask most difficult questions to the Caliph – without the fear of being whisked away in the darkness of night. Social media, through a transformation of technology, offers the same platform to millions of young educated Pakistanis.

In Pakistan, the term “social media” is often supposed to mean “Facebook”, which is now being used by around 30 million or more Pakistanis. Almost 80% of Facebook users in Pakistan are below the age of 30 and there is an insignificant percentage of Pakistanis over the age of 40 who use Facebook. In other words, most, in the government, religious lobbies like Lal Masjid clerics supporting government and the ultra-conservative community, who are up in arms against “social media” are the ones who don’t use Facebook.

In the days of “Khilafat-e-Rashida” (Rightly Guided Caliphs), ordinary poor muslims can stand up in the mosque and ask most difficult questions to the Caliph – without the fear of being whisked away in the darkness of night. Social media, through a transformation of technology, offers the same platform to millions of young educated Pakistanis.

 

This competition means that a monopoly or oligopoly of opinion makers cannot exist. Buying channel owners through outright bribery, artificially created advertisement campaigns or coercion through PEMRA or threatening their business interests through bureaucracy won’t help.

Facebook allows the multitudes to say what they want. These are the people that have been asking for “Justice” and “transparency” in the country. Justice for Panamagate, Justice on corruption, Justice for their economic wellbeing and the exposure of the characters behind Dawn Leaks. The young in Pakistan have been asking justice from the old and powerful elite; Justice for their future; future of the younger generations.

Controlling the ‘market’ or in this case social media is one of the oldest problems in the study of economics – many players in a market means competition of views and thus control is difficult. This competition means that a monopoly or oligopoly of opinion makers cannot exist. Buying channel owners through outright bribery, artificially created advertisement campaigns or coercion through PEMRA or threatening their business interests through bureaucracy won’t help. Creating “well paid social media teams” also does not help, because the marketplace of ideas is big and decentralized. In essence, Social media in Pakistan, poses a problem for those rich and powerful political elite who believe that they should determine what people should hear and see.

Why authorities in Pakistan are not singularly focusing on the criminal characters who apparently were spreading blasphemy on the net? why government of Pakistan’s top personalities, clerics, judges and key ministers making statements against Facebook or social media?

That means creating PTV or PTV1, PTV2, and PTV3  achieves nothing if the discourse is taken online onto social media about how Pakistan should be run, who should be its leaders, how the rights of the people should be exercised and many other questions. If you don’t want people to ask these questions then what do you do – you close the medium that is allowing them to do this. Or you create such fear, such threat for Social Media users that they start to self-censor their political views.

Current background to suggestions to ban facebook 

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, Honorable Chief Justice Islamabad High Court (IHC), surprised countless millions of Pakistani, by declaring on Wednesday that the court will take a decision on whether social media websites in Pakistan, which apparently provide a platform to blasphemous content, should be banned or not in the next hearing which is to be held on March 27.

The court also asked Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) to submit its latest findings on this issue in the form of a report next Monday.

Today, during the hearing of a case concerned with the spreading of blasphemous content through social media, DG Muhammad Amlish, Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), informed the court that they have completed their inquiry followed by a case registered two days ago.

Read more: Pakistan’s National Assembly passes resolution condemning blasphemous content: Difficult Questions Arise?

DG FIA said in front of the court that a person has also been arrested based on the suspicion of sharing and spreading blasphemous content through social media.

In the present controversy courts, government ministers and politicians are spitting fire against social media instead of treating the whole episode as a criminal act by some unscrupulous characters that need to be punished. Impression therefore deepens that religious feelings of the masses are being exploited to suppress voices of dissent on social media. Stage is being set before the court decision in Panama, expected any day.

According to the officials of FIA, a cellphone and a laptop were confiscated by the alleged person and they are now with their forensics team.

Why not investigate culprits instead of threatening Facebook? 

In a country where government run intelligence agencies monitor, track, listen and record all phone conversations, text messages, emails, Facebook and twitter, and perhaps even WhatsApp and Signal and Skype; Could they not identify the culprits through their IP addresses?

The DG FIA explained to the IHC that the agency has put names of a few suspected people in the ECL (Exit Control List) with more or less three people being observed constantly. This again brings back the fundamental question: Why authorities in Pakistan are not singularly focusing on the criminal characters who apparently were spreading blasphemy on the net? why government of Pakistan’s top personalities, clerics, judges and key ministers making statements against Facebook or social media?

Is the government of Pakistan now saying that in a country fighting against terrorism for past 15 years we cannot still identify who was using social media from where? In a country where government run intelligence agencies monitor, track, listen and record all phone conversations, text messages, emails, Facebook and twitter, and perhaps even WhatsApp and Signal and Skype; Could they not identify the culprits through their IP addresses?

Facebook is Willing to Help

According to DG FIA, the contacts with Facebook’s management have been fruitful. A team, expressing Pakistan’s issue regarding blasphemous and questionable content, will visit Pakistan. He confirmed that to resolve the issue of the blasphemous content, Facebook has agreed to send in its delegation.

Read more: Pakistani Govt’s War against “Social Media”?

However, Facebook management requires some time to conduct its own investigation on the matter, although it is willing to help Pakistan with its problem, said DG FIA.

Justice Siddiqui commented that Facebook management should be allotted time but until then he asserted that “it was important to ban Facebook in Pakistan.”

Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, had ordered earlier this month that “blasphemous” content on social media websites be removed or blocked and those posting and sharing such material should be “strictly punished.”

Read more: Facebook vs Real Life

Furthermore, Captain (retd) Muhammad Safdar, Prime Minister’s son in law, demanded in the most emotional manner, that the resolution of blocking blasphemous social pages should be passed.

On this occasion, Chaudhry Nisar had also asserted, that the international community needs to consider the feelings and sentiments of Muslims in Pakistan and the entire Ummah. “Blasphemy and terrorism are two major sensitivities and the state will not compromise on these issues”, he commented.

Will court or the government then take some decision against the Facebook in Pakistan in the next few days? Oddly, this synchronizes with the expected verdict in Panama Case and also Dawn Leaks Enquiry Report is expected in the same time period. These observations lead many to believe that the whole case against social media is being made to silence the critics of government –  unfortunately in the name of religion.

1 COMMENT

  1. The government is so stupid to think that the people does not know what is the reason behind their motives they are fed up with the awakening in the country through the social media and now the people know them very well that they are thieves and scoundlers and this is mostly because of this medea if they are not able to find the few culprits then what they can even the Facebook is ready to help catch these bastreds then why to think about shutting the voice of millions

Comments & Discussion