Going through the events at the Karachi’s Social Media Mela, I had one major response: Are these guys for real? Does Pakistan’s social media really offer an alternative voice or is it an extension of the mainstream media?
All over the world, Social Media represents the alternate point of view. In Pakistan, aside from a few honourable exceptions, social media seems to be an extension of mainstream media and a mirror of Pakistan’s army-dominated establishment.
This mela (known on Twitter as #Socmm12) had events headed by employees of Pakistan’s largest media group, the Jang group – as mainstream and pro-establishment as one can get!
It had Dr. Awab Alvi (a PTI propagandist). According to Marvi Sirmed and some others, Dr. Alvi played a major role in using social media to distribute a list of journalists who were alleged to have taken money from Malik Riaz’s Bahria Town Complex. Sitting next to him was Marvi Sirmed herself (human rights activist who is seen participating in events organized by the pro-establishment Jinnah Institute and pro-establishment HDP). Marvi’s name was also on the lists of journalists which was distributed by Dr. Awab Alvi. So no shortage of irony here.
Another segment was about viral videos. No dicussion on the videos of Pashtuns being slaughtered by the Taliban. No mentions of the Khooni Chowk where scores of Pashtuns were gruesomely beheaded by their Taliban captors. It is omissions like this where one wonders what is the point of social media in Pakistan when the difference between them and Jang Groups’ Geo TV is just cosmetic.
In the last two days, Pashtuns have been slaughtered in two separate incidents in and around Quetta. The blast at the ANP rally is yet another slap on the faces of these social media people who insist that Taliban and Pashtun are one and the same thing. Rubbish! The ANP has lost hundreds of its party office bearers and workers; hundreds more of Pashtun tribal leaders have been killed resisting the ISI-sponsored Taliban. Don’t expect Pakistan’s Social Media Mela to talk about this. Both PTI (of Imran Khan) and Jinnah Institute parrot the views of the army and both equate Taliban = Pashtun. Both of them were represented at Social Media Mela in the form of PTI (Dr. Awab Alvi, Ayesha Tammy Haq) and Jinnah Institute (Raza Rumi, Marvi Sirmed). Does anyone expect anything new to come out in these moderated discussions or simply the same rubbish that we hear on private TV channels and other mainstream media every day.
Honest progressive should avoid such events. At least they should raise their voices in protest. These events are all about NGO branding where activists for sale display their token protests for safe causes. I urge my fellow South Asian guests from India to be wary of the false Prophets who talk of peace but align themselves with the most hypernationalist, pro-establishment corporate media groups.
Can there honestly be peace with India while Hafiz Saeed roams around Punjab leading hate campaigns against Ahmadis and increasing their suffering. Can Jang Group really present itself as a champion of peace with India through Aman ki Asha project when its various media outlets publish hate propaganda against India on an incessant basis. The Dons of Pakistan’s social media are mostly allied with the same media groups and political parties who promote the pro-Jihad, violent Difa-e-Pakistan Council. Then how can this group of people pretend to talk peace with India?
Last year, only LUBP published a critical article on another social media event which quickly degenerated into a publicity stunt for promoting Imran Khan’s Karachi Jalsa. Like the last event, no talk of Shia killings at this event. A few passing and token references for Ahmadi persecution without anyone from Al Ufaq or Ahmaddiya Times. When PTI, Jinnah Institute and MQM are sharing the same stage, I know that us Pashtuns will only be misrepresented.
Not at all surprised to see that alternative blogs like LUBP, Al Ufaq, Khyber Watch, Pakistan Blogzine etc were completely blocked out. After all, they are far more visible on Twitter than many of the obscure blogs that win awards by sucking up to each other. Readers can compare their traffic on Alexa with outcast blogs like LUBP and make their own unbiased decisions.
So what to expect from such a social media event that is just an extension of private TV channels. Good luck on fooling some prospective donors. I hope that ignoring the Pashtun blood spilt all over Pakistan was worth it.