SOCMM12 and the ban on – by Karrar Hussain

The two-day Pak-India Social Media Mela (SOCMM12) was held in Karachi on July 13-14, hosted by the US Consulate General in collaboration with a non-governmental organization‚ Peace Niche. As to what were the requisites for the participation is something that we do not know. But in the words of Abdul Majeed, one of the participants, it was an invite-only affair and most people who were invited were recommended by other people’.

The event coincided with an unannounced ban by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on the, a website that keeps the tally of unabated Shia killings in Pakistan. The ban was an unjustifiable since NO hate-websites run by the proscribed sectarian organizations like SSP/LeJ and others have been subject to this action. Thus it had to be condemned outrightly, and protested simultaneously. Be that as it may, shockingly, or probably quite predictably, no one among this famous club of bloggers/anaysts and others of that influential ilk could be heard/read/seen condeming the act in the SOCMM12. Except a token tweet by only one or two, most were silent on this issue. Instead, all that we saw were exchanges of pleasantries among the excited participants about each other, and shameful flattery of Senator Rehman Malik (Interior Minister) who was ultimately responsible for violent police action on Shia bloggers in Karachi. If one were to review their TLs (Timlines) on Twitter of the two days, the entire focus seemed to be expanding the circle of influence, making and winning new friends with all those reciprocal compliments and eulogies. When I speak of these compliments, I am referring to the (participants’) tweets of the two days by the time SOCMM12 concluded.

Important to note here, which I woud like to call the most salient aspect of unfolding events, was the protest (via tweets) that we witnessed on Twitter. Here was a big number of people, who might not be as influential as those in SOCMM12, that did not stop raising their voice on the issue, exhibiting their concern and outrage in an examplarly civil manner. All these people were conveying their sentiments to both local and international audience because they found the action unjust, indefensible and biased. The whole exercise was meant to draw the attention of everyone (at least) on Twitter, especially the civil society memebers, media, human rights organizations, activists, and those who represent the federal government on media to this ban.

But while the tweets have had their own significance, it was the practical demonstration of the sentiments that mattered the most. This entailed the protest of Shia groups in Karachi who came out on the streets to show the world that they stood for a cause, a cause that centers around justice, a cause that speaks for the unheard, a cause that highlights the plights and devastation of  abandoned and persecuted. And a cause that has no monetary benefits, a cause that doesn’t please the ‘power that be’, a cause that does not win them a circle of friends, a cause that does not necessarily win admiration of those ‘who matter’. So when such a cause is meted out the treatement that the protest did (remember the protesters being thrashed and dispersed with tear gas and aerial firing?), do NOT be shocked.

Meanwhile, the SOCMM12, which did not bother to weigh up banning of the website in all the discussions during those two days, would hardly feel the need of any protest on the streets. (Also there was no critical debate on the general apathy, silence and misrepresentation of Shia genocide in Pakistan’s mainstream and social media.) Probably, there was hardly any reason for them to at least go to the Karachi Press Club with a few placards, banners, chanting a  few slogans, or at least ‘one minute silence’. Let that go. Should we not ask if anyone, of all the participants here wrote a single article or blog post condemning the ban on Nothing. I will be thankful if you link me to any blog or article wherein they have raised the issue. Yes, I did see the famous right activists, in fact everyone comfortably ensconced there, speaking for, and writing blogs/articles against, the dangerous phenomenon of ‘trolls’ who are a permanent bane for all our ‘famous people’ on Twitter.

They all came, sat, watched, listened, talked, smiled, chuckled, laughed, ate, drank, enjoyed and left. On the other hand, the protesters on the streets had to run here and there to escape shelling, roughing up and arrest. Whatever happened, the world at the end saw who stood for what all this while.

Some people may resent this post, call it a one-sided skewed analysis, or – more impolitely, a trash. But I have strictly kept my focus on the two somehow associated events. I have deliberately avoided numerous other shortcomings on the SOCMM12’s part, and the participants.

Let the readers be the final judge.

P.S. We owe a special thanks to all our Shia, Sunni, Ahmadi, Baloch, Pashtun, Christians, Hindu and all other justice-loving people/groups around the world for raising their voice on this issue.

P.S.S. IS there a paucity of critics in Pakistan now? Not even a single critique of the whole event by the learned participants on any famous blog/s newspaper/s other than LUBP?



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