Pakistani 3G and 4G users had reached the 49.5 million mark by the end of January 2018, according to the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA). This is a stark 29 per cent increase compared to January 2017 statistics. Social media, hence, has become a platform that cannot be ignored. Mindful of this, Pakistani politicians have frequently used social media to further their political objectives and express their thoughts on key political incidents.
On 31 May, the federal government completed its five-year constitutional term, making it is the second consecutive democratic government in Pakistan’s history. As the interim government took over in the following day, many political leaders took to social media to express their gratitude and asking voters to prepare for the elections. We list some of them below:
Social media prowess of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf leaders is well recognized. Its Chairman Imran Khan is the most popular Pakistani politician on twitter with 7.93 million followers and counting on a verified account.
It was not a surprise when Mr. Khan took to social media once again after the completion of the tenure of the parliament. On 31 May, a video of him addressing voters was uploaded on PTI’s official facebook in which he congratulated people on ‘getting rid of a corrupt government and asking them to pray.’ The video was viewed over 153,000 times, shared widely on Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp and was met with mixed reviews from all.
Over the years, among the few Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, PML-N leaders actively using social media, is the President and former Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif. Using the sophisticated videography that was shared on Youtube, he showed how he spent his last day in office as CM Punjab.
Apart from that, live videos of his engagements were also uploaded on his Twitter. In one of the videos, at the launch of Pakistan Kidney & Liver Institute & Research Centre Lahore (PKLI) established by the Government of Punjab in Lahore, Shahbaz said that if there was no electricity from tomorrow, he is not to be blamed.
Watch video at 13:31 minutes.
LIVE from Pakistan Kidney & Liver Institute & Research Centre Lahore- where kidney transplant procedure has started https://t.co/X0jw9GFpwZ
— Shehbaz Sharif (@CMShehbaz) May 31, 2018
Another PML-N leader and Former Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal has also been actively using Twitter to get his message across. On the last day in his office, he only retweeted a number of posts containing his statements, videos and pictures tweeted by fan pages.
— Prospering Pakistan (@better_pak) May 31, 2018
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
Pakistan Peoples’ Party, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has also been among the few PPP leaders actively using social media and has over 2.68 million followers and a verified account.. Surprisingly, he was not seen posting about the end of the government or his party’s performance, but tweeted about the press conference held by PPP about concerns pertaining to the upcoming elections.
PPP held press conference emphasizing principled opposition to delay in elections. IHC, BHC & LHC decisions & timings cause for concern particularly given nominations were to start tomorrow. Parliaments authority undermined. KP CM letter & Balochistan resolution also of concern
— BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) June 1, 2018
Other PPP members such as Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah did not tweet about the end of the government.
Another PTI leader and former Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pervez Khattak, also took to twitter to thank his people ‘for supporting the wave of change’. The message was retweeted over 1.3k times.
Today I would like to thank all the people of KP for supporting the wave of change, the govt servants who put their days & nights to reassure the public that their problem solving is their priority & the legislators of KP who preferred our people’s rights over their politics
— Pervez Khattak (@PervezKhattakCM) May 28, 2018
Khawaja Saad Rafique
PML-N leader and former Federal Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique also bid farewell to the people with this tweet,
الوداع دوستو ۔۔ یہ ریلوے افسران کے ساتھ اس دور کا آخری آفیشئل سفر تھا۔ میں اس قومی ادارے کو انتہائی خلوص نیت کے ساتھ ریلوے کے بہترین ، دیانتدار افسروں کے حوالے کر کے جا رہا ہوں،ریلوے 5 برس کے مختصر عرصے میں نجکاری اور نیلامی کے خطرے سے نکل چکا، آمدن 18 ارب سے 50ارب پہنچ چکی pic.twitter.com/ARQF3tHBwB
— Khawaja Saad Rafique (@KhSaad_Rafique) May 31, 2018
PML-N leader and former Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Maryam Aurangzeb she also left a twitter message near the completion of the government.
As I hand over whilst reflecting over past years I feel blessed&honoured to have opportunity to contribute to my country& PMLN.I am indebted to Allah for giving me courage & thankful to MNS for providing me opportunity&platform.Humbled for guidance&support of my venerable seniors pic.twitter.com/asK6FlrzR7
— Marriyum Aurangzeb (@Marriyum_A) May 31, 2018
Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Sherry Rehman was the only PPP Politician to have used social media to talk about the end of the government and how PMLN relied on TV commercial to prosper.
Second National Assembly completes its constitutional term in Pakistan amid policy turmoil and political polarisation. Still completion of term is important for the democratic framework, despite the deficits in participatory consultation from provinces and governance lapses
— SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) May 31, 2018
Sadly, after five years of N League Govt Pakistan is struggling with huge electricity, water and financial deficits. Parliament and accountability has been kept alive by the Opposition. Fed Govt only relying on tv commercials to feed surreal view of reality
— SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) May 31, 2018
Maryam Nawaz Sharif
The brain behind PML-N social media strategy and daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Maryam Nawaz has over 4.93 million followers on her verified account and is the most engaged Politician on Twitter. She is frequently seen retweeting and replying to many tweets both pro and against PMLN. Recently she has been actively promoting PMLN and defending Nawaz Sharif, who doesn’t have any official social media presence, post his disqualification.
جتے گا وئی شیر
اک واری فیر
انشاء اللّہ pic.twitter.com/REuPbGnBZW
— Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif) June 1, 2018
PTI MNA Asad Umer, is the second most popular twitter personality of Pakistan with over 4.92 million followers a verified account. He too took to twitter and recounted his successes as an MNA in Islamabad,
In primary role as legislator introduced 6 bills 1)islamabad local govt act 2)islamabad rent control act 3)elimination of forced acquisition of land under cda act 4)isb local govt amendment act 5)zainab alert bill to safeguard children 6) separation of accounts & audit act
— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) June 1, 2018
PTI leader Jahangir Tareen, who was disqualified in December 2017 for being ‘dishonest’ by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, took to twitter and called out Shahbaz Sharif for being ‘incapable of washing corruption in 30 years of ruling Punjab and that he would continue to fail if he rules further’
جو شخص 30 سال پنجاب میں حکومت کرنے کے بعد بھی کرپشن کا خاتمہ نہ کر سکا وہ اب پاکستان کی تقدیر بدلنے کے دعوے کر رہا ہے۔ شوباز شریف تمہارا اپنا خاندان اربوں روپے کی کرپشن میں ملوث ہے۔ تم کس منہ سے لوٹ مار کے خاتمے کی بات کرتے ہو؟ pic.twitter.com/yxjWZ2u2zo
— Jahangir Khan Tareen (@JahangirKTareen) May 31, 2018
While all the other parties are using social media to ask for votes. Mutahidda Qaumi Movement leader Altaf Hussain in a video message on social media asked his vote bank to boycott the 2018 elections. He especially requested the millenials to stop their families from voting.
Breaking: MQM founder leader @MrAltafHussain announces boycott of General Election 2018. Appeal to the public remain in their homes on 25th July #BoycottElection2018 @murtazasolangi @asmashirazi @HamidMirPAK @mazdaki @MazharAbbasGEO @MubashirZaidi @imam1 @ImtiazAlamSAFMA pic.twitter.com/zcGknHkkJO
— Mustafa Azizabadi (@azizabadi) June 1, 2018
Annam Lodhi is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy