Parliamentarian twitterati

Published: May 19, 2012
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Twitter users in the national assembly have started to realise the importance of social media.

Twitter users in the national assembly have started to realise the importance of social media.

ISLAMABAD: 

With the advent of social media in Pakistan in recent years, parliamentarians are now also joining the bandwagon and creating a direct connection with their constituencies using platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Although the usage of Facebook has been more for personal reasons, Twitter has become the favorite amongst the different parliamentarians spoken to, for understanding public discourse. Be it the ruling regime – the PPP, its coalition partners like the MQM and the ANP, or even the opposition, PML-N, most of them are engaging in debates, monitoring trends and propagating party agendas on Twitter.

Government and its allies

Farahnaz Ispahani, one of the most active users with over 14,000 followers currently, joined Twitter in 2010 “to use social media for its ability to open intellectual space,” which, she says, is much needed in Pakistani society that is becoming increasingly conservative.

“There was no room for youngsters, especially those who support the Pakistan Peoples Party, to communicate with the party leadership,” says Ispahani, who was elected to the National Assembly on a reserved seat and is the media adviser to the president. “But now, they are reaching out to us with their problems,” she says, adding that Twitter made this possible.

According to Ispahani, Twitter has also helped her in getting feedback for bills proposed in the assembly. Being on the committee for Human Rights in NA, she engaged in debates about the recent Human Rights Commission bill. “The suggestions I get help me improve the legislations,” she adds.

While the PPP MNA has been using social media for feedback, Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Haider Abbas Rizvi says Twitter has helped him understand and analyse political trends. He currently has two twitter accounts with more than 7,000 followers combined, but actively uses @HaiderRizviMQM.

Being the media head of the party, Rizvi has subordinates working around the clock. “We have a cyber-response team, and our network goes up to 8,000 people on Twitter, whom we use to engage in party agenda. For example, we created the hash tag for Lyari recently, to see what people had to say about the violence,” he says.

Rizvi also organised a party workshop where MNAs and MPAs from the MQM were given training for social media usage. Since the MQM has a large urban voter-base, Rizvi feels they need effective social media presence.

“We want 30 seconds from each party member, to establish the virtual existence of MQM,” he adds, stressing on how he also wants MQM supporters to become ‘e-workers’.

When voters aren’t on Twitter

The other coalition partner of the government, the Awami National Party (ANP), has been quite inactive on the platform though.

ANP’s Bushra Gohar, who has almost 2,000 followers, says she joined the network after a friend’s daughter told her she was being discussed there.

“When I started, someone tweeted to me saying – Thank God someone from ANP has joined,” she says.

But Gohar finds the 140 characters limit difficult to express. And she feels she has to be really careful when she tweets, since her words can be misinterpreted. “We have to be very cautious and think a 100 times before [tweeting],” the parliamentarian adds.

According to Gohar, the majority of their voters, especially rural voters, are not Twitter users. “I personally find radio discussions very effective in reaching out to people in remote areas and for communication of party policies,” she adds.

Opposition not convinced

The opposition in parliament also feels that their party supporters are not on Twitter. “Those active on social media are electorally irrelevant,” says Khurram Dastagir Khan, another active parliamentarian on Twitter, who belongs to the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N). “But I feel the web presence of the PTI has made us realise the importance of social media,” he adds.

Khan joined Twitter in 2009 and has almost 4,500 followers. The parliamentarian says Twitter has actually helped in sharpening his thoughts. “It has made me put my arguments in order,” he says.  He also feels social media helps him kill ‘dead’ time where he cannot do anything else. “While traveling, waiting for a party meeting to start or sitting during political jalsas and speeches, I find Twitter as the best thing to pass time,” says Khan.

Politicians tweeting vs tweeting politics

Observing the timelines of the above parliamentarians, another trend that appears is the reflection of their mood swings, and their corresponding tweets.

With Haider Abbas Rizvi and Bushra Gohar, tweeting poetry is a regular feature and a form of expression to comment on current affairs. “Sometimes when I am sad, I tweet shairs (couplets) reflecting my mood,” says Rizvi. Gohar, on the other hand, is seen tweeting verses by Rehman Baba and Ghani Khan, which comment on terrorism, something she says her province is a victim of.

Meanwhile, Farahnaz Ispahani and Khurram Dastagir Khan tweet about art and culture.

“My tweets about music etc. reflect what I am feeling about the country,” explains Ispahani.

Khan further shed light on this, saying he recently tweeted about a painting of the harvest season, since he knows the farmers in Pakistan are engaged in that nowadays.

Online harassment

While the parliamentarians highlighted the positive aspects of using Twitter, one common element they all discussed was harassment on the social media – especially by supporters of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and ‘hyper-nationalists’.

“I have a hard time engaging and debating with two groups. Firstly, the PTI trolls who seem to be incapable of listening or engaging without threats and foul language. The other group is the Zaid Hamid acolytes, who are using social media to spread their hyper-nationalism and militant views,” Ispahani complains, saying many likeminded people she knows on Twitter are targeted regularly.  She has even been threatened of physical violence, and usually ends up blocking such people.

Gohar also feels the same, saying she sees a lot of PTI supporters on Twitter who are abusive and she blocks them too for their offensive behavior.

But PML-N’s Khan has a different approach to the harassment, saying he usually does respond to such trolling, especially when they are factually incorrect.

“I get attacked by PTI supporters in cyberspace all the time – but I usually ignore them. Only if they are lying, I respond by straightening the facts,” he says. On the other hand, MQM’s Rizvi also feels there is a “certain” large group which uses the platform for hate speech and feels that is one of the biggest negatives of Twitter.

“I will not take names but the quality of engagement on social media is not on a level where there’s a balanced approach,” he says, adding that he usually blocks these individuals too.

#Social Influence

Farahnaz Ispahani (@fispahani)

Tweets: 7,752

Followers: 14,368

True reach: 4,628 

Haider Abbas Rizvi (@HaiderRizviMQM)

Tweets: 117

Followers: 2,093

True reach: 2,316 

Bushra Gohar (@BushraGohar)

Tweets: 1,338

Followers: 2,009

True reach: 1,728 

Khurram Dastgir-Khan (@Kdastgirkhan)

Tweets: 3,200

Followers: 4,775

True reach: 5,035

Sharmila Faruqui (@sharmilafaruqi)

Tweets: 7,449

Followers: 15,071

True reach: 17,679 

Marvi Memon (@marvi_memon)

Tweets: 17,605

Followers: 47,253

True reach: 14,986 

Maryam Nawaz Sharif (@MaryamNSharif)

Tweets: 12,918

Followers: 13,482

True reach: 20,006 

Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI)

Tweets: 512

Followers: 271,943

True reach: 37,028 

Syed Mustafa Kamal (@MayorKamal)

Tweets: 195

Followers: 6,069

True reach: 761 

Pervez Musharraf (@PMPakistan)

Tweets: 861

Followers: 27,371

True reach: 988 

Rehman Malik (@SenRehmanMalik)

Tweets: 847

Followers: 34,584

True reach: 5,031 

Sherry Rehman (@sherryrehman)

Tweets: 438

Followers: 24,566

True reach: 3,144 

Shahbaz Sharif (@CMshehbaz)

Tweets: 1,220

Followers: 33,052

True reach: 8,637

(With additional input by Jahanzaib Haque and Shaheryar Popalzai)

Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (62)

  • Sheharyar
    May 19, 2012 - 12:14PM

    @ImranKhanPTI with 271,943 followers is the most followed person in Pakistan!

    Recommend

  • aliza awais
    May 19, 2012 - 12:52PM

    Imran Khan is Number.1 on Twitter too….Wow…

    Recommend

  • Dr. Ismail Nami
    May 19, 2012 - 1:04PM

    The collective followers of all of the mentioned parliamentarians are even below the single followers of the great Imran Khan!

    Recommend

  • Uza Syed
    May 19, 2012 - 1:19PM

    Social media is for “killing time” —– Khurram Dastagir Khan!

    Recommend

  • Abdul Qayyum
    May 19, 2012 - 2:19PM

    Imran Khan have 271,943 followers….Wonderful Imran Khan….u r real champion…

    No wonder, how much we criticize you….u r really attractual person with great personality….

    Recommend

  • Pungi
    May 19, 2012 - 2:56PM

    PTI For the WIN…!!

    Recommend

  • apj
    May 19, 2012 - 3:30PM

    These guys are the because pti was sweeping the cyberspace. Pti is truly a trendsetter

    Recommend

  • Twitterian
    May 19, 2012 - 3:46PM

    why doesn’t anybody ever talk about the PML-N “troll” who abuse and disregard any argument you put forward? can tribune ever write anything good for PTI and Imran khan? they fail to mention the mass following of PTI and IK but do make a note of a small bunch of over enthusiastic supporters of PTI. fair and balanced? i don’t think so

    Recommend

  • Raza Zaidi
    May 19, 2012 - 4:11PM

    Congrats to everyone who is present and realize the Twitter Power! in a country like Pakistan Twitter in general and social media in particular can and should play vital role in promoting awareness on social and politcal issues.

    Recommend

  • Saman Jafri
    May 19, 2012 - 4:54PM

    Excellen tarticle and need of time too . Social media specially twitter is a powerful medium and should be utilize to build Pakistan positvey and the interaction between the masses and the Parliamentarians is a vital activity which will help in highlighting the real issues of the people of Pakistan on the national forums.

    Recommend

  • Syed FaiZan Jawaid
    May 19, 2012 - 5:08PM

    Social media has become a powerful force for change.Congratulation on Great Recognition of MQM’s Performance on Social Media Keep Spreading the Ideology of MQM

    Recommend

  • Kashif Nizam
    May 19, 2012 - 5:12PM

    MQM will make up the Mark in every field. We proud to be a Haqparast.

    Recommend

  • May 19, 2012 - 5:15PM

    MQM came online on facebook in 2006 and on twitter during 2009. Guess who is the trendsetter, and most appreciated in the article above.Recommend

  • Ekram Khan
    May 19, 2012 - 5:22PM

    Social media play an important role in shaping political discourse around the world. Twitter is a major contributor to another trend.The tweets themselves serve as fodder for news pieces and blog posts. Twitter gaffes are likely to stay with us because needing to respond immediately leaves little time for review. Campaigns are turning to Twitter to ding opponents directly.

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  • Kamran
    May 19, 2012 - 5:38PM

    Everyone knows that understanding with modern technology has always been on top priority for MQM. Well done MQM.

    Recommend

  • Tabraiz Niazi
    May 19, 2012 - 5:41PM

    Great to learn that all major political parties of Pakistan are now using technology to spread their word. On social media a fine line should be drawn between campaigning and asserting your thoughts. As every campaigning need some good finance, while using technology or campaigning, every political party should keep one thing in mind that their finances should spend more on ground rather than on campaigning. Some parties specially PTI do campaigning and finance on campaigning more than their spendings, roots and works on ground, this practice should be abandoned.

    Recommend

  • Hisaz
    May 19, 2012 - 6:13PM

    Congrats to MQM. Keep ur spirits high !!!!!

    Recommend

  • Raza Zaidi
    May 19, 2012 - 6:29PM

    Hmmm ‘Parliamentarian Twiterrati’ but many non parliamentarians discussed…maybe the author is being futuristic..

    Recommend

  • Ali Rashid
    May 19, 2012 - 7:07PM

    MQM has always been a trend-setter and was the first political party in Pakistan to launch a website in 1997. It is great to see that it is still the most organized & active party online keeping up with the modern trends. All the credit goes to MQM’s visionary Founder & Leader Mr Altaf Hussain for his futuristic approach. Superb!

    Recommend

  • Imran Iqbal
    May 19, 2012 - 7:12PM

    Everyone knows that understanding with modern technology has always been on top priority for MQM. Well done MQM.

    Recommend

  • May 19, 2012 - 7:17PM

    Good story dude! I like your writing style :) keep up the good work!!!

    Recommend

  • @kaiserrizvi
    May 19, 2012 - 7:17PM

    This was a change in mindsets more than handsets

    Social Media has provided a common man to share his thoughts & views with the word or you can say it is the catalyst in a global revolution that’s altering the very nature of power in our civilization. This movement is mixing the top-down “old power” with a sideways-flowing “new power ” .“Old power is download power ” & “‘New power’ is upload power.”

    Movements such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street, which he believes were “not so much a ‘Twitter revolution’ or a ‘Facebook revolution’ as a ‘new power’ revolution.” While they used technology to organize, they were in actuality reflecting people’s desire for fairness and a change in the power distribution.

    Recommend

  • Syed Abid
    May 19, 2012 - 7:19PM

    PTI and Zahid Hamid Group using old threatening and intimidating attitude .
    Imran Khan Group at-least to show respect to difference of opinion.

    Recommend

  • Mazhar Abbas
    May 19, 2012 - 7:32PM

    Whichever ground MQM lands..it comes out as a conqueror. It proves the ability of organization and discipline of its workers.

    Recommend

  • Muhammad Azeez Qureshi
    May 19, 2012 - 7:45PM

    Those guys who think that PTI is the trendsetter on tweeter its mean they are newcomers in this trend. MQM is here since 2006 and MQM is the first political Party who set their Media Cell and give awareness to their voters specially youngsters. I really Salute to Mr. Altaf Hussain who give opportunity to middle class to become parliamentarian where the elite class set their boundaries but they didn’t have experience about the difficulties of middle class life style.

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  • Ammad Hafeez
    May 19, 2012 - 7:59PM

    MQM is the only political party which introduced cyber activities in political system of Pakistan.. Thumbs Up to MQM…

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  • Abid
    May 19, 2012 - 8:03PM

    MQM zindabad.. Pakistan Paindabad…!!! Long Live Altaf bhai..

    Recommend

  • ALI
    May 19, 2012 - 8:04PM

    Great Recognition of MQM’s Performance on Social Media Keep Spreading the Ideology of MQM

    Recommend

  • Yasir Mehmood
    May 19, 2012 - 8:38PM

    Surprised at the number of followers for Rehman Malik! people must have mistook him as a comedian lol

    Recommend

  • rehman jawaid
    May 19, 2012 - 9:01PM

    Everyone knows that understanding with modern technology has always been on top priority for MQM. Well done MQM.

    Recommend

  • saad salim
    May 19, 2012 - 9:17PM

    its being the great platform for all of the parties to share their views and thoughts among the people and it is highly appreciable. i really like the MQM page especially because it gives the complete awareness to the spectators about their efforts their politics and also gives the complete knowledge about the country’s politics so its being great to visit MQM on facebook and i really really appreciate their efforts.

    Recommend

  • Saqib Abdul Samad
    May 19, 2012 - 9:19PM

    MQM is the only political party which introduced cyber activities in political system of Pakistan.. Thumbs Up to MQM…

    MQM Zindabad. Pakistan Paindabad.. Long Live Altaf BHai..

    Recommend

  • Saqib Abdul Samad
    May 19, 2012 - 9:25PM

    MQM will make up the Mark in every field. We proud to be a Haqparast.

    Recommend

  • Imran Noor
    May 19, 2012 - 9:29PM

    Asalam-o-Alikum,
    MQM was the first political party in Pakistan to launch it’s website in 1994. We all know “Social Media” has become a rapid and powerful source of sharing ideas across the world. “Social Media has also become a platform of “Revolution” in the World. I attended the seminar of “Cyber Revolution” held by MQM in Hyderabad, Sindh and observed that MQM is spreading the expensive knowledge of “Social Media” through “Cyber Revolution Seminars” especially to those people whom can not pay and learn purely for the “Service of Mankind without any discrimination”. That is a big Service of Mankind without any discrimination in the history of Pakistan and one can not deny it. I am very glad to see MQM’S great recognition performance on Social Media Platform. Keep it up MQM. The credit obviously goes to MQM’S founder and leader Mr. Altaf Hussain, MQM’S I.T department and the users of Social Media.
    Thanks.

    Recommend

  • Shaikh Tahir
    May 19, 2012 - 9:35PM

    Yes we agree that many people like imran khan as a cricketer not as a politician.In future we definately seen in Election that who will lead the nation.In our opinion Mr Haider Abbas Rizvi is best Parliamentarian because he works under the leadership of Altaf Hussain who always in favour of middle class and common peoples of pakistan .Altaf Hussain is only Leader who eradicate the difference between rich and poor peoples of pakistan.So give support to MQM for established healthy Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • Avari
    May 19, 2012 - 9:51PM

    HAhah, what is up with the MQM trolls all of a sudden…
    okay i’ll also join them…hello all MQM is number one, Altaf is very decent and intellectually mature….MQM founded Twitter and Facebook, MQM loves peace and does not believe in politics of terror..MQM will do anything for the betterment of Karachi…its a National party and Altaf bhai hates to live in London.

    Recommend

  • saeed ahmed
    May 19, 2012 - 10:11PM

    only MQM pakistan first strong & honest party

    Recommend

  • Muhammad Fahad Khan
    May 19, 2012 - 10:29PM

    The Leader Janab Altaf Hussain is the only leader in Pakistan who also teaches his followers to learn technology and to be equipped with latest technologies to face the time based challenges.

    Recommend

  • Zain-Ul-Mustafa
    May 19, 2012 - 10:36PM

    MQM has always been a trend-setter and was the first political party in Pakistan to launch a website in 1997. It is great to see that it is still the most organized & active party online keeping up with the modern trends. All the credit goes to MQM’s visionary Founder & Leader Mr Altaf Hussain for his futuristic approach. Superb

    all partys in pakistan are feld but mqm is the best and always winner..because mqm’s ledar
    MR. Alataf Hussain is one of strong ledar in Pakistan…

    Recommend

  • zxakir hussain
    May 19, 2012 - 10:37PM

    MQM is the only political party which introduced cyber activities in political system of Pakistan.. Thumbs Up to MQM…

    MQM Zindabad.APMSO zindabad Pakistan Paindabad.. Long Live Altaf BHai..Recommend

  • Arsalan khan
    May 19, 2012 - 10:39PM

    MQM work very well in every feild..

    Recommend

  • Azeem
    May 19, 2012 - 11:50PM

    Way to go ET, didnt even comment on the fact that IK has 237k follows and 2nd place is marvi memon with 47k.

    Recommend

  • Misbah
    May 20, 2012 - 12:57AM

    Excellent recognition of MQM’s Performance on social media keep spreading the ideology of MQM, Share views and thought among the people. It is very highly appreciate and gives the awareness about their efforts their politics and complete knowledge.

    Recommend

  • Musharaf
    May 20, 2012 - 1:39AM

    MQM is the only political party those who have 100% educated leader ship in all form such as PS,NA or senate.they well know how to use social media and every type of tele comunication.thats i have no hasitate to say the only party which take pakistan forward in better and honarable way

    Recommend

  • abdul wahid
    May 20, 2012 - 1:47AM

    MQM is not only a political party but it is a Tahreek. Tahreek means Movement every time its moving for batter achavement which introduced cyber activities in political system of Pakistan.. Thumbs Up to MQM…and this is also a big achavement
    MQM Zindabad. Pakistan Paindabad.. Long Live Altaf BHai..

    Recommend

  • Zeeshan
    May 20, 2012 - 3:13AM

    Good work MQM.

    Recommend

  • ABDUL MOEED RAO
    May 20, 2012 - 3:56AM

    Why Mutahidah Qaumi Movement always set the trend in each and every positive and revolutionary step? the answer is that, they have Visionary Leader which is
    MR. ALTAF HUSSAIN, he is not only a unique leader where as teacher as well. If Pakistani want to be proud as Pakistani then must follow the mentioned visionary leader and Teacher.

    Recommend

  • May 20, 2012 - 8:27AM

    Asalam-o-Alikum,
    MQM was the first political party in Pakistan to launch it’s website in 1994. We all know “Social Media” has become a rapid and powerful source of sharing ideas across the world. “Social Media has also become a platform of “Revolution” in the World. Sindh and observed that MQM is spreading the expensive knowledge of “Social Media” through “Cyber Revolution Seminars” especially to those people whom can not pay and learn purely for the “Service of Mankind without any discrimination”. That is a big Service of Mankind without any discrimination in the history of Pakistan and one can not deny it. I am very glad to see MQM’S great recognition performance on Social Media Platform. Keep it up MQM. The credit obviously goes to MQM’S founder and leader Mr. Altaf Hussain, MQM’S I.T department and the users of Social Media.
    Thanks.Mansoor Noor Sydney G A Altaf Hussain Bhai

    Recommend

  • ShaeQ Hasan
    May 20, 2012 - 9:05AM

    very good article. Thanks to all MQM leaders, workers and supporters for representing the party in civilized manner. keep up the good work.

    Recommend

  • Faiz Ahmed
    May 20, 2012 - 4:26PM

    As far as Imran khan is concerned he has the highest following on twitter and Facebook so so does actors, comedians and celebrities it does not mean people follow him General election will tell the clear picture who has the public mandate.

    Recommend

  • Hafeez
    May 20, 2012 - 7:18PM

    well done MQM… all guys who are working as team of social medial deserve for Slute.. keep it up.. Allah knows best about everything and i am very sure MQM will be successfull in the end under the True Leadership Mr.Altaf Hussain. Altaf Hussain is really true and genuine Leader of Pakistan.. Allah Bless Him always Thanks MQM great performance in Social Media

    Recommend

  • Salman
    May 21, 2012 - 3:28AM

    MQM is fighting against feudal system by sitting on the lap of Zardari and Gilani, just like MQM fought for democracy from the lap of Musharaf.

    Recommend

  • farhan
    May 21, 2012 - 10:49AM

    well done work. good for us

    Recommend

  • RRRajput
    May 21, 2012 - 11:14AM

    Tweeting…..the best way to keep yourself abreast of the current affairs arising worldwide…..new trend in Pakistan culture especially in the political scene…..
    MQM has conducted several workshops in Karachi and Hyderabad promoting the use of social media …… a team of dedicated tweeter/bloggers is ready 24/7 to be updated and post their comments…….we are hoping that social media will be a strong toll in the future for all the political parties ….. MQM has already started its campaign to mobilize the workers to use the social media …

    Recommend

  • Syed Khalid Hussain Jafri
    May 21, 2012 - 11:47AM

    Great Recognition of MQM’s Performance on Social Media Keep Spreading the Ideology of MQM

    Recommend

  • May 21, 2012 - 12:28PM

    MQM’s Cyber activities are acknowledged across the board.

    Recommend

  • Akbar Hussain
    May 21, 2012 - 3:12PM

    Great work MQM.Shabash! MQM is the only political party which has been the first to launch its website in the history of the Pakistani politics. It shows the commitment and the dedication of its workers and leaders towards their party. Bravo! Keep it more up!

    Recommend

  • Zain-Ul-Mustafa
    May 22, 2012 - 10:29AM

    MQM is the only political party those who have 100% educated leader ship in all form such as PS,NA or senate.they well know how to use social media and every type of tele comunication.thats i have no hasitate to say the only party which take pakistan forward in better and honarable way…..mqm is very educated party in pakistan

    Recommend

  • GHAZI IRSHAD
    May 22, 2012 - 2:27PM

    Exceptional article.Thanks To All MQM workers keep up the good work.
    Regards

    Recommend

  • May 26, 2012 - 1:30PM

    Congrats to everyone who is present and realize the Twitter Power! in a country like Pakistan Twitter in general and social media in particular can and should play vital role in promoting awareness on social and politcal issues.

    Recommend

  • syed taha ali
    Jun 14, 2012 - 2:18AM

    MQM is the only political party those who have 100% educated leader ship in all form such as PS,NA or senate.they well know how to use social media and every type of tele comunication.thats i have no hasitate to say the only party which take pakistan forward in better and honarable way..gud work mqm ,,

    Recommend

  • syed taha ali
    Jun 14, 2012 - 2:20AM

    imran khan nt polition only cricketer,,,

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