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A New Political Power: The Social Media Army of PTI

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Barrister Roman Awan

Objective analysis is essential for quality journalism. However, it does not mean balanced propositions. Objective research indicates dissecting all the pros and cons independently and putting forward the study reflecting truth which may even glorify or discredit someone. Nevertheless, the objective analysis also does carry variations, even if these are carried out dispassionately. Hence, objective analysis is an analysis free from any direct subjective influences resulting from human experience, interpretation, or bias. The article puts forward an objective analysis of the social media phenomenon of the PTI social media team.

What is social media? Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. The common social media applications are used for mass interaction, and the Office of Communications and Marketing manages the social media applications like those of main Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tick Tock and YouTube accounts. Social media is the fastest media interaction tool in the world and unite all humans across the globe in a few minutes. It primarily connects people, thus, has become a popular political media tool. Social media applications are the primary source of electioneering and political narratives worldwide. Even according to the report of PEW, 18 per cent of the citizens of the united states take political information from social media applications. It is even more effective in autocracies, as it has played an influential role in Arab uprisings, Hong Kong demonstrations and even Iran protests.

There were 82.90 million internet users in Pakistan in January 2022.

Pakistan’s internet penetration rate stood at 36.5 per cent of the total population at the start of 2022. There were 71.70 million social media users in Pakistan in January 2022. The number of social media users in Pakistan at the beginning of 2022 was equivalent to 31.5 per cent of the total population.

Facebook had 43.55 million users in Pakistan in early 2022. YouTube had 71.70 million users in Pakistan in early 2022. Instagram had 13.75 million users in Pakistan in early 2022.TikTok had 18.26 million users aged 18 and above in Pakistan in early 2022. LinkedIn had 7.60 million “members” in Pakistan in early 2022. Twitter had 3.40 million users in Pakistan in early 2022. However, the different social media applications have progressed exponentially, especially Twitter in the year 2022, which remained politically the most volatile year in the history of Pakistan. 

These are the social accounts which operate in Pakistan. However, a significant number of overseas Pakistanis also play a fundamental role in shaping the political narrative in Pakistan. Their numbers are also close to a million. Most social media accounts, whether in Pakistan or abroad, take and pass on political information through social media. Social media shapes political narratives and plays a significant role in Pakistan’s electioneering, propaganda and political activities. Almost all political parties manage it professionally; however, PTI takes the tool as central to its political dissemination and propaganda.

Then, the social media team SMT of PTI is invincible among all political and non-political forces. What is the social media team SMT? A broad definition would be that whether it is an agency or an internal team, the prominent role of a social media team is to grow the image and narrative by strategically creating content and ads and engaging with the target audience on different social media platforms. The SMT of PTI does the same thing effectively. However, the significant part is the voluntary contribution of ordinary PTI supporters, making PTI SMT the most prominent and potent force. What is the deep psyche of PTI SMT? The PTI SMT builds the image of their leader firstly and then makes the image of PTI. They are the face of Imran Khan. They project Imran Khan, defend him, counter all propaganda against him, and exercise all tools available, whether moral or immoral, to protect IK. 

PTI’s social media team and volunteers have made traditional electronic and paper media irrelevant. Let us go over the performance of the PTI social media army in 2022 to understand their ferocity and impact better. IK was supposedly at his lowest ebb of popularity when he was ousted through the parliament in April 2022. Irrespective of the truthfulness of the narrative, the PTI blamed a foreign conspiracy behind it and termed the government of PDM as an imported government. The Twitter trend” Imorted Hakoomat Namanzoor” went viral, and millions of tweets were shared. Twitter, especially the Tick Tock, went viral for Imran Khan and PTI. The message of IK and PTI was sent to millions of Pakistanis repeatedly. Here, against all odds, PTI SMT and volunteers put the PDM government on the back foot and raised the stature of IK and PTI, who both struggled for popularity at the beginning of 2022. Their influence even reached the bureaucracy, judiciary and Establishment alike.

PTI social media team SMT is primarily a team of volunteers except only a few technical human resource. However, the most significant part is that millions of volunteers support them. Volunteerism is the essence of PTI SMT. Therefore, they remain undefeatable by other political professional SMTs. PTI social media army is young, educated, motivated, volunteered and aggressive. They love their leader, Imran Khan. They work tirelessly and are always available 24/7. The other significant part is that PTI social media army comprises Pakistanis and overseas Pakistanis. So, if FIA or local law enforcement agencies attack them, the overseas Pakistanis continue to build the political narrative of IK and PTI.

The PTI social media army is youth and technologically equipped, as a sizable portion resides abroad. Hence, neither political parties nor state institutions can match their vitality, skills and technological advancement. They have defended IK in all audio and video leaks and even translated the concept of political morality. They have supported IK and PTI in gathering mammoth political processions. They have disseminated the political message of Ik so profoundly that they are now influencing the traditional politics in Pakistan. The bye-elections in July 2022 demonstrate their powerful electioneering campaign. Even they recompense the political disorganization of PTI. The organization of PTI is the biggest challenge of electoral politics to the PTI. PTI often fails as an organized political party but is repeatedly rescued by PTI social media SMT, although their role is limited to disseminating narrative.

Lastly, Imran Khan and PTI should provide more electoral and organizational portfolios to PTI SMT. They represent youth and passion. If their skills and passion are applied positively, they can be the PTI’s political, organizational and leadership face. The traditional politicians in PTI have not been able to deliver politically or administratively in the party and government. They do not represent the change. PTI has the essence of educated youth, and, significantly, the passion and vitality of youth be translated into real politics. 

The writer is a practicing lawyer at Islam Abad             

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