March 23, 2018

Maryam in a battle with PTI for social media supremacy

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz may be the largest parliamentary party in the country, but it lags far behind the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf when it comes to popularity on social media.

From the number of followers on leading social networking websites to individual following of its top leader, the PTI leads the related tables with its massive presence on the social media.

In this context, PML-N bigwig Maryam Nawaz is organising the N-League ‘social media convention’ in Mansehra, Hazara region on February 16 — the stronghold of the PTI — in a bid to forge a workable strategy to counter the PTI’s social media presence.

Sources in the PML-N said the party’s top leaders — including Maryam and Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif are in favour of improving the party’s presence on the social media, but the problem is that the majority of its senior leaders — including PML-N president Nawaz Sharif — does not attach much importance to  the social media.

This is the reported reason Sharif does not have any official account on Twitter or Facebook unlike his younger brother Shehbaz who is active on both the social networking sites.

Like the former prime minister, his successor Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, too, does not have any account on the social media.

During a recent meeting with journalists at the Prime Minister Office, the prime minister had confirmed that he did not have any presence on the social media and all the accounts associated with him on the Facebook, Twitter and other social media applications or websites were fake.

“I live in the Stone Age. I don’t exist (on the social media),” he said in a lighter vein in an interaction with beat reporters of the PM Office a few days back.

Other top PML-N leaders, who are not active on the social media, include PML-N Chairman and Leader of the House in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq and former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan

Party sources said the majority of senior leaders in the N-League, except Shehbaz and a few others, holds a traditional view about the social media.

“There is a dominant view in the party that the social media is not the ‘real’ media and the party should focus more on ensuring its presence on the ground instead of relying on the internet,” said a PML-N senator, requesting anonymity.

He said the party’s senior leaders, who are not active on the social media, dismiss its importance in politics, citing the political scenario before the 2013 general elections when social media surveys suggested that the PTI would ‘sweep’ the 2013 polls, which proved far from reality.

The PTI managed to form its government only in one province in comparison with the PML-N that formed the governments at the Centre and in two provinces.

PML-N sources said Maryam wants to strengthen the PML-N’s social media presence at the division, district and even tehsil levels the way the PTI has strengthened its presence—to form social media teams under direct supervision of the local leadership.

Maryam, who actively tweets on political issues, has some 4.43 million followers on Twitter compared to Imran Khan’s 7.38 million Twitter followers.

Shehbaz has 3.61 million followers on Twitter. The PML-N’s official Twitter handle has 809,000 followers compared to PTI’s massive following of 3.36 million.

On the Facebook, Khan’s official page shows a huge following of over 8.07 million compared to 1.9 million followers of Shehbaz Sharif and 548,000 followers of Maryam Nawaz.

The PTI’s official page on the Facebook has more than 5.73 million followers while the PML-N has over 2.58 million followers, which is less than half the number of followers the PTI has on the Facebook.

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