Pak Media Profit From Political Campaign Spending

Fear of violence has reduced the number of traditional mass rallies this year, particularly in  Balochistan, KP and Sindh provinces of Pakistan. Instead, the political parties and candidates are increasingly relying on electronic and social media to reach out to voters in preparation for May 11 general elections in the country.

Pakistan Elections 2013 Signs
Top channels are charging as much as $2,200 a minute for prime time, a source in the advertising business told AFP, adding that up to $300,000 is being spent every day by three major parties: cricket hero Imran Khan's PTI,  former Prime Minister Bhutto's PPP and  former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's PML (N). 

Insiders say that politicians are using  money to buy support of media owners and journalists. A TV journalist told AFP that his bosses were favoring Imran Khan by ordering staff to cover all of his public meetings and rallies, because PTI had paid so much more money for ads.  "Special teams and the best equipment has been deployed for this purpose," he told AFP on condition of anonymity. "When we cover other politicians and send reports, they are trashed," he added.

Another popular TV anchor, Sana Bucha, quit her job at Dunya TV saying she would not sell her integrity. "This elections in Pak, every1 - channel and anchor - is up for sale. I refuse to put a price tag on myself,"she tweeted.

Source: BBC Pakistan  Survey in 2008

In addition to the use of television, there is a lot tweeting, texting and facebook campaigning being done to appeal to the younger voters who could turn out in record numbers to tilt the elections in Imran Khan's PTI's favor.

The 2013 elections will be the first to see the full impact of Pakistan's media and telecom revolution which began on President Musharraf's watch. The number of TV channels rose from one in 2000 to over 100 in 2008. In this period, the cell phone penetration exceeded 50% and Internet access became available to over 10% of the population.

To conclude this post, let me share with you an excerpt of a report by BBC's Lyse Doucet:

"Pakistan can be an unpredictable place. But in a chequered history that has kept lurching from crises to coups, one event has kept coming back, with reassuring certainty - elections. I've covered almost every one of them since 1988 when martial law abruptly ended and a people who fought for democracy directed their energies and enthusiasm towards the battle for ballots. What boisterous campaigns there've been - massive rallies that packed stadiums and fields, convoys of vehicles snaking, horns blaring, through villages and down highways - a chaotic carnival in every constituency. But elections in Pakistan can't be like that anymore. It's simply too dangerous. Not a day goes by without a report of an attack by one of many armed groups on a politician, or a public space, or the police".

As the onslaught of Taliban's bombs and bullets against people's ballots unfolds,  their main targets in ANP, PPP and MQM are continuing to affirm their faith in the ballots by defying the Taliban terrorists.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Impact of Youth Vote and Taliban Violence on Elections 2013

Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign

Pakistan Elections 2013 Predictions

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Poor Governance in Pakistan

Musharraf's Economic Legacy

The Real News From Pakistan

Pakistan's Economic Stagnation

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Pak Judges' Jihad Against Corruption

Pakistan Rolls Out 50Mbps Broadband Service

Mobile Internet in South Asia

Media and Telecom Sectors Growing in Pakistan

Internet Service Providers of Pakistan


Riaz Haq said…
Here's an AP report on fishermen's seaborne rally near Karachi:

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Wearing life jackets and bobbing on the gentle waves of the Arabian Sea, supporters of a candidate in Pakistan's upcoming nationwide election held a waterborne rally to highlight the challenges faced by their embattled fishing community.

Backers of independent political candidate Haji Usman Ghani took to the water Friday on a flotilla of fishing boats. He is contesting May 11 elections for the Sindh provincial assembly from a constituency near the southern port of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, and many of his prospective voters work in the fishing industry on the nearby coast.

Dozens of boats filled with his supporters left the harbor and went into the Arabian Sea with flags flying.

Supporters did not let their cumbersome life jackets get in the way of the festive atmosphere, and danced and chanted slogans to show their support for Ghani.

But the candidate had a serious message. Ghani, who's been a social activist in the area for years, promised to improve the education system and provide clean drinking water to his constituency if elected.

"Our children don't get an education. We were forced to use contaminated water...There are no teachers in schools and colleges of the area. That is why I had to come forward and contest elections to get our problems solved. We supported and followed others for long, but no more. We will solve our problems ourselves," Ghani said.

Many people who took one of the roughly 50 boats taking part in the flotilla complained that the government has done little to help the fishing community.

Fishermen are often caught up in a tit-for-tat war on the water with Indian authorities who arrest Pakistanis after they allegedly cross into Indian territory. Pakistan does the same. The fishermen in both countries often languish in jail for months. According to members of the fishing community around 170 Pakistani fishermen are currently being held in India.

"The government has done nothing for the industry and the fishermen," Ali Mohammad, a supporter of Ghani....
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a NY Times blog post by Kamila Shamsie:

KARACHI, Pakistan — At the start of last week I was in the nation’s capital, Islamabad, which adjoins the country’s most populous and most powerful province, Punjab. Almost all the political talk there was about Punjab, the home province of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, where he and his Pakistan Muslim League-N (P.M.L.-N) have been holding rallies, urging supporters to vote them into power. Most analysts believe that is exactly what will happen, even though Sharif won’t have the easy ride that he might once have expected: The cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (P.T.I.) party have strong support in Punjab, and Khan has been traveling the length and breadth of the province to prove the pundits wrong. This is as it should be in a democracy the week before an election.

But now I’m back in my hometown of Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, and here — as in all the provinces other than Punjab — the picture is very different. On the morning of May 3, the day after I arrived, the daily newspaper Dawn reported that since April 11 — exactly one month before Election Day — there had been 42 attacks on campaigners and campaign offices, with 70 people killed and more than 350 injured. Two candidates standing for elections were among the fatalities.
The parties that stand accused of being pro-Taliban — the P.M.L.-N and P.T.I., as well as religious parties — have continued to campaign as if none of this is happening. While the violence has prevented the A.N.P., M.Q.M. and P.P.P. from holding large rallies and relegated media coverage of them to squibs describing bombs and gunmen, the P.M.L.-N and P.T.I. are holding major gatherings, which are broadcast live on TV and make headline news.

The kindest explanation for those parties’ detachment is that although they’re distressed by what’s happening, they don’t wish to find themselves and their workers in the firing line. But cowardice in the face of terrorism shouldn’t inspire much confidence in them. And a less kind explanation calls them “appeasers,” Taliban “sympathizers” and “cold-blooded opportunists.”

The Taliban themselves appear to be of two minds about the election. On the one hand, they seem to be targeting only those parties they view as enemies. On the other hand, they have been distributing — mostly in A.N.P., M.Q.M. and P.P.P. strongholds — pamphlets that say democracy itself is an infidel system and that anyone who participates in it is acting against Islam.

And so in parts of the country where the threat of more attacks on Election Day is high, no matter whom people vote for, simply by going to the polling stations they will be casting their ballots against the Pakistani Taliban.
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a NY Times story on politics of patronage in Pakistan:

Yousaf Raza Gilani, a former prime minister, built his political popularity on his status as a makhdoom, the guardian of one of Multan’s many ornate, centuries-old Sufi shrines. But in this contest, Mr. Gilani is counting on something more temporal to tempt voters: the city’s impressive array of new highway overpasses, bridges and sewerage networks, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, that he built during his time in office.

“People want to see what we have done for them,” said Mr. Gilani, who is campaigning on behalf of his three sons and brother, who are candidates for Parliament, as he steered his sport utility vehicle through a crowd of supporters. “They want deeds, not intentions.”

Patronage has long been the bedrock of politics in Pakistan, where votes are dictated less by the strategic issues that concern Western allies — combating the Taliban, rescuing an ailing economy or shaping policy toward Afghanistan — and more by immediate concerns about legal protection and government handouts.

Voters, particularly in rural areas, view their representatives in Parliament principally as big bosses who can deliver protection: influencing the police and dealing with aggressive, corrupt land officials, or working to route jobs or multimillion-dollar projects to their districts. Mr. Gilani’s Pakistan Peoples Party, which led the last government, is counting heavily on that record to shore up its crumbling popularity.
On the national stage, Mr. Khan’s rise is changing the immediate political equation for old-school power brokers. But at the local level in Pakistan, within individual constituencies, true change can be hard to deliver.

Mr. Gilani, 60, is an archetypal patronage politician. He had a mixed record during his four-year stint as prime minister, which ended in June, overseeing a sharp economic decline and chronic electricity shortages. Even so, Mr. Gilani told a Pakistani journalist recently, while in office he devoted at least one hour of every day to the affairs of his constituents.

As a result, Multan has been transformed, residents say. The city is ribboned with new roads and expressways, while a modern airport, capable of accommodating wide-body jets, is near completion. The railway station has been overhauled, some neighborhoods have new sewerage, and young students have been awarded generous scholarships.

A giant billboard outside Mr. Gilani’s house lists his achievements: 34 major development projects, costing more than $280 million, all financed by Pakistani taxpayers. “Multan has become like Paris for us,” said Muhammad Bilal, a 28-year-old laborer and enthusiastic Gilani supporter, at a rally last week.

As Mr. Gilani bumped down a country lane on the way to that rally, he pointed to a line of female faces peeking over a wall: all beneficiaries of a government aid plan he helped establish that pays $10 a month to poor women, he said.

“This is a backward area,” said the former prime minister, a soft-spoken and amiable man, just before supporters showered him with rose petals. “People have issues regarding their personal needs.”

To critics like Mr. Khan, this extreme version of pork-barrel politics represents the rot in government: the cornerstone of an unfair system riddled with graft and nepotism. But political scientists say it may be unavoidable in a country with limited resources and a weak government.

“The debate is misplaced,” said Asad Sayeed of the Collective for Social Science Research, in Karachi. “To do away with the demand for patronage politics, you would need to rebuild the entire state.” ...
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a France24 story on virtual electioneering in Pakistan:

...More than 30 TV screens line the walls of the room, broadcasting continuous coverage of the election campaign. This is not a TV studio – although it certainly looks like one. It’s the headquarters of the MQM (Muttahida Quami Movement) party, one of the most powerful parties in the southern Pakistani province of Sindh.
"We try to minimize our appearances while optimizing our visibility through Twitter and Facebook," said Faisal Sabzwari, an MQM candidate who regularly receives letters threatening him with death.

To do this, the MQM has increased the size of its communications team. "At first, we had 80 members in the department and about a thousand volunteers in our constituencies,” said Sabzwari. “But over the past two months, with the upsurge in violence, we have recruited nearly 2,000 additional volunteers."

It’s a large network that enables the party to conduct one of the most active social media campaigns. According to Sabzwari, the MQM has broken the record for the number of tweets posted per day. "In April, we tweeted up to 19,000 messages per day - this is a record for Pakistan,” said Sabzwari.

The PPP, the party of outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari, has also been forced to keep a low profile. "In the last elections, we organized up to ten public meetings per day in Karachi,” recounts Taj Haider, the PPP’s general secretary for Sindh province. “Today, to campaign, we sit behind our computers.”

Indeed, it is through television commercials or emails that the most threatened PPP candidates communicate with their constituents and transmit their instructions to thousands of activists....

Here's a Bloomberg story on Pak elections:

Movie makers, celebrities and cafe owners are appealing to Pakistanis to vote in the May 11 general election to help pull the nation out of a slump caused by chronic energy shortages, poor governance and terrorism.
Chambaili, a film that opened in cinemas on April 26, depicts a young population bullied by the ruling elite. Television spots feature 29 actors, singers and sportsmen urging people to cast ballots. Espresso, a local chain of coffeehouses, is offering a free coffee on election day to those bearing an ink-marked finger that shows they voted, and Ginsoy, a Chinese restaurant in Karachi, is advertising a 25 percent discount to voters.
The messages are aimed at Pakistan’s youth, many of whom will be voting for the first time. Over one-fourth of voters are under 35, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan, and 87 percent of young adults are unhappy with the current political system, a December survey by advertising agency JWT Pakistan found.
Security threats have forced major political forces, including Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, to rely on advertising as they avoid public rallies which have targeted by Taliban insurgents. Nationwide violence since April, including attacks on election candidates, has left at least 114 people dead and 470 injured.
The Peoples Party is projected to spend the most on advertising followed by Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaaf, according to Dialogue Pakistan, a media advisory company in Karachi.
The PPP’s campaign shows images of slain former leader Benazir Bhutto’s grave, while Khan’s party is running video clips of its leader, who attained hero status by leading Pakistan to victory in the 1992 cricket world cup, speaking from his hospital bed after suffering fractures in a fall during a campaign stop in Lahore on May 7....
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Businessweek story on Nawaz Sharif's win:

Sharif’s election is the first of an expected wave of changes in Pakistan and in the region. The Pakistan Army chief with whom the Americans have been dealing for more than five years is scheduled to retire later this year and Sharif will be responsible, in part, for naming a successor. There are elections on the way in Afghanistan, India, and Iran. As the U.S. looks to withdraw its forces and a decade worth of equipment from Afghanistan next year, Pakistan’s roads and infrastructure are going to be vital. And with Sharif, says Ayaz Amir, a former Noon League parliamentarian, “that stuff”—building, cutting deals—”runs through his blood.”

He is, after all, the scion of a powerful Punjabi family, owners of the Ittefaq steel mills. Several members of the Sharif family have served as elected officials at different levels of government. During two terms as prime minister in the 90s, he oversaw the construction of hundreds of miles of eight-lane highways, initiated a new deep sea port on the Arabian sea and a dam on the Indus river, tested nuclear weapons, built airports, and flooded the streets of Pakistan with yellow taxis. He has also been accused of using these mega-projects to pad his family’s fortunes. But in a country that struggles to get enough electricity, the promise of a candidate who can build is no small thing.

The headquarters of the Pakistan Muslim League (also called just Nawaz, or the Noon League) is in a well-guarded mansion, which takes architectural cues from palaces and monuments of the ancient central and South Asian kings, a cocoon of fine leather and polished wood. Despite the setting, the election didn’t feet like an inheritance. Only days before, Sharif and his family were warding off allegations of corruption again. The most talked about political ad on TV, paid for by a rival party, was a captioned audio clip from what appeared to be a secretly recorded conversation between Mian Shahbaz Sharif—Nawaz’s younger brother—and a high court judge. The two men spoke in clipped sentences about fixing a court judgment in favor of a Noon League loyalist. Around the same time, the interior minister from the previous government called a press conference to present what he said was evidence of money laundering by Nawaz Sharif. The former minister had let a fat stack of evidence land with a heavy thud, claiming that he would quit politics if any of his accusations turned out to be false.
People, it turns out, are ready for an economic explosion, especially if it includes things like decent public transportation. Sharif’s younger brother, Shahbaz, who was the chief minister of the Punjab province for the past five years, inaugurated the Lahore Metro Bus service just in time for the election. It is an elevated bus network that runs some 20 miles along one of the city’s main arteries, connecting Lahore’s Old City to modern residential neighborhoods such as Model Town. Like many of their mega projects, it happens to use a phenomenal amount of steel, the Sharif family specialty: the footbridges are all metal; the twenty mile length of the bus lane is guarded on each side by a six foot high iron grill, encased for good measure by another, taller metal frame. The floor is made of steel.

A few days before the election, a man who works as a clerk at a government office rode the air-conditioned bus. He said that while he felt seduced by promises for sweeping change and a more “just” political system that was being promised by the Movement for Justice, he loved the fact that his commute had been shrunk from multiple hours to less than half an hour. That was reason enough to vote for Sharif. Millions of votes like his, along with millions of other votes cast along patronage lines ....
Riaz Haq said…
Excerpt from Economist:

Mr Sharif has long advocated a soft line. The TTP’s offer of talks with the government should, he said recently, be taken seriously. ...It is unlikely that Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief, approves of any of this. Last year he declared that the whole country should join in a “war against extremism and terrorism”. After the general election on May 11th, he congratulated Pakistanis for voting in huge numbers, despite threats from an “insignificant and misguided” TTP.

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