Former prime minister Imran Khan’s party, the PTI, may nor may not win the national elections but it has built an unrivaled social media presence. It is able to send targeted messages, build and sustain narratives – however false and fake – and maintain a momentum of grievance.
As analyst and commentator Mohammad Taqi notes “Imran Khan is relentless, energetic & homes in on his message, no matter how awful it is. He has perfected the craft of populism to a tee. His opponents, in both army & PDM, are clueless about how to counter the IK juggernaut”
The ruling coalition needs to find a way to combat this “IK juggernaut” and the establishment that nurtured Imran Khan and his PTI also needs to think through a better strategy.
According to former editor of Dawn, Abbas Nasir “A well-informed PML-N source attributes the PTI ascendancy in the area to “millions of dollars spent on hiring professionals and on building the architecture not just in Pakistan but also abroad like in the US”. The source concedes the PML-N presence is weak and no match for the PTI’s. In contrast to the scale of the PTI’s investment in all elements of the social media infrastructure, the source acknowledges the PML-N has invested not “even a few millions” and depends mainly on volunteers who may be “committed party loyalists but lack the professional skills and nous” of their opponents.”
According to Nasir, while it is true that to some extent “social media presence is overrated” but “Is it wise to compare the environment then with the one we witness today in terms of the age profile of voters and their smartphone use. It bears repeating that 65 per cent of Pakistan’s population is under 30.”