Imran Khan’s Use of Social Media to Win Elections 2024

News Desk2 months ago
Imran Khan's Use of Social Media to Win Elections 2024

In the face of media censorship by Pakistan’s government, the party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan resorted to posting campaign videos on TikTok. Similarly, when rallies for his supporters were barred by the police, they turned to hosting virtual gatherings online. Moreover, when Mr. Khan found himself imprisoned, his followers utilized artificial intelligence to create speeches mimicking his voice.

Imran Khan speech by the use of  A.I.

Mr. Khan’s message struck a chord with millions across Pakistan who were disenchanted with the country’s economic woes and entrenched political families. He conveyed that Pakistan had been in decline for decades and presented himself as the sole redeemer of its former glory.

The unexpected success of candidates aligned with Mr. Khan’s party in the recent election, securing more parliamentary seats than any other, was a remarkable upset in Pakistani politics. This victory came despite a military-led crackdown on Mr. Khan’s supporters following his ousting in 2022.

crackdown on PTI protestors in Islamabad

This success signals a departure from the long-standing political strategy employed by Pakistan’s powerful military to maintain control, indicating a shift in the country’s political landscape. It also underscores how Mr. Khan’s populist rhetoric, combined with the influence of Pakistan’s internet-savvy youth, is reshaping the political scene in the nuclear-armed nation of 240 million people, which has grappled with military interventions since its inception 76 years ago.

As both Mr. Khan’s and Nawaz Sharif’s parties vie to win over lawmakers and form a coalition government, Pakistan finds itself in unfamiliar territory. If Mr. Khan’s party prevails  a scenario many analysts deem improbable, it would mark the first time in the nation’s history that a civilian government is led by a party at odds with the military, with its leader incarcerated.

Also Read: Impact of the 2024 Pakistan General Election on the PSX

Regardless of the outcome, Mr. Khan’s party has demonstrated an enduring political presence, tapping into the discontent among Pakistan’s youth. The traditional playbook for shaping the country’s politics has become obsolete, with social media and youth mobilization emerging as pivotal factors.

For much of Pakistan’s history, the military directly governed the country, occasionally allowing civilian governments led by a select few leaders, such as Mr. Khan’s rival, Mr. Sharif, who were typically supported by the military.

However, with the country’s youthful population growing increasingly frustrated with this system, there has been a shift in sentiment. The old parties, built around family dynasties and perpetuating political power within a tight circle, are losing relevance. This created an opening for figures like Imran Khan, who capitalized on the desire for change among the youth.

youth supporting PTI massively around the country

While initially rising to prominence with military backing, Mr. Khan later leveraged the aspirations for change among young people to strengthen his political base independently. His party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (P.T.I.), employed social media campaigns beyond the reach of state censorship, resonating with a generation eager for political transformation.

Through viral videos, Mr. Khan criticized the military establishment, attributing his ousting in 2022 to their machinations. He depicted the military as a “deep state” controlling politics covertly and alleged collusion with the United States in his removal. He positioned himself as a reformer capable of instigating change, a message that resonated strongly with the youth.

This groundswell of support for Mr. Khan contrasts sharply with his waning popularity during his final months in office, characterized by soaring inflation. Nonetheless, the military’s attempts to sideline him through legal charges and arrests only seemed to rally more support to his cause.

The military’s intimidation tactics, widely disseminated on social media, backfired by exposing their heavy-handed interference in politics, further alienating the public. Many voters backed Mr. Khan’s party in defiance of the military’s actions.

Voters supporting PTI at Polling Stations

The aftermath of the election is marred by allegations of military interference in vote counting, with Mr. Khan’s party vowing legal challenges against rigged results. Protests erupted nationwide over election fraud accusations, met with force by law enforcement.

Amidst this political turmoil, Pakistan, with its history of coups and unrest, remains on edge. While the election results reflect widespread disillusionment with the broken political system, the country’s trajectory towards stability and democracy remains uncertain. The crucial question now is whether the political parties, despite gaining power, will uphold democratic principles or veer towards authoritarianism, excluding dissenting voices.

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