ISLAMABAD: On September 6, PML-N’s social media chief received a suggestion which, despite failing on the narrative front, did not gain the attention of the party leadership. Party Social Media Head Atif Rauf tweeted that anyone who is part of our trending team or wants to be part of it should tweet in this trend. One of his answers was instructive. ‘First of all you have to build a team.
You (N) League has 165 members in the Punjab Assembly. So are MNAs and Senators. If each of them gives you 100 volunteers, you can make a good team. Also, if party functionaries at the Union Council level get involved, you won’t have to look around for help’.
PML-N lags far behind PTI in mobilizing support and internalizing the narrative through social media. The supporters of the party are getting worried about this loss on the narrative front, but the leadership does not seem worried. Understanding the dynamics of social media is a far-fetched thing, as confirmed by the Twitter account of PML-N leader Mian Nawaz Sharif. could not
This is in contrast to PTI’s social media accounts. Not only the officials’ accounts are verified, the Twitter handles of PTI’s city chapters have also been verified. A PML-N social media official said PTI could have done this through the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) when it was in government.
A PTA official, however, explained that the regulator recommends verification of accounts only for government officials. A PML-N source said that Twitter did not consider multiple requests to verify Nawaz Sharif’s accounts, the reason being known to the social media company. “We have sent applications more than five times,” he said. Another candidate is Khurram Dastgir whose confirmation application is also pending.
Hamza Shahbaz was able to get his account verified only after becoming the Chief Minister. Similarly, the goddess of fortune smiled on Atta Tarar after he joined Hamza’s cabinet and received confirmation. Background chatter reveals frustration among the PML-N’s rank and file over the leadership’s indifference towards social media, which has become a battleground on the narrative front at a time when 14 to 34-year-olds About 70 percent of the youth of the age of 10 get information through social media.
He identifies two major reasons behind the poor performance of PML-N. It is not among the priorities of the leadership and there are many leaders in the Sharif family. “It’s not that the party lacks funds, it’s the will that we lack,” said a party source in London. Again, it is not that the fault lies only with the leadership in Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif is also not very interested in it. A source said several sympathizers have tried to inform the party’s supreme leader.
Although Bige Sharif acknowledges this fact in conversation, it does not show the practical result which is the true measure of one’s seriousness. If Imran Khan suffers politically by any chance, it will be due to his own fault as PML-N cannot take credit for it. Another important factor identified is the leadership conflict within the Sharif family. Although Maryam Nawaz is quite vocal, she is neither free to articulate her intentions nor has a credible team to echo her narrative. Despite being the party chief, Shahbaz Sharif is struggling to become a leader who can present a competing narrative.
Currently, various social media teams are working to showcase the performance of the leaders who fund them. If Twitter is taken as a guide to judge a party’s presence on social media, PTI successfully runs trends on a daily basis to highlight its point of view on various issues. On the other hand, PML-N often fails on this front. This has also been admitted by Atif Rauf, the social media head of the party. Talking to The News, he said that PML-N is ahead of PTI in terms of activity but is trying to achieve success in trend-making. “This failure is because we have an organic presence while PTI is working through a paid model,” he said. He explained that you must have read the news that the PTI governments in Punjab and KP have hired interns up to the Union Council level for this purpose.
The News noted that PML-N workers and sympathizers are often found expressing their concerns on Twitter against the party’s social media cell. Most of them are not because of PML-N’s social media but because of the division of Tehreek-e-Insaaf. Active because of opposition to politics. In response to a question, Atif said that those who show concern about him are actually sometimes trying to be neutral and targeting the leadership. Another social media official cited the lack of narrative by party leaders as a major reason for the failure to create trends. He said that we cannot manage the trends successfully unless there is a clear policy/statement of leadership on certain issues.
While the PML-N has been a poor performer on Twitter, its presence on other social media platforms like Instagram, Tik Tok and YouTube is negligible where PTI once again rules. A few weeks ago, The News asked a minister why social media is not given adequate attention by the party. So his response was hilarious ‘people know what’s going on and who’s doing what’. Another party leader dismissed this view.