Social Media Revolution Exposes Corruption in Pakistan
Familygate or Arslangate:
It has now been established that Malik Riaz Husain of Bahria Town approached a number of top TV talk show hosts in Pakistan and shared detailed information, videos and documentation about $3.7 million in illegal payments made to Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, over several years. Others, including Chaudhry Aitazaz Ahsan, knew about it and shared it with Justice Chaudhry a while ago. While rumors swirled among the Capital insiders, the public at large was kept in the dark until recently when a video of Shaheen Sehbai talking about it surfaced on Youtube and forced the mainstream media to finally discuss it on air.
Here's Shaheen Sehbai breaking the scandal on Youtube:
Several behind-the-scenes video clips of a Dunya TV talk show leaked on Youtube reveal the television hosts appearing to be helping Malik Riaz Husain prepare his answers, and in certain cases even spoon-feeding him the answers.
The leaked video also shows a son of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and a daughter of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) chief Nawaz Sharif calling in to try and influence the on-air contents. “Why don’t you start talking about it yourself, otherwise [if we ask] it will seem planted, which it is, but I don’t know if it should look planted,” says Ms Mehr Bukhari to Malik Riaz while Mr Lucman say that “I’ll say it on air that I’ve been "pressurised" by Mian Amir Mehmood (Dunya TV's owner) and Malik Riaz to do this program.”
Here's two-part Duniya TV's leaked video on Youtube:
The fact that mainstream media sat on these stories raises serious questions about whose interests are its journalists serving? Why are they afraid to expose the top judges? What kind of illegal payments and other favors are they accepting from the rich and the powerful? How are the commercial interests of the media owners influencing the editorial opinions and news coverage? Are they trying to hide their own guilt? And to what end?
Free and independent media are often seen as an effective watchdog in a democracy. But the question being asked now is who's watching the watchdogs? One possible answer is that the new super watchdogs are the ordinary citizen journalists and bloggers who are active in the new cybermedia and not beholden to any special interests.
High-speed broadband expansion led by PTCL has propelled Pakistan to become the fourth fastest growing broadband market in the world and the second fastest in Asia, according to a recent industry report. Serbia leads all countries surveyed with a 68% annual growth rate from Q1 2010 to Q1 2011. Thailand (67%), Belarus (50%), Pakistan (46%), and Jordan (44%) follow Serbia. India is in 14th place worldwide with a 35% annual growth rate.
In spite of rapid growth, the level of Internet penetration is Pakistan is still low. In a population of 180 million, only 30 million ( about 16 percent) are connected to the Internet, according to Internet World Stats. It's enough Pakistan among the top 20 nations in terms of Internet subscribers. And Internet use in Pakistan is growing at a rapid rate, particularly in urban centers where 40% of the population lives, which are also home to the middle class which often forms the backbone of mass-scale uprisings. Mobile Internet use shot up 161 percent in 2010 alone.
I believe Pakistan is entering a new era of the Internet media. And I hope that the new social media will continue to enjoy sufficient freedom and growth to provide wide enough access in Pakistan for the citizen journalists to play their role as a watchdog where the mainstream commercial media fails. Sunlight is indeed the best disinfectant for the rot that characterizes Pakistan's power centers today.
Imran Khan's Social Media Campaign
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
Chaudhry is No Angel
Justice Chaudhry's Address to New York Bar
Incompetence and Corruption in Pakistan
Zardari Corruption Probe
NRO Amnesty Order Overturned
Transparency International Rankings 2011