RAWALPINDI, April 25: The electioneering process is fun for the youngsters as there is a lot of activity in the city, but the candidates spend restless days and sleepless nights to run their election campaigns using public meetings and door-to-door visits during the day.
At night they use the social media to upload their activities and messages.
Public meetings, door-to-door visits, hoardings and banners are the conventional methods of convincing people for their vote, but times are fast changing.
Now, candidates and sympathisers are convincing voters using modern methods: sending Short Message Service (SMS) and using the social networking websites.
At least in the urban settlements of Rawalpindi, many candidates have outsourced their election campaigns to small Information Technology (IT) companies.
Some have asked their supporters to convince people through the social networking sites.
Prior to the elections, candidates managed to get a list of mobile numbers in their respective areas, and soon after the acceptance of their nomination papers, started sending SMS to people regarding their activities.
The Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Pakistan Muslim League-N and the Jamaat-i-Islami are informing the public of their candidates, election symbols and routine corner meetings. The PTI launched its election campaign through facebook and SMS messages across the country.
Mohammad Hasan, a resident of College Road who received many messages in the past few days, said he was fed up of receiving SMS and messages on his facebook account from political workers.He was already convinced to vote for the PML-N, which improved the roads and launched development work in the city. However, he was not interested in attending public meetings of the party due to his hectic routine.
Imran Hussain, a resident of Westridge, said he was informed of political activities in the city through the social networking sites and SMS. “All parties presented impressive manifestos, but the PML-N’s and PTI’s was better. My grandfather advised me not to involve myself in political activities and focus on my university studies,” he said.
Nazia Ahmed of Usmanpura was convinced to vote for PTI, but her parents were in favour of PPP. “I tried to convince my parents using arguments given by my friends, but my parents refused,” she said.
Waleed Ahmed, a resident of Chaklala Scheme-III, said he wanted to vote for change to a new party but his father, who earlier agreed to change his mind, had decided to vote for PML-N. “Strange attitude of my father; he is convinced the tiger (PML-N’s election symbol) will improve things in the country,” he said.
The right wing party Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), which wants ‘Shariaat’ (Islamic system) in the country, is also using Facebook and SMS to mobilise their voters. The JI official site on facebook display’s its message to vote for the scale.
“Through SMS, we are making voters aware of the election campaign and the election symbol,” said JI District Spokesman Malik Azam, while talking to Dawn.
He said the social networking and SMS were necessities of the modern day and all candidates of JI in the district were using them.
For former information minister Sheikh Rashid, the SMS service is not new as people in NA-55 had been receiving messages informing them that Sheikh Rashid would appear in certain television shows to expose the corruption of PPP and PML-N.
The practice continued after the announcement of the elections as people received messages from different cell phones with Sheikh Rashid’s message.
Former Member National Assembly Malik Shakil Awan, the PML-N candidate in the garrison city, is also convincing voters via facebook.
While talking to Dawn, he said he had created an account two years ago but had not used it regularly.
“After the election announcement, my well wishers advised me to mobilise the youth, and I started using the facebook account too. I use it at night, while my supporters write messages on my behalf during the day,” he said.
The PPP candidate, Zamrud Khan, told Dawn that the basic aim of SMS and facebook was to create awareness among the voters of our campaign schedule.
“The actual publicity is the repute of the candidate and, with the blessing of God, my repute in the area is good. Being the former managing director of Pakistan Baitul Mal, I have done work on merit and facilitated people without discrimination,” he added.
Some candidates said using the social media and SMS was economically feasible as it didn’t require a lot of money, and youngsters were sending SMS through the packages offered by all cell phone companies.