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Pakistan: In The Time of Rumors

Recently the rumors about a military coup were being pushed along by TV channels and were all over on social media in Pakistan, especially on Twitter. The hashtag #PakistanPM was trending globally.

The Twitterati were informing each other about the latest developments on the political front in the country.

@AtikaRehmn (Atika Rehman): Breaking- PM Gilani fires Defense Secretary #Pakistan

@foreignhina (HRK): Defense secretary fired, ISPR fired up. How banana is my republic? 

Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani. Image by Rajput Yasir. Hyderabad, Pakistan. Copyight © Demotix. 12th January 2012.

On January 11, 2012 Wednesday, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani said that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and Director General  of Pakistan's spy agency ISI's replies to the court in the Memogate case was “unconstitutional” and “illegal”. He said this to Chinese newspaper “People’s Daily” in an interview that was quoted by the state-owned wire service Associated Press of Pakistan. The ISPR Public Relations office of the military reacted and issues a press release saying “this has very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the Country.”

@thomasbarthlein: This must be the first time in history that People's Daily had a breaking news story #Pakistan PM

@therealfasih (Fasih Ahmed): Kicker from today's ISPR release: Allegiance to State, Constitution prime consideration for Army, “who *in this case* has followed the book”

Pakistani Military appointed a new commander of 111 Brigade the same day PM fired the defense secretary. The triple-1 Brigade is an infantry brigade infamous for its involvement in the military coups in Pakistan. 

@cpyala (Cafe Pyala): New 111 Brigade commander appointment just routine says ISPR.

Speculations arose about a coup d’état in Pakistan as in the past the tussle between the parliament and the military often led to military coups.

DrAwab (Awab Alvi): My logic on PPP + Army: SC had nailed PPP for NRO & Memogate, for ARMY to jump in now means it wants to give #PPP a face saving exit #PTI

@spopalzai (Shaheryar Popalzai): ‘These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do, one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you’ #Pakistan

@kaalakawaa (Kala Kawa): PM's allegations that COAS acted unconstitutionally may force COAS to act unconstitutionally.

@SirajAhsan: @OmarWaraich Zardari has check mated the army.. Either COAS gets sacked or he dies a coup. Both ways PPP wins.

@umairjav (Umair Javed): Sack the army chief for insubordination. Let's see the army do something without any guarantee of judicial indemnity.

In Pakistan the 4 year old democratic government was unable to provide people with basic necessities. Shortage of electricity and gas led to many anti-government protests. Politicians have become discredited by the corruption and tax-evasion cases. However, many citizens support the democratic process and want the parliament to complete its 5-year tenure. 

@UsamaKhilji (Usama Khilji): What ‘grievous consequences’ Pakistan Army? Keep trying to guard us, as your job requires. Stop threatening your bosses. Love, Pakistanis.

@akchishti (AK Chishti): So ur a traitor for criticizing army; made a contempt if u criticize judiciary, blasphemer for going against mullahs but politicians r cheap

@SamadK:  If Gen K thinks a coup will be tolerated by the people, he's badly mistaken. No one will accept a coup now, not even the CJ. #Pakistan

GeorgeFulton1 (George Fulton): Does the Pakistan Army suffers from collected amnesia too? Doesn't it remember how despised it was after the Emergency?

@kursed (Abdullah Saad): Any civilian political leader or journalist, promoting a coup should be publicly vilified. They'd know what's in store.

The role of judiciary is also questioned among the Twitterati. After the lawyer's movement in 2007, it was a common belief that the judiciary stood up against the military dictator, the then President General Musharraf, and in the time of turmoil it will stand together with the Parliament. Now, it is seen differently.  Earlier on Tuesday, a five-bench of Supreme Court called the PM “dishonest” and later sent a notice of contempt of court. The Prime Minister has been asked to appear in the Supreme Court in the NRO case.

@majorlyprofound: People should keep in mind that the Judiciary has played a part in facilitating, validating and legitimizing every coup in Pakistan.

@SamadK (Samad Khurram): The courts will probably overrule a coup, fortunately. But they are also likely to overrule sacking of COAS/DG ISI, unfortunately. #Pakistan


@theRealYLH
(Yasser Latif Hamdani): Can the SC disqualify the PM? No. How can an unelected govt official declare an elected of the sovereign ie people? #separationofpowers

Pakistani Tweeps reflect upon on both new and traditional media’s hyped-up reactions about the political situation in the country. 

@Razarumi (Raza Rumi): According to @adnanrasool at least two TV channels through their programming are trying hard to convince the ARMY to take over. #free #media

@jhaque_ (Jahanzaib Haque): GUESS which side Express News is leaning on the Civil-Military rift? :D twitpic.com/85z4f6 (Pic )

@NPRinskeep (Steve Inskeep): Worth noting as we follow the uproar in Pakistan: it's approximately the 927th news story in last 4 yrs to prompt speculation of a coup.

@marvisirmed (Marvi Sirmed): Boycotted Geo for being so stinkily anti-democracy. Switched to DuniyaTV, pleasant to watch @NasimZehra, Rauf Klasra & @Arsched.

Many sent out light hearted tweets and joked about military coups in the country:

Blogger Tazeen Javed of Reluctant Mind tweets:

@Tazeen: #PakistanPM is trending. Gilani Sahab, you are right there with Beyonce and Justin Beiber. MashaAllah !

@acorn (Nitin Pai): What's the new game Pakistan wants to introduce in the Asian Games? Coup-coup

It is difficult to say how responsibly the social media will react in the time of real political turmoil. Many think the social media is following the footsteps of traditional media and giving more importance to rumors than to hard news. As Shoaib Taimur tweets:

@shobz (Shoaib Taimur): i have to admit that social media users including me are rather rash to tweet stuff without verifying anything.

  • http://shoaibtaimur.com shobz

    Great Post. Sometimes I feel like as if people live for news. It’s funny that most of the tweets are not credible coz people tend to use our “beloved” news channels as a source. It is all right if you can give your own opinion but it sure doesn’t help spreading inaccurate information. Sometimes information is suppressed (in the case of the largest province in Pakistan) and yet people are quick to dismiss them as rumours even if they are true.

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