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South Asia: First Pakistan-India Social Media Summit Wraps

It was a very hectic Friday and Saturday in Karachi at the Pakistan-India SOCMM12 summit. With sessions starting from 9:30 am and going on till 5:00 pm with only a one hour break for lunch/prayer, the community was busy discussing, networking and learning from the panelists. The attendance was quite high with many calls coming in to gain admission, so the organizers decided to open doors for all, midday on the first day. However this summit was not without its difficulties of which the major one was obtaining visas for the Indian delegation.

Beena sarwar at Journeys to democracy wrote:

Recounting the difficulties related to the visa issue,  Sabeen Mahmud of Peaceniche, the non-profit organisation behind the event, thanked the Pakistan High Commission staff in New Delhi who stayed back till 10 pm to process the papers, as well as Interior Ministry Advisor Rehman Malik, who went out of his way to expedite the visas.

Bina shah commented on this event:

The highlight of the weekend was meeting the guests that were invited from India, who were able to attend thanks to (former) Senator Rehman Malik's personal influence in getting them visas. I met a cricket writer, a journalist, an educator. One of them had even read my novel. We compared notes about Karachi and Bombay. Social media, as they said, knows no boundaries or visas, but meeting our neighbors in the flesh was incomparable to anything else.

The summit also came in for some criticism from bloggers in Pakistan who chose not to attend this gathering citing several reasons including sponsorship by the U.S consulate and the invitees belonging to one particular class.

Kashif Aziz wrote at Chowrangi in a post titled “trolls liberals and wannabes”:

The Social Media Mela (aka SOCMM12) was an apparent attempt by the US Consulate PR department to win the hearts and minds of Pakistani Social Media. However, the bunch of enthusiasts grouped at the venue does not represent Pakistani Social Media per se. The so-called influencers have an out reach mainly to the English speaking part of Pakistan, and that too in a small percentage.

Casim Butt tweeted about this fact as well:

@casimbutt: guess what? SOCMM12 is being hosted by #USCG Lahore and Karachi=) told you it's totally disconnected from the rest of #Pakistan, Great work=)

Despite the criticism this social media summit managed to include not just people from India but a sizable contingent from Lahore as well as Karachi.

Sajshirazi wrote on his blog making sense of social media:

This year, Social Media Mela (#SOCMM12) is being held again in Karachi. Heavy contingent of Lahore Bloggers, tweeps, writers and activist (including Ali Aftab Saeed, Ali Dayan Hasan, Amin Shah Gillani, Ammar Aziz, Assad Zulfiqar Khan, Faheem Zafar, Faiza Sultan Khan, Khurram Siddiqi, Mehmal Sarfraz, Mehreen Kasana, Mira Hashmi, Nabiha Meher Shaikh, Nighat Dad, Nuzhat Saadia Siddiqi, Raza Rumi, Saba Gul, Shehryar Khalid, Syed Muneeb Ali, Taimur Rahman, Tuba Mehmood, Yasser Latif Hamdani, Rub Nawaz, Hasan, Abdul Majeed Abid and your truly) is expected to be there. These are the vibrant people who belong to a community, which follows common values and goals. No?

The melas popularity was also witnessed across nearly all major newspapers of this country as it was given page length print space.

Express tribune's coverage

Dawn's coverage

Also of note were the musical performances in this social media mela, with Qawalli (traditional sufi music) being performed at the end of the first day and Laal band's performance at the end of the second day.

All in all, it was pretty clear that the people present were quite thrilled at this meeting of minds and enjoyed the opportunity given to them to their fullest. The underlying theme of peace was reiterated again and again impromptu in several sessions with calls for an ethical code for social media made by bloggers and responsibility key in them. You can photos of the event in its Flickr account.

Will the countries of India and Pakistan find peace through summits of this nature? Obviously not as that demands a political solution, but lines of communication must remain open and there is no better way of doing that then to have the netizens of both nations unite at opportunities given to them. The participants of SOCMM12 achieved that.

Ellia khan, a volunteer at SOCMM12, says:

‏@elliak: Day 2 of ‪#socmm12‬ was fantastic! Going to miss the craziness!

Venkat Ananth ‏the cricket columnist on yahoo visiting from India speaks of Karachi on twitter:

@venkatananth: @beenasarwar @IamOnir @karunajohn @Raheelk @imsabbah Definitely. Closest city to Bombay in spirit (stress!) and culture. Always.

Onir, the independent filmaker who visited SOCMM12, tweeted:

@IamOnir: After the three days conference. #SOCMM12 the common desire is “ease the visa regulations on both sides and let common ppl meet each other”

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