Friday, March 23, 2012

"Why Insafians Need to Polish their Online Image" - By Ejaz Rashid

Originally written by @RashidEjaz and posted at http://www.islamabadtimesonline.com .
Sincere Thanks to Ejaz Rashid for writing this wonderful 'thought provoking' piece for all Insafians especially the "Insafian Tweeples".

Why the Insafians Need to Polish their Online Image
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By: Ejaz Rashid
I have always felt that friends who write on Pakistani politics are doing my dream job, getting paid to critique and discuss issues which affect the future of Pakistan. But in my world of legal and Regulatory Compliance it wasn’t going to happen.
However social media and blogs have empowered those with an opinion to voice it. And I finally have an opportunity to put forward for discussion an important subject: why do us Insaafians react with such ferocity every time PTI is criticized or Imran Khan is questioned? Such is the intensity of our response that our political leadership as well as good friends express misgivings. There have been several instances where the intensity of our response has left our own leadership on the defensive.
I am no exception to this. Though I believe strongly in free expression, I have found myself quite incapable of controlling my emotions in online debates. Often I have used vocabulary that my mother wouldn’t be very proud of, looking back at it even I wouldn’t be very proud of it. However, these responses are in my view at least governed by some legitimate reasons and I wanted to explore if others share the same opinion.
I needed to reflect on how I got to this level of emotional association with PTI and of course Imran Khan.  Looking back, it wasn’t a very long time ago that I was growing up in Islamabad in a small, peaceful neighbourhood where we knew nothing of life except school and cricket. Those were the days when Imran khan was wreaking havoc on the cricket fields, making decisions which turned the tide our way. My generation was blessed with some glorious cricket and the pride and honour that came with the victories. Imran Khan was of course behind most of those grand cricketing moments and in my case, left a remarkable impact that would last a life time.
My first experience of smoking a cigarette was hiding behind a bush after watching Imran destroy India in a Lahore test match in the 80’s. He left men like Vishwanath, Gavaskar and Mohinder Amarnath looking like club cricketers. Since then of course I have found more rewarding occasions to have a smoke.
I used to pretend to walk like him, talk like him and wanted to live like him. I remember winning the Pakistan Intercollegiate Debate Championship and when my name was announced, I deliberately made an effort to walk like Imran to the podium, a slow deliberate walk with my head bowed. Of course it didn’t go down very well with the Federal Minister who gave me an annoyed look while handing over the trophy.
I started writing in the Daily Muslim during my college years and later started working at the National News Bureau at PTV News. This is where I first met Imran, conducting his interview during a test match between Pakistan and the West Indies. I was left in awe and as I went back to the studios I continued telling my first celebrity crush news anchor Meena Pervaiz just how honoured I was to have interviewed Imran.
Life has since taken many turns. I have moved to North America, adopted a different career and have entirely new responsibilities. One thing that didn’t change was my association with everything Imran Khan. I found myself involved with projects for Shaukat Khanum and other charity projects, Imran was involved in, and of course I was the official programme Editor for the  Pakistan versus World XI match at the Sky dome.
Shortly after Imran formed PTI and of course I became a member instantly. I wanted to be a part of this party first of all because it was Imran’s party but the anti-corruption, anti-status quo ideals also made sense. I saw him struggle in the initial days. There were days of agony as he was made fun of, his family separated from him, his children living away but the man carried on. So did his soldiers all over the world. This slowly transformed us into a large, emotional PTI family, a global one.
As Imran stood his ground, crossed each hurdle that came his way with brilliant strategies and envious determination, I always looked for more practical ways to get involved. Our own inadequacies needed to be overcome so as to provide more meaningful support. Cheerleading from afar was no longer an option.
Along the way I found my Twitter friends, hundreds if not thousands who shared the same feelings, same goals and enormous passion for my hero. I was no different than the rest of us and now I have an extended PTI family. We are passionate, we are hostile but we are also the well-educated followers of any party on social Media. Some of us are in the field of medicine, some in law, and others in Nuclear Physics and yet more are just college and university students from all over the world. We share many things: our passion and commitment to PTI, our undying love for our leader and also our unforgiving treatment of those who speak out against PTI and Imran Khan.
What causes us to become so hostile is anyone’s guess. We obviously don’t want anyone to disrespect our leader. Clearly we do not want people to belittle us either, but there has to be more to this than meets the eye.
I’ve discussed this with many of my fellow Insaafians, some suggest our reactions have caused many to be intimidated and yet they continue to speak against us. We tend to fight with all that we have, including very colorful vocabulary. I am probably the guiltiest party of all and many a times was counselled by senior party and CEC members to reflect on my language. I tried and am far more polite by my own standards. At one point, I was advised to put a disclaimer on my profile but that was the story of days gone by. I am much more forgiving now.
In this remarkable journey we obviously kept an eye on the political leadership and people who shared our common objectives. It is important to engage with people when we share common values even if we don’t belong to the same party or espouse the same brand of politics.
Marvi Memon for example had come to be thought of by Insafians as remarkably humble, passionately Pakistani and had almost become like family to us on social media. We shared a common goal for a better prosperous Pakistan. The most common question posted to her on twitter was probably one asking when she is joining PTI. When she resigned from the Parliament, it was almost taken for granted that she would do so. How things transpired though, left many of us saddened. We reacted the way we are known to react, with hostility. It was quite natural that we would do so. Marvi, didn’t help the matter by losing her temper and using language that probably offended many of us. In the end I wish things could have been handled differently. Marvi has now chosen another platform but I sincerely believe we will find common ground to work with her in the future.
Another Marvi that we probably will not find common ground with is Marvi Sirmed. She is known to be fervently anti-PTI and it wouldn’t be a farfetched idea to suggest that she incites us. Many people believe that she looks for opportunities to belittle us and when we react the way we do, she portrays herself as a victim. At the same time, even while holding controversial beliefs she is clearly a patriotic Pakistani. That at least means that we should learn to walk away from verbal slanging matches.
We cannot control how others behave but we do need to control ourselves. This is where I felt the need to understand what we can do on Twitter to strengthen Imran, instead of putting him on the defensive about the actions of his social media following.
I started off by asking my friend FifiHaroon, an MA in Media Anthropology from London University her views. In her opinion, PTI members react strongly on Twitter because they tend to be young, idealistic and not open enough to the idea of fruitful dialogue. “Even a comment remotely critical of PTI invites a collective response from its supporters. That’s where the term PTI troll originates from. When an idealistic group acts spontaneously to curb any form of criticism, it comes across as bullying. This in turn puts stop to any effort to engage in a rational argument.”
In my opinion we have an underlying fear that Imran is new to what is essentially a very dirty game. Perhaps it is the feeling that he is not that kind of person and may be unable to survive thoroughness of Pakistani politics which causes us to become so hostile.
However, this hostility to anyone who criticises us is not helping either Imran Khan or PTI’s online image. We have to put a stop to this perception that we are bullies and that we are unable to give good, solid reasons for our belief in Imran Khan. We can do this without compromising our passion for PTI. I am just as firmly committed today to Imran Khan’s ideals.
I just don’t hide and smoke after watching him bowl.

Ejaz Rashid is a seasoned freelance journalist/ blogger who worked for daily The Muslim and was with NNB at PTV News for a few years. Currently settled in Canada after doing his Grad Studies and is in the field of Corporate and Institutional Compliance.


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