* Zardari follows with Nawaz on third spot
* Bloggers believe key reason for ex-president’s popularity is his liberal ideology
By Afnan Khan
LAHORE: The face of Pakistani leadership may be entirely different now compared to a few years back but the Facebook fan club of former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf with over 100,000 fans shows that the former president still rules the roost, at least in the cyberworld, beating President Asif Ali Zardari’s page, which has over 86,000 fans.
However, no other leader is even close to Musharraf and Zardari on the most popular social networking website in the world, as two-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif languishes in third place with merely 6,000 fans.
A large number of Pakistanis using the Internet and taking interest in political issues and the future of the country is being seen as a good omen. Although the majority of the people are still deprived of the luxury of using the Internet or even getting an education to participate in online political forums, blogs, groups, discussions and communities. The people believe that such interactive groups not only provide them an opportunity to share their views and get political knowledge but also provide the leadership of the country an opportunity to directly see what the people think about them and what their expectations from their leaders are.
Reasons: Musharraf’s Facebook group consists of members of all ages although majority of the fans comprise the youth. Expert bloggers believe that the key reasons for the former military dictator’s popularity on the web are his liberal thoughts and his stance on extremism.
A large number of fans of President Zardari’s page are also from the youth but they either discuss the ongoing problems in the country or make fun of the government. Only a few of them appreciate the leadership for its services.
Some of Musharraf’s fans also criticise his policies on his Facebook page while some pessimists are of the view that Musharraf, Zardari, the Sharif brothers and other famous politicians are all alike.
It was noticed from the comments on the page that some young fans of Musharraf were keen to see him back in power and had expressed this desire in different ways.
The page also features a brief note from Musharraf on how he felt about leading the country and some of his activities these days.
The message reads, “I’ve had the good fortune and privilege to lead my country and serve the people of Pakistan for almost nine years. Since my retirement as president of Pakistan in August 2008, I have been keeping myself busy with a series of lectures worldwide. I’ve found this to be a stimulating experience as I get an opportunity to share my thoughts with audiences of different nationalities and diverse backgrounds.”
Meanwhile, member of Nawaz Sharif’s group mainly discuss issues the country is facing, including the National Reconciliation Ordinance, from an opposition party’s perspective. It also provides personal information about Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders and Nawaz’s contributions in the development of the political system of the country.
Criterion: An expert blogger and danka.com director Foad Nizam told Daily Times that though websites like Facebook provided people an opportunity to interact with each other and a chance to freely express themselves, they were by no means a criterion to judge somebody’s popularity or credibility. He said a fan club was only used as a marketing tool by some people while some joined these groups just for fun. He said the real picture of a situation could only be seen through serious discussion forums and blogs on the Internet where experts commented on various issues in a more intellectual way.