Short Message Service (SMS) is turning into an effective opinion-making tool with messages being circulated daily among million of subscribers on burning issues not only at the local level but also in foreign countries where there are large number of Pakistanis.
The current focus of the SMS flood is on the thorny issue of ongoing power shortage and a number of messages are circulated from one subscriber to another with no-one knowing who actually creates and floats these messages that usually become “talk of the town.”
These messages are unique in terms of formation and text and have a lot of attraction for people who think it a joy to forward them to others without wasting any time.
A latest message regarding electricity crisis reads: “Bijli gae 1 baj gaya; bijli phir gae 2 baj gae; bijli aa gae 3 baj gae; bijli gae 4 baj gae; phir aae 5 baj gae; phir gae 6 baj gae; this public service message is brought 2 u by Wapda.”
During and before the February 18 general elections, subscribers were deluged with messages, mostly against the then ruling party, and this campaign made an impact in moulding the public opinion in favour of other political parties.
In Rawalpindi, contesting candidates in their election campaigns vigorously carried out SMS-powered campaign and voters were perturbed how those people running such campaigns got their mobile numbers.
The mobile phone operators are now offering unlimited messages for just 50 to 75 rupees, making it a low-priced tool to communicate with a wide range of people. “Whenever I receive or find any attractive message from websites or other sources, I usually send it to all my friends as it costs little these days,” said Humayun Mustafa, a student of the Government Asghar Mall College.
Knowing the fact that dissemination of SMS has become one of the fastest ways of communication, many public service messages also hit mobile phones, providing some advices or suggestions to subscribers with regard to health, education and other fields.
Most leading television news channels had also made arrangements to provide minute-by-minute updates through SMS about recently conducted general polls to people on Election Day.
According to statistics, mobile phone users in Pakistan have increased up to 80 million, the highest ratio with regard to population in South Asia and the number is growing with each passing day. Analysts say that an estimated 500 million text messages a day is a bonanza for cell-phone operators.
The cellular networks often get jammed on auspicious occasions especially Eid days and at the time of New Year celebrations with hundreds of thousands of messages trading simultaneously all over the country.
Business centres and commercial outlets often communicate with local people through SMS, giving details about services provided by them. But some fraudulent elements are also using this tool to befool people by trapping them with offers of lucrative cash prizes. Despite the fact that now people are much aware about these fake offers this illegal practice is still going on.
Bloggers reported that when the state of emergency was imposed in the country on November 3 last year the highest ever numbers of SMS were sent with an average of 10 text messages being forwarded across networks per subscriber.
Source: The News, 27/4/2008