Social media users mock Pakistan′s new PM | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 26.06.2012
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Social media users mock Pakistan's new PM

Social media users in Pakistan express their dissatisfaction with the election of the new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who they think is a symbol of corruption and bad governance.

Pakistan's newly-elected Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf is not a popular figure in Pakistan. As energy minister, Ashraf miserably failed to resolve the protracted power crisis.

Most major cities of the nuclear-armed Islamic republic face acute power shortages, and the industrial sector has suffered badly due to a lack of energy.

Many in Pakistan criticize the incumbent Pakistan People's Party's (PPP) government for this crisis. Prime Minister Ashraf, one of the senior leaders of the PPP, also faces cases in Pakistani courts over allegations of corruption during his tenure as the country's energy chief.

"The lord of darkness"

Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Asharf

Ashraf's stint as Pakistan's energy minister was a 'disaster'

Since his election by parliament last Friday, Prime Minister Ashraf has become a subject of ridicule in social media, as Facebook users and bloggers criticize the ruling PPP of President Asif Ali Zardari for appointing an "incompetent" prime minister.

Reacting to Ashraf's election as prime minister, a Pakistani tweeter says: "Now that Raja Pervez Ashraf has become prime minister, I should buy an electricity generator for myself."

According to a newspaper survey in Pakistan, most Pakistanis believe that Prime Minister Ashraf will not be able to resolve the energy crisis as the government's head.

Pakistani social media users are also posting photoshopped pictures of Ashraf with funny captions and comments. For example, in a picture circulating on Facebook and Twitter, Ashraf is shown against a black backdrop with a caption in Urdu 'Andher Nagri Chopat Raja' (The city of darkness and the bad ruler.)

Another Facebook user calls PM Ashraf "the lord of darkness" in one of his posts.

A number of videos are also being uploaded on YouTube and posted on Twitter and Facebook in which Ashraf is ridiculed or made fun of for his lofty claims and promises to provide uninterrupted electricity to all Pakistanis.

Loyalty to President Zardari

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari with his his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari

Prime Minister Ashraf is said to be loyal to President Zardari

Ashraf's appointment comes at a time of intense political crisis in Pakistan.

In a controversial verdict on Tuesday, the Pakistani Supreme Court disqualified Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani from holding office, following a contempt conviction two months ago.

In April, the court found Gilani guilty in a contempt case after he refused to write a letter to the Swiss government to re-open graft cases against Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, which the Swiss authorities had shelved in 2008. The incumbent PPP government says the cases are ''politically motivated" and cannot be re-opened while Zardari remains head of state and enjoys presidential immunity.

Many in Pakistan think that President Zardari proposed Raja Pervez Ashraf's name as his party's prime minister candidate because of Ashraf's loyalty with the party and its leadership. Critics of the PPP believe that like his predecessor, Ashraf too will not send a memo to Swiss authorities to re-open Zardari's corruption cases.

A Facebook user describes this in a satirical way - a picture shows Prime Minister Ashraf taking oath from President Zardari and pledging his absolute loyalty. The caption of the picture reads: "I, Raja Pervez Ashraf, pledge that I will act as you desire, and will not write a letter to the Swiss government even if I were forced to do so."

Regulation debate

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani

The Supreme Court disqualified former PM Gilani in a controversial verdict last week

But some in Pakistan are debating whether it is ethically and morally right to ridicule the prime minister or the president.

Lahore-based journalist Farrukh Khan told DW that Pakistanis were venting their anger against Prime Minister Ashraf through social media. "Prime Minister Ashraf does not have a good reputation. People have taken to Twitter and other social media to express their dissatisfaction against government's dismal performance. It is a cathartic exercise for them," he said.

Communications expert Dr. Mugheesuddin Sheikh told DW that social media had become a virtual "Hyde Park" where people assemble and say whatever they like.

"One cannot expect people to follow a code of conduct on social media," Sheikh said.

Sheikh was of the view that in some cases social media was used for systematic propaganda, however, he believed that it should not be regulated.

Author: Tanvir Shahzad / Shamil Shams
Editor: Sarah Berning

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