The PML (N) has no media strategy
A Letter for Prometheus
After the party-heads meeting of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) in Islamabad, PDM President Maulayna Fazal-ur-Rehman appeared on the rostrum for the media briefing along with PML(N) leader Maryum Nawaz Sharif. Journalists present in the briefing knew the briefing would be a firecracker. When the PDM president invited her for comments, she first rapped on microphones placed in front of her and asked people whether they could hear her voice or not
I believe her gesture was not unfounded and was deeply sarcastic because her voice was disrupted on the electronic media just days before when she, the Maulana, and PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto were addressing the multiparty heads’ press conference inside the Prime Minister Secretariat.
Television channels, including the state-run television, had disruptive transmission due to “technical fault” and that day there were no backup systems available with television crews to overcome and bypass the “technical fault”. Maryum Nawaz knows her father and Supreme Leader of the party former Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif cannot appear on any television screen though there is a PML(N) government in the center and PEMRA is a federal media regulatory body. However, she could not predict that her voice could face the same fate.
Islamabad is hotter in August than it was in May this year, and the heat is building up after the three-member bench of the Supreme Court announced its verdict in the Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker’s Case.
The verdict triggered the political situation and Maryum Nawaz Sharif twitted “the government MUST take a firm stand and rise to the occasion. “Rise to the occasion or fall to the status quo. Leaders are made by the situations they are confronted with”, she commented.
Her comments are enough to understand what kind of circumstances the PML(N)-led coalitionsis facing in Islamabad. Her comments indicate that the Shehbaz government seems fragile and one can easily understand how much bureaucracy would take a government seriously that is losing everything every passing day. The majority of political experts is of the view that the coalition has failed to counter the PTI media campaign and the government’s social as well as electronic media strategy is wretched. I disagree that the PML(N)’s media strategy has failed because I think the government has had no media policy at all. I believe the PML(N) will surely have a successful strategy once it decides to have one.
Traditional political parties give no priority to the media and trust their vote bank. For them, fake Twitter handles cannot change the destiny of Pakistani politics, and the real vote matters on the polling day. On the other hand, we find the media team installed by former Information Minister Information Fawad Chudhry still intact. This can be one reason the coalition seems to be struggling in creating any anti-PTI narrative. However, PML(N) circles believe that the party now has got an opportunity after the SC decision in the Punjab Assembly case, and the narrative would be “Ladla (pampered boy) gets whatever he wishes”.
We remember the ruling alliance boycotted proceedings on the day SC announced its verdict on the writ petition of Ch Pervaiz Elahi against the Punjab Assembly Deputy Speaker’s ruling. The boycott was an expression of no-confidence over the three-membered Bench but it was too late to give such expression. The multiparty government should have expressed its “no-trust” over the Bench when it was announced, and the PML(N) should have not appeared before the Bench, instead of raising concerns after the verdict was announced
A number of law experts are of the view that the PML(N) could have categorically refused to accept the Bench at the outset and would have the legal opportunity of not appearing before the Bench. We remember former CM Punjab Hamza Shahbaz was made “Trustee Chief Minister” by the Bench on the day it started hearing. Everybody knows there is no provision in the Constitution, Establishment Code, or Rules of Business for making someone a “Trustee CM”. However, PML(N) lawyers did not object to the Bench when it coined a new diction for Hamza Shahbaz Sharif. We can see that new dictions, new rules, and innovative explanations of the Constitution are bringing nothing but chaos upon chaos. Judges say they are sitting to give verdicts with the help of their conscience while politicians like Farhatullah Babar are of the view that verdicts should be rooted in the Constitution. Babar said in his Twitter message that Conscience is an acknowledged driving force and is deeply appreciated also but it varies from person to person.
Pakistan has been facing a situation where its Constitution is the centre of attention but not the centre of gravity. The situation has become so intense that I have started believing that Pakistan needs a fluid Constitution that can automatically keep changing its format according to Court verdicts and Court observations to avoid an unusual situation as we see with every passing day, and whenever there is a political crisis we find new dictions to move forward with innovations and there is always a political crisis in Pakistan so we always move forward with innovations.
Under the clouds of conspiracy theories, the PDM has decided that the current Assembly would complete its tenure and the government would not dissolve National Assembly as desired by PTI Chairman Imran Khan.
I strongly believe that parliamentarians must not bow down against the unconstitutional demands of anybody and not be bullied by anyone. Nevertheless, there are several issues the multiparty government must address if it really wants to survive till the expiry of the constitutional tenure of the National Assembly.
The PML(N) faces a number of challenges, including a frail legal team, docile decision-making, puny media management, and an administrative hierarchy installed by Imran. The PML(N) looks shy to execute large-scale transfers and postings of bureaucrats while fearing that courts would intervene as they did when the PML(N) announced transfers and postings in law enforcement agencies after coming into power.
On the propaganda scene, the multiparty government is facing miserable defeats. We are yet to know what catchline the multiparty media campaign will have to counter the information war it is facing. Right now it looks like there is virtually no match between the PTI media brigade with what the PML(N)-led government offers. Propagation strategy cannot be run while mostly depending upon 15-plus television anchors and many of them are influencing official media strategy also.
PTI has different media brigades including anchor brigades, female vlogger brigades, female anchor brigades, you-tuber brigade, blogger brigade, etc. Can PMLN contest with the PTI slur brigade or the PTI memes brigade? This is another important question that needs to be answered by PML(N) media managers.
The PDM leadership, after the defeat in the Punjab by-elections, should review its strategy and should accept the reality that time is short for its survival and sitting like a duck for long will end with a headshot and then the game will be over. The PML(N) lost its stronghold (Punjab) to the PTI in the 2018 elections, JUI lost its political Vatican (KPK) to the PTI years ago and now the PPP must understand its Sindh is the next PTI target. Anti-PTI political parties should forget theories of hard or soft intervention or judicial coup and must tailor a strategy that can make them inevitable in the political system before they are virtually thrown away from the political scene.
Veteran politicians are yet to understand that the media management of PTI and its narrative-building techniques made this party inevitable for circles who decide the fate of politicians. It is still hard to believe for old guards that Pakistani youth will run all forthcoming elections and old guards must have some narrative to offer to the youth. Gone are the days when electable politicians ruled the situation because we have seen the “electable cadre” face ruthless defeat in the Punjab bye-elections.
I believe forthcoming general elections will be contested and will be won first in virtual space than at physical polling booths. For me, the most important question is:
Is the multiparty alliance ready to build any anti-PTI narrative in virtual space?
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