If the Internet were the only electorate, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) would be victorious by a landslide. Team Imran has made great strides in the cyberspace leaving far behind other political parties in Pakistan.
The ground realities, however, are much different from the cyber avatars of political leaders and their parties. With fewer than 10 persons per 100, Pakistan boasts one of the lowest Internet penetrations in the world suggesting that cyber support for political ideologies may not influence the outcome in the May 11 elections.
A comparison of the websites of main political parties in Pakistan suggests that the PTI has a clear lead on the competition. PTI’s website is one of the top 160 most visited websites in Pakistan. Nawaz League’s (PML-N) website is the second most visited website. However, PML-N’s website is amongst the 2,000 most visited websites in Pakistan, suggesting much less Internet traffic than that of the PTI. The ruling party’s (PPP) website is the fourth-most visited website, falling even behind that of the Sindh-based ethnic party, MQM.
The Internet savvy in Pakistan are no different from the rest of the world. The most frequently visited website in Pakistan is Facebook, the popular social networking utility. Other popular websites include search engines, such as Amazon.com, Wikipedia, and LinkedIn. Youtube.com, the video-sharing website that remains banned in Pakistan, is listed as the 10th most frequented website.
Political parties, despite their popularity as socio-political movements, do not enjoy the same level of popularity (or notoriety in some cases) in the cyberspace. Whereas, the ruling Congress Party in India may very well be the world’s largest democratic party, its Internet popularity falls short of its street credence. Consider that Congress Party’s website ranks 20,615 by way of the Internet traffic in India. PTI, in comparison, is ranked 157 in Pakistan. Globally, PTI’s website is ranked at 23,432, far ahead of India’s Congress Party’ website, which is ranked at 196, 404.
In fact, PTI’s Internet success is even more spectacular if the Party’s web traffic is compared with its peers globally. PTI’s website generates more web traffic than the Democratic Party’s website in the United States, which is ranked 23,848 in the US, and 104,051 globally, lagging far behind PTI’s website whose global rank makes it the 23,432 most-frequented website in the world.
Other web-metrics also suggest that PTI’s website is able to engage visitors in a more meaningful way than the rest in Pakistan. Two key metrics that serve as proxy for a successful website are the average time spent by a visitor on the website and the number of distinct web-pages viewed. PTI’s website is far ahead of the rest in both metrics. On average, a visitor spends 4 minutes and 28 seconds per day on PTI’s website. The second-most attention retaining website is that of MQM where visitors on average spent 3 minutes and 28 seconds. The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party lags even behind Jamat-i-Islami’s (JI) website with an average visitor spending 2 minutes and 27 seconds.
As for the unique web pages visited by a user, again PTI’s website is far ahead with 3.68 webpage views. Jamati-Islami’s website secured the second place for this metric. Note that PPP’s website has failed to stand out for any metric reported so far.
Many have argued that Imran Khan’s PTI may be attracting web traffic from abroad, suggesting that while the Party’s website is popular, the popularity, however, may be owed to Imran Khan’s fans abroad. Unlike other politicians in Pakistan, Imran Khan indeed has a global following because of his stature as a former world-class cricketer.
Another key metric that may help resolve this issue is the percentage of web-traffic generated within Pakistan. Interestingly, 75 per cent of PTI’s web traffic is generated from within Pakistan. PPP’s website also generates 75 per cent web traffic from within Pakistan. Surprisingly, it is PML-Q’s (the former King’s Party) website that boasts the greatest share of foreign visitors to its website. The Awami National Party, a regional political entity that draws its support from the Pushtuns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, generates the highest web-traffic from within Pakistan.