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In the aftermath of the Iranian elections, hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world showed their support for democracy (or specifically, presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi) by joining Facebook groups, tinting their Twitter pictures green, and blogging. In early November, a campaign in support of Indonesia’s anti-corruption deputies clocked in over one million Facebook followers. And then, on November 9, 2009, over 100,000 Pakistanis wore green as a symbol of participation in the Hum Sab Hain Dhaani movement, a global event publicised through Facebook, Orkut, and word of mouth.

In the last few years, new media has played a pivotal role in raising awareness and mobilising the aptly dubbed ‘Generation Y.’  Terms like ‘retweet’ and ‘tweeps’ are quickly becoming part of the vernacular, and ‘unfriend,’ a reference to the act of deleting a person from one's list of acquaintances on Facebook, was recently named the New Oxford American Dictionary's ‘Word of the Year.’

Though social networking sites are arguably making the world smaller, promoting campaigns and ideas that transcend borders, many question the actual impact of these movements. For instance, does a Facebook group entitled, ‘One Million Strong to Alleviate Poverty,’ actually help in eradicating global poverty? In the case of Hum Sab Hain Dhaani, are we really impacting militancy in Pakistan by wearing green one day?

Anthony Permal, a Pakistani based in the UAE and a member of Future Leaders of Pakistan, said he came up with the Dhaani movement after a friend’s sister died in the recent International Islamic University bombing in Islamabad. In the aftermath, he noted, ‘there were two common feelings…despair and disunity.’ Permal felt he was tired of waiting for someone else to do something and ‘decided to be that someone.’ The mission of the movement is simple – create hope to dispel the despair and create unity to prove to the perpetrators of such bombings that we, as Pakistanis, are united.

In a country where the median age is 20.8 years, campaigns such as the Dhaani movement are significant because they capture and harness the passion of Pakistan’s youth. However, given that the country’s literacy rate is nearly 50 per cent, and a much lower percentage of that number speak English and are computer-literate, the youth that are part of these movements may reflect the elite more than the majority of the country. Nevertheless, they are a small but increasingly vocal demographic, a generation that stands to inherit Pakistan one day.

The transnational nature of these social networking sites also means that online movements can tap into a much wider audience, allowing Pakistanis within the country and abroad to connect with one another and disseminate information quickly. Interestingly, the near-anonymous nature of some tools, particularly Twitter, also allows for a more egalitarian exchange of ideas, and promotes this sense of users becoming active participants in opinion formation, rather than passive consumers of information.

During the Dhaani movement, participants included citizens in Pakistan and those of Pakistani descent living in 20 countries, from Yemen, the UAE, and Malaysia to the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. The global nature of such a movement, instilling a sense of Pakistani civic duty and responsibility, in turn fosters a broader transnational collective identity, a phenomenon in of itself.

The difficulty many of these online campaigns will inevitably face is turning this momentum into tangible change. It is one thing to preach lofty ideals of ‘hope’ and ‘unity,’ but quite another to go beyond abstract rhetoric. While many campaigns fall prey to this trap, the Dhaani movement has a sustained vision ahead.

The campaign, which falls under the umbrella of Future Leaders of Pakistan, a non-profit youth leadership organisation committed to Pakistan's development, will not only hold another commemorative day on March 23, 2010, but the Facebook group also encourages all participants to visit the FLP website and learn about the group’s activities and find ways to get involved in opening local chapters, rural development, literacy efforts, and electoral oversight. This leadership is key, particularly since new media messages by nature tend to become decentralised and diluted as it spreads.

In order to truly foster this younger generation of Pakistanis, organisations must stay connected, stay true to the pertinent issues affecting the country, and find ways to be innovative with the new media tools that are increasingly at their disposal.

kalsoomlakhani80
Kalsoom Lakhani is director for Social Vision, the strategic philanthropy arm of ML Resources, LLC. She blogs at CHUP: Changing Up Pakistan and tweets at twitter.com/kalsoom82.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.



The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


Comments (14) Closed



Maria Nov 24, 2009 09:05am
I find that younger Iranians are remarkably computer savy despite the lack of an IT industry in that country. With all of the unrest in Iran, I found that many Iranians in North America were involved with blogs and online movements to expose the atrocities in Iran and undermine the Iranian government there which they find so unjust. Every Iranian I encounter in the US is very critical of the government in Iran and it would seem that it is only a matter of time that Iran will undergo some major revolution again. It seems that the Mullahs there are on borrowed time and they have lost touch with reality. The younger generation which is media and tech savy are involved in daily campaigns to let other Iranians both in and outside of the country know about all the injustices that go on there. It will be the triumph of technology, media and youth over ignorance and injustice.
Aamnah Khan Nov 24, 2009 09:20am
Another good news.
Ali Mehdi Nov 24, 2009 09:29am
HUM SAB HAIN DHANI is one step in the right direction. Instead of waiting for someone else to start Mr. Pramil took the lead and did it himself. In yesterday's Dawn I read about Maheen's success story of collecting money for the Deceased Masih's family (actually a martyr). It is very heartening to see that our society is reacting to the atrocities committed against our country and its people. I hope and indeed anticipate that soon the number of such individual hero's will rise and that they will unite to become real future hero's of Pakistan.
artahir Nov 24, 2009 01:52pm
nice article!
babag Nov 24, 2009 04:40pm
May God give you strenghth and wisdom to carry on what older generation could not do.
anuj Nov 24, 2009 04:48pm
This is a good movement. The youth, even though they may represent, as Ms Lakhani agrees, some of the elite, have a greater passion to seek change and do something about it. I hope they also have the guts to start taking part in provincial and municipal elections and slowly start building a base from there in PAKISTAN, and not all those foreign countries she mentions the movement was sparked across. All the best to these young leaders of pak. God Bless.
Hussein Sherwali Qizilbash Nov 24, 2009 06:48pm
Young energetic forces will bring about change in our country. We need new faces, new ideas, and new initiatives. World must see the real face of Pakistan, which is multi cultural, progressive and moderate, not to mention democratic and peace loving. Pakistan Zindabad. United, we stand.
Adil Nov 24, 2009 10:53pm
I made it my responsibility to spread the campaign in KSA. Now I am busy wrapping gifts and sending Eid Cards to Col Nadeem and encouraging the Pakistani community to do so. Rising Pakistan! :)
Hanief Nov 25, 2009 12:55pm
If Iranian can do it, why Pakistani's can't fight for there rights. How long citizens have to take crap from politicians, terrorists and army. Thing can be changed and new Pakistan can be evolve with the world at par.
ali hassan Nov 26, 2009 07:08pm
A blow of fresh air in such a polluted political, social and economical environment. I think Pakistan is changing. It
Good Boy Nov 28, 2009 06:39am
These are hypocrites and traitors, really who cares of these blogs and other things of that kind. Will they come out like brave people and face the bullets. We shouldn't attach too much importance to them.
SQ Khan Dec 01, 2009 04:30am
Our country cannot change as long as we encourage Radical Islamists and madras. The product of these institutions will drag our country back to stone age. Disconnect religion from politics and social life is the answer for progress.
Imran Dec 01, 2009 03:50pm
Hi, Before talking about separating religion from politics, you need to understand what religion actually is! If you talk about Islam, there is no point of separating religion from politics. Islam defines all the principles for politics and in fact for every aspect of human life. For God sake, you Muslims, please first go and try to study Islam instead of just copying what others mainly anti-Islamic people have to say! It is meant just to stray the Muslims away from what is perfect for them!
SQ Khan Dec 02, 2009 12:01pm
Imran If you believe you cannot disconnect Islam from Politics then keep living in situation like this. Islam or Christianity is not relevant to modern day life