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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) should devise a strategy for Maryam Nawaz, the daughter of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who could be a major challenge for the party in the upcoming general election, participants of the PTI Social Media Summit said on Saturday.

Speaking to Dawn, participants also said the party should begin campaigning across the country immediately.

Social media activists and young party workers from across the country attended the summit at a local hotel on Saturday to devise a strategy for the party.

Shahid Imran, on overseas Pakistani who travelled from Kamalia, said Ms Nawaz’ public meetings were damaging the PTI, and the party should devise a strategy to counter the narrative being built by the PML-N.

Participants at PTI Social Media Summit identify Maryam Nawaz, party’s ‘absence’ from rural areas as challenges in upcoming elections

“Mr Khan should also hold public meeting across the country, in which he should inform the masses that Maryam Nawaz was involved in preparing forged documents and that she has been trying to misguide the people of Pakistan. Otherwise it will not be possible to counter Ms Nawaz,” he said.

“Moreover, it is a fact that the PTI does not exist in 70pc of the country’s rural areas. On the other hand, the PML-N gives tickets to electables who also carry their own votes, which increases the chances of getting seats. The PTI should also give tickets to electables in the upcoming general election,” Mr Imran added.

He said that although social media is important, it may not be as effective in rural areas as it is in urban ones. If the PTI wants to make the next federal government, he said, it should work on the ground in rural areas.

Mohammad Fawad from Multan also said the PTI “does not exist in rural areas”.

“On the other hand, the Maryam Nawaz factor is also damaging the party, so there is a need to work hard. We need to convince the masses that a vote in the favour of the PML-N will go against the future of the country,” he said.

As he understands it, he said, the PTI is going to launch a web portal to raise awareness about positive measures taken by the party and its government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Mr Fawad also hoped that the portal would be used to raise awareness about the PML-N government’s alleged corruption.

A Mass Communications student at a local university, Surmat Kiani, also suggested the PTI pay more attention to on-the-ground work to sway voters.

“A few months ago, the PML-N became unpopular and unacceptable among the masses. But it is a fact that continuous public meetings by Maryam Nawaz and the way she speaks has damaged the PTI. We need to work hard if we want to win general elections,” he said.

Meanwhile, Rawalpindi resident Malik Daaim, who is in the mobile phone business, emphasised the role of social media and also claimed that although Ms Nawaz is a challenge for the PTI, the Sharif family would leave Pakistan if the PML-N loses the general election.

“The people of Pakistan are aware that the Sharif family has already shifted its wealth, businesses and property out of the country, so they might not stay in Pakistan.

“We just have to raise awareness among the masses that only the PTI can change the country’s fate. Social media can play a vital role in raising awareness; nowadays, almost everyone uses a smartphone, because of which he constantly gets information through social media,” he said.

Mr Daaim also suggested the party leadership hold public meetings across the country to counter the PML-N.

Ms Nawaz also came up during PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s speech at the summit, who claimed she ‘copied’ the PTI’s ideas.

Mr Khan said the PTI had been “far ahead” of the PML-N in the field of social media, but the PML-N had now caught up to them “by using a huge amount of money”.

He added: “I have a number of new ideas and they will be implemented in the next 45 days. However, I am not going to share them with the participants because otherwise Maryam Nawaz will copy them and will start using them.”

Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2018