Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues (Print ISSN: 1544-0036; Online ISSN: 1544-0044)

Research Article: 2023 Vol: 26 Issue: 1

Social Movements and Political Activism in Pakistan

Sahibzada Muhammad Usman, Air University

Ghulam Mujaddid, Muslim Youth University

Citation Information: Usman, S.M., & Mujaddid, G. (2023). Social movements and political activism in Pakistan. Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, 26(1), 1-10.


This paper investigates the role of the social network in political involvement in Pakistan. The use of YouTube as an elective channel of communication and opposition during the political emergencies in Pakistan. Pakistan is considered a Muslim majority nation, where the online network was a portion of the media during the mass revolutions that overthrow the government of military leaders. This investigation uses social movements so as to depict and clarify how YouTube was a portion of the information activism of the social developments that jumped up during the revolutions. By analyzing 20 purposive examples, which have most viewed on YouTube about protest-related videos, the study investigates how these videos were filled in as a "voice," when the tyrant governments controlled each one of the media. Using quantitative substance examination, the investigation explores the role and substance of YouTube during Pakistan's political emergency of 2007. The findings of this study recommended that without conventional media sources, YouTube can be an elective social media of communication. The examination finds that the social movements of Pakistan used YouTube as a substitute channel of communication to spread the news on political rallies against the authoritarian governments for the motivation to advance obstruction. The discoveries of this investigation support that the most seen videos fill in as instructive cascades for the viewers of these rallies’ videos.


Social Media, YouTube, Political Activism, Pakistan.


The survey of YouTube as an elective channel of communication during political rallies, it would help us more in understanding the social revolutions in Muslim-dominant nations, with the initial attention of the interacting of this networking during the Pakistani political emergencies. This study investigated how this political activism is connected with over extensive idea of social movements. The "social movements" alludes to "group activities" in which people or associations join a collective activity to accomplish a general objective or their shared objective. For this examination, the "social movements" should be translated as (Tarrow, 2011) “hostile” political revolutions and mass rallies in the nation. Two researchers, Kaplan & Haenlein (2010), characterized social networking as a gathering of Internet applications that work on the technology and ideological establishments of Web and allow the exchange and create the contents by the user-produced.

Within these viewpoints on social media, YouTube was discussed as a social media apparatus, which is extremely famous in Pakistan. A few researchers like Bennett (2011) accept that these new online networking systems frequently accomplish noteworthy outcomes, from toppling degenerate governments to putting pressure on regimes to think about well-known emotions. This examination related to Pakistan, and the scholastic documents gave nearly zero data on the ongoing political emergency of Pakistan that happened before the Arab Spring.

Pakistan, second-biggest Muslim populace nation, had foreseen online political activism sometime before the Arab Spring. In 2007, when President Musharraf caused a highly sensitive situation in the nation and stopped the whole media, social media were used as an arranging instrument during the Lawyer's Movement against President Musharraf in 2008. The information about rallies spread through email, YouTube, and SMS (Ricchiardi, 2012). The government of Musharraf couldn't stand in-front of political rallies that dismiss Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudry. The chief justice was dismissed from office after he would not help President Musharraf's reappointment (Muralidharan et al., 2008).

These rallies against President Musharraf joined by a huge number of legal counselors, civil society, religious, and political parties. In spite of the administration has suppressed these protesters, President Musharraf (Arif, 2011) couldn't stop the continuous rallies in front of the President House. Unlike giving the news day by day to the protesters, recently, the world’s private media, especially TV news channels began more serious of the military government and demanded the rebuilding of the democracy and constitution in the nation (Ricchiardi, 2012). To control the substance of private TV stations, the government restricted all the private news stations for a month in 2007 (Freedom House, 2010). The writers additionally threatened if they attempted to cover any political rallies against the military or the government. However, the main factor that affected the people who struggled against the autocracy was an elective medium (the Internet), which they used to express their dissatisfaction with the government.

Legitimate Structure of Free Speech in Pakistan

Before discussing the media circumstances in Pakistan, we should look at the rules of Pakistan and whether it gives any freedom to speak freely for the residents of Pakistan. Article 19 and 19A of Pakistan's rule ensure the right to speak freely and freedom to media in the nation (Naqvi, 2013).

As indicated by Article 19: Every native will have the right to speak freely, and there will be liberty of the press. Subject to any reasonable limitations forced by law in the light of a legitimate concern for the greatness of Islam, defense or security of Pakistan, neighborly relations with other Nations, morality, public order, or in connection to the contempt of court.

Article 19A: Every resident will have the privilege to approach data in all issues of public significance subject to control and reasonable limitations forced by law. It noticed that the 130 page-long constitutions of Pakistan contained 280 articles that cover subjects from religion to meaning of the state to guaranteeing equity and balance to every citizen. A portion of the articles, for example, the Protection of Property Rights and Advancement of Social Justice, take up the more significant part of the constitution since they explained in detail. Despite what was expected, the articles were identified with the right to speak freely. Additionally, religion, especially Islam, takes up the more significant part of the constitution. For instance, Article 2 of the Constitution emphasis on Islam as the national religion, and the nation's obligation to advance an Islamic lifestyle.

Movements in Pakistan

Pakistan witnessed the rise of various political, secular, and religious social developments (Rashid, 2008). The formation of Pakistan itself was the consequence of a disagreeable social development, All-India Muslim against British law (Jalal, 1994). The event began under the authority of Mohammed Ali Jinnah and requested a different nation for the Muslims of India (Ahmed, 1997). The fantasy discovered its fact on August 14, 1947, when the British chose to divide the Indian subcontinent into two nations, India and Pakistan (Malik, 2008). After the foundation of Pakistan, the country saw the rise of various social developments and political revolutions, both fruitful and unsuccessful ones. A portion of these includes the 1969 political revolution in East Pakistan to look for freedom from West Pakistan, the 2007 Lawyers' Movement, and Tehreek-e-Taliban, which began after the 9/11 is as yet a noteworthy danger to the nation's presence (Stewart, 2012). These two developments, the Movement for Democracy and the Lawyers' Movement, started in 2007 (Traub, 2008). Both these developments had changed the political and converged into one when the Lawyers' Movement picked up to reestablish the removed Chief Justice of Pakistan (Hashim, 2012). These Movements, which later transformed into huge political challenges over the whole nation, use YouTube as an option in contrast to the conventional media since President Musharraf had prohibited the whole communicated media from covering any political rallies against his government (Ricchiardi, 2012). Intolerance to the consistently expanding rallies against his government, President Musharraf had to give the powers to an elected regime in 2008 and escaped from the nation.

Communication’s Role in Social Movements

The political scientists agree with the specific job of the media communications in sustaining and forming social developments that rise for all political purposes. Focusing on the media coverage of the anti-war event in the United States during the 1960s, Gitlin (2003) identified that the full media have the ability to form a social development narrative. He trusts that mass media and journalists hold the unique capacity to support a social event and decide in the selection of the development objectives and targets that impact to the general public (Berkowitz, 1997). Gitlin's (2003) work gives a genuine case of a top-down model of reporting where writers and their newsroom schedules fortified the dominant standards and regulation of the general public. Due to technological improvements and social media interaction, the topdown model of reporting was not anymore relevant due to the capacity of viewer groups to establish their own stories in the online world (Robinson, 2011). To understand the part of communication in the political challenge issues, the works by Hirschman (1970) on social developments had primary significance. The fundamental hypothetical tasks would help to clarify how this scholar was useful in the investigation of the part of electronic communication during the political changes in Pakistan.

Hirschman's Assessment of Voice

In his fundamental work (Loyalty, Voice, and Exit), Hirschman (1970) uses monetary logic to clarify individual decisions and reactions to the decrease of governments, nations, or firms. As for Hirschman, people’s decision to leaving or criticizing relies on the dimension of opportunity they have. Using the relation of a government’s failure, he included that individuals may pick two credible alternatives: Exit, which intends to leave the association; And Voice, which intends to oppose or criticize to invert the decay. In any case, the relationship of the dedication factor can influence these two circumstances. Hirschman's (1970) assessment can be understood as the accompanied precedent: Let us consider a circumstance in which customers of an item decide to quit purchasing that thing because of its reducing quality. Buyers will most likely move to another thing if other options are accessible in the market. In this way, to change to another item, they need to have available alternatives in the market that means no opposition. The second condition is that purchasers may choose to select a voice, which intends to criticize the decrease in the quality of the item to turn around it.

This case is conceivable just if (I) they are faithful to the item, or potentially (II) they don't have other alternatives accessible to them. Since the examination's attention is on political activism in Pakistan (2007), it will translate Hirschman's (1970) components (Exit and Voice) with regards to a nation's decay rather than that of an item or a company. Taking a look at the Hirschman model of cooperation and collective activity, we think of five essential components that are to be considered with regards to demonstrations in Pakistan under examination: Exit, Loyalty, Voice, Level of the decision, and Level of opportunity. For this examination, the component of Voice decoded as digital communication. It investigated whether YouTube's spreadable videos of political protests offered Voice to social developments in Pakistan.

Themes in Pakistani Videos

The examination of 20 most-viewed videos of YouTube during the 2007 rallies in Pakistan uncovered some subjects. A portion of the critical topics included: violent symbolism, rallies occurring in the country's capital, the strength of youth, individuals using Islamic images, the courage of protesters, pictures of the chief justice's as a sign of dispute, and nationalistic subjects, such as the Pakistani songs and banner. The substance of these videos indicated that Pakistani police and other security organizations are torturing and beating protesters. None of the protesters showed any weapons or other battling instruments. However, these videos demonstrated that protesters were throwing stones at police in revenge. Therefore, the investigation indicated that the general encircling of these videos was to intensify the component of brutality that state organizations were committing on individuals to prevent them from challenging the dictator.

The entire situation of these videos created sympathy for the protesters who were battling for a good motivation to free their nation from the grip of dictatorship. The videos demonstrated that religion Islam and Pakistani banner were used as their social and ideological subjects to make a feeling of solidarity and patriotism among the protesters. In Pakistan, kissing or carrying the nation's flag demonstrates that individuals love their country and are joined to shield it from the enemy. For this situation, the opponent, in any case, was their leader and military boss, Musharraf. Pakistan is 98 % Muslim, hence using religion as a political instrument can entice the people in the country. Pakistani banners and other nationalistic images, when assembled with religion, conveys the message to promote more conflicts in their partner citizens since it is the incorporation of their belief and culture.

Another crucial thing that revealed from this investigation of videos is that rallies were appeared occurred in Lahore and Islamabad, two important urban areas of the country. Islamabad is the capital of Pakistan, where military headquarters and the President's house located. And Lahore is the most important city of Pakistan. These two urban communities are known as the power center point of the nation's political issues. Out of 20, 18 videos demonstrate rallies have occurred in the capital, Islamabad. This outcome speaks about two angles: first, individuals wanted to organize their rallies at a place where they get more consideration of others.

The investigation uncovered that protesters depended on nationalistic and religious subjects, as well as used notable pictures of political identities as an apparatus to spread their accounts of rallies. One such image was of the nation's removed chief justice that the protesters used to pick up sympathy and support since the security officers dishonored him. The second picture was of President Musharraf, who appeared as a war criminal and an adversary of Pakistan. During the investigation, a large portion of the videos made the right positions to remove the Chief Justice. Every one of these references to the chief justice portrayed him as a legend that remained against the incredible rival to save the legal executive of the nation. To put it plainly, the comprehensive account of the considerable number of videos broke down was supported by protesters and chief justice, and backing their development against the tyrant. Every one of the videos depicted Musharraf and his powers as miscreants while describing chief justice and the protesters as legends who oppose dictatorship.

The examination uncovers that the vast majority of the videos depend on the raw film of cell phone videos. Individuals with their cell phone continuously recorded and shared these rallies. They recorded and transferred the violent pictures of rallies via YouTube to spread the story of rallies. And other predominant topics which were discovered steadily in all the 20 videos, including youth as a more significant part of protesters, the pictures of brave acts, such as, men confronting firearms, and the utilization of English for slogans and songs against the government. The general story of all the 20 videos is to pick up support and sympathy for protesters to continue the social development against President Musharraf's government. It is relevant to refer that President Musharraf was likewise as a military boss all the while. In this way, battle additionally turned into a development against the military mentality that naturally needs to control the nation's political issues since the beginning of Pakistan. A major group of people in Pakistan is baffled with the way that the Pakistani military keeps on overwhelming the nation's foreign policy and politics by undermining the interests of individuals. Subsequently, the Pakistani social development of 2007 was not just a battle to remove President Musharraf. Yet, additionally, it was an obstruction development against the military's desire to keep on ruling the nation. As to address the questions, this investigation uses a descriptive approach.

What were the Social Frames used by Activists in YouTube Videos?

The first question depends on Tarrow's (2011) ideology of "Social and Ideological Structures." As indicated by Tarrow, the possibility of "social and ideological structures" alludes to new yet common slogans, symbols, and themes used by political activists that resound with a person's belief framework to activate them for involving and supporting a social movement. The researcher argues that the social movements endeavor to replace an overwhelming belief framework that legalizes the status quo with another organizing belief framework those backings collective activity for a change, movement leader gives the images of revolt to pick up help and imprint themselves from rivals. Three substance classes observed to be the main importance in connection to this question, which is the "Existence of Religious Mottos" during the rallies, the Existence of Solid Nationalistic Marks, such as the national flag, and the "Existence of Nationalistic or Secular Songs" in the protest-related videos.

Existence of Religious Mottos while talking about political uprisings in the nations with a Muslim majority, it is vital to understand that religion (Islam) assumes a significant part in political opposition. Generally, in Pakistan, the word "Muslim Brotherhood" is regularly used to link with their natives to pick up their support and sympathy on specific issues.

Individuals use distinctive religious images and mottos, including Quranic calligraphy and the pictures of Holy places, which link them to the Muslim community based on Islamic culture and Islamic ideology. The frequency examination for the substance classification, "Religious Mottos," in protest-related videos demonstrates that 60% of them incorporated some reference to Islam. During the coding of rally videos, it is seen that religious images and references regularly used.

It is just natural that religion would be an element against government rallies. Holding English and Arabic posters with religious mottos, such as "Allah-o-Akbar" or different stanzas from the Holy Quran, for the most part, spoken to religious interests. In specific videos, the English interpretation of the Arabic content was available. Religion was used as a weapon of motivation and opposition.

Nationalistic versus Religious songs were significant components in the YouTube videos. The most viewed protest-related videos used these songs like another instrument of social and ideological subjects. Eighteen of the 20 videos (47%) featured songs in English. The discoveries recommend adding the nationalistic or secular songs to a video which proposes to attract all individuals of the general public, while religiously-themed tunes added to a video propose to engage the individuals from a particular religious tradition or faith. This finding may likewise be proved when the religious signature tunes were used to associate with the citizens based on religion, Islam.

The investigation of songs in the videos uncovered that secular tunes used significantly more often as much as possible. Likewise, it might be noticed that 53% of the videos had no tune. Applying Tarrow's (2011) point of social and ideological edges to this discovering, it tends to contend that the online protestors in the nation favored using more extensive and nationalistic subjects and secular tunes to religious ones in order to make their dissent message progressively widespread. Likewise, this logic of ideological and cultural frames can be found in the worldwide setting too: investigating these videos of rallies, we see an effort to make an association with worldwide culture instead of just barely concentrating on the videos' particular nation.

While coding for the substance classification, "Secular Music” 35%, it was seen that there were a nation and culture-explicit music as well as Hollywood tunes in the most-watched videos. Western tunes were present in a portion of the Pakistan-explicit protest videos. This finding proposes that the video with Western songs as the background planned to appeal not only own natives but also to pick up the consideration of individuals in different nations, especially the Western World. Additionally, as far as ideological and cultural frames, the utilization of universal music content on the stage should be deciphered as "associated" ideological and cultural frames in light of the fact that the message of these videos seen all around.

How did YouTube Fill in as a Voice during the Political Emergencies?

In this question, the word "voice" was from Hirschman's (1970) work. As for Hirschman, there are two potential reactions to the failure of a state: Exit, which intends to leave, and Voice, which intends to protest, oppose, and additionally challenge to invert the failure. In this manner, "voice" for this examination compares to the part of YouTube as a stage to resistance and complaint, especially when the conventional media are restricted and kept from playing out their job. In Pakistan, where residents decided to oppose tyrant governments, many people used YouTube as an elective stage of communication to voice their resistance to their abusive governments.

This research question focused on how YouTube filled in as an elective channel of communication when the regimes controlled every media. The discoveries recommend that YouTube filled in as an outlet for the opposition. During the visual substance examination, it was seen that social movements in Pakistan used YouTube as an elective stage not exclusively to communicate, yet additionally to advance opposition against their government.

Pakistan has a history of government-controlled broad media. The broad communications in Pakistan were liable to severe legislative control at the season of the revolutions. Oppressive governments in Pakistan (President Musharraf), had total authority over their nations' broad media both by intimidation and by questionable legislations. In like manner, local and worldwide media departments, including Al-Jazeera, were prohibited from covering political emergencies. Before social networking, dictator governments used broad media to stifle the voices of protesters and rivals against their government. Regardless of whether individuals were opposing and challenging their government, their voices couldn't get heard at greater scale on the grounds that the broad media were not permitted to intensify their complaints. In any case, the discoveries of this study propose that social networking, including YouTube, filled this gap.

The social revolution used YouTube as a "Voice” sign for YouTube as an elective channel of communication can be examined with regards to how unique anonymous protestors and social developments depended on YouTube to spread the story of protests. It was seen that during the ongoing political emergencies, social movements in the nation used YouTube as an outlet for contradiction. For Pakistan, two developments, the Lawyers' Movement (2007) and the Movement for the democracy (2007), depended vigorously on YouTube as an option in contrast to the traditional media to advance their stories of political change. It is remarkable to mention that the presence of the namelessness factor on YouTube has added to make this stage significantly appealing for such movement on the grounds due to these political actors/speakers could raise Voice on YouTube while keeping up namelessness. It is a significant factor since the tyrant government in the nation has a history of compelling violence on individuals who raised voices against fascism. Yet, YouTube gave a chance to the residents of the nation to speak up against their government while staying unknown to avoid damage.

YouTube as a voice for invisible: the examination of videos demonstrates that people or non-conventional media sources made 67 % of the rally related video clips. For instance, an unknown message, which says that the rally is using elective media to spread the videos of Tunisian, rallies since writers are not permitted to do as such. It might be referenced here that "Mysterious" perceives itself as a worldwide social development, which was initially motivated by a famous film (Vendetta). This 2005 British movie, written by the Wachowski, is centered on the 1982 comic book. The film speaks to one individual's battle to avenge his regime's bad behavior and maltreatment of power.

During the investigation, it is seen that the protest-related videos copied the Voice of "V" and alluded to their battle as the common citizens against their leaders. One such video on YouTube begins with a message from "mysterious," saying, "Although the vast majority of these videos don't have a source of data, this makes them progressively solid." The video closes with an appeal to watchers to join these rallies to make the social development an effective one. It should be noticed that "unknown" speaks to an inexactly associated universal system of activists that "works on thoughts instead of orders." The system has an exceptionally solid existence on the Internet, especially on YouTube.

The investigation of videos recommends that YouTube's capacity to fill in as a "voice," a channel for dissent, was not just true for citizens who were protesting in the city and required a stage to communicate. Indeed, customary media sources likewise used this social media as a chance to distribute their stories of political protests.


This examination coordinated to look at the development of YouTube as an alternative phase of communication in less free social orders, for instance, Pakistan. YouTube is moreover known for suggesting a substitute perspective on the progressing political upheavals. Pakistan inspected on the grounds that it is the main Muslim country wherein social media were a part of the information course in the political insurgencies that prompted the fall of General Pervez Musharraf. The social activists used YouTube as an alternative channel of communication to distribute information on political protests against the military regime for reasons of propelling resistance. This political possibility of having the ability to express their scorn against the administrations helped these social changes to spread the stories of political protests even without customary media sources.

The first question about the ideological and cultural frames was used by activists and protesters in YouTube videos. It concentrated on the nature and substance of these videos. Tarrow (2011) contends that since petulant social movements went for testing the status quo, they need new trademarks and subjects to mobilize an adequate number of rivals of the status quo. These trademarks, which he terms ideological and cultural frames, should reveal individuals' values, beliefs, and ideologies so they can relate to these frames. He indicated that broad media could spread these ideological and cultural frames and help amplify the complaints of individuals so as to get potential supporters against the present state of affairs.

Since the administration controlled broad media in Pakistan were not permitted to cover these political dissents, the examination finds that the YouTube videos added to fill this space. The visual substance investigation of these videos uncovered that the YouTube videos of political dissents used regular national and religious ideologies as a portion of ideological and cultural frames. For instance, this investigation found that nationalistic interests (63%) and religious (60%) were used as often as possible among ideological and the social frames of the most seen videos. Numerous videos indicated individuals kissing and holding their national banners during the demonstrations. Additionally, Islamic religious stories that are generally understood crosswise over Muslim-majority nations were used much of the time in the most seen videos. Other than using nationalistic and religious appeals, the political revolutions in Pakistan, used trademarks, for example, "Individuals want to cut down the government."

The second question, how YouTube filled in as a "voice" during the political emergencies? Was gotten from Hirschman's theory. As indicated by Hirschman, people's decisions to leave or criticize depend upon the degree of freedom and choice they have. Using the relationship of an association's decay, he indicated that individuals might pick two potential choices because of the failure of an association: Exit, which intends to leave the association, and Voice, which intends to complain or oppose to reverse the failure. For this paper, the component of "Voice" deciphered as "digital communication." The research question investigated whether YouTube's spreadable videos of political dissents gave "Voice" to social developments in the nation. The findings of this examination propose that during the political emergencies of Pakistan, YouTube filled in as a voice for political revolutions in numerous ways. The discoveries of this investigation propose that Pakistani natives used YouTube as a voice for the autonomy of legal executives in Pakistan. The social development in Pakistan generally alluded to as the Lawyers' Movement. They likewise used YouTube as a voice to advance obstruction against President Musharraf's government, and for the reclamation of democracy in the nation.

The discoveries of this paper opening new entryways for research to comprehend the part of online networking as elective diverts of communication in closed, tyrant social orders where the conventional media serve just to the interests of the decision elites. Furthermore, the examination clarifies how the undeniably popular social media, e.g., YouTube, are added to civil freedoms by testing the tyrant governments of the Muslim World. Additionally, the similar idea of this examination was a push to throw light on less-explored nations like Pakistan that are seeing new chances and difficulties at the same time given the presence of the Internet and social media to its nationals.


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Received: 11-Apr-2022, Manuscript No. JLERI-22-12359; Editor assigned: 13-Apr-2022, PreQC No. JLERI-22-12359(PQ); Reviewed: 25- Apr-2022, QC No. JLERI-22-12359; Revised: 25-Oct-2022, Manuscript No. JLERI-22-12359(R); Published: 01-Nov-2022

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