Examples of social media highlighting corruption in Pakistan
Kaufmann, according to Stepenhurst (2000), while making presentation to the World Bank team formulated an equation demonstrating the relationship among anti-corruption efforts, knowledge and information and collective action as under:
AC (Anti-corruption Efforts) =
KI (Knowledge and Information) +
LE (Leadership) + CA (Collective Action)
The equation illustrates that successful anti-corruption programs are dependent on knowledge and information in addition to leadership and collective action. This truly underscores the value of information and the involvement of civil society, including the media, in waging a struggle against malpractices (Stapenhurst, 2000).
In this backdrop, we have recently witnessed social media playing vibrant role in Pakistan. It highlighted some controversial affairs involving high and mighty of the country. The new media has shown tangible signs of coming of age by actively pursuing to uncover some hidden facts about corruption in Pakistan. Despite the fact that many of the leading journalists hailing from the mainstream media knew about the corruption scandal allegedly involving Mr. Arsalan Iftikhar, it was because of a video on YouTube that the world came to know of it. Similarly, when Duniya TV’s off the air footage found its way onto You Tube it gave rise to many a suspicions about the conduct of the journalists.
There is sufficient evidence available on the internet and other social media sites leading us to infer that the real estate tycoon Malik Riaz Husain of Bahria Town approached some of the top TV talk show hosts in Pakistan and shared detailed information, videos and documentation about $3.7 million in illegal payments made to Arsalan Iftikhar, the son of Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, over several years. It was revealed that some others, including Chaudhry Aitazaz Ahsan, knew about the episode and discussed it with Justice Chaudhry. ‘While rumors swirled among the Capital insiders, the public at large was kept in the dark until a video of Shaheen Sehbai, a famous journalist talking about it surfaced on Youtube and forced the main stream media to finally discuss it on air’(South Asia Investor Review, 2012). The allegations reverberated by the media attracted suo-moto notice taken by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Subsequently, Malik Riaz appeared on a popular T.V channel to record an exclusive interview with two well known talk show hosts namely, Mubashir Luqman and Mehr Bukhari to defend and substantiate his version. The very next day, the off-air conversation between both the anchors and Malik Riaz was leaked on Youtube. The video attracted millions of internet users over Face book, Twitter and YouTube in a short span of time. The video demonstrated that the interview was ostensibly planted in which both the anchors were receiving instructions and telephone calls during the interview while Malik Riaz kept helping the anchors in preparing the questions.
The video contents underscored the significance and potential of social media that it has acquired over last some years. The incident represented a discernible change caused primarily by the Social Media tools. The development also silenced the critics of the social media who were skeptic of anything positive being attributed to the social media. Their attention could be drawn to the fact that this was precisely the way which caused a change to take place in Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle Eastern countries.
This however was not the end of the story. It was followed by a Social Media’s viral video highlighting journalist’s corruption in Pakistan. A record of payments allegedly made to 19 senior-journalists of Pakistan, by the Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz appeared on the social networking site Twitter. The list included names of many a famous journalists belonging to the varying ideological streams including nationalists, liberals, and fundamentalists. (Appendix-I)
Prominent names of various news television anchors and journalists like Dr. Shahid Masood, Najam Sethi, Kamran Khan, Nusrat Javed, Meher Bokhari, Mubasher Lucman, Hamid Mir, Javed Chaudhry, Sana Bucha, Sohail Waraich and Asma Shirazi among a few others, figured out in the lists available on net. The website also detailed favours extended to the above mentioned journalists in cash and kind having been recorded in the trademarked letterheads of Bahria Town.
It is pertinent to mention here that these revealing documents on one side went a long way in raising awareness of the internet users by highlighting the credentials of these otherwise illustrious anchors and on the other side, it disseminated a visibly pessimistic message to the general public that hardly anybody in this country is above board.