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Movements for Change

How Individuals, Social Media and Al Jazeera Are Changing Pakistan, Egypt and Tunisia

Rauf Arif

This book explores social media as an alternative channel of communication and resistance in Pakistan, Tunisia and Egypt, and argues that the term "Arab Spring" limits the scope of acknowledgement for the ongoing online and offline political uprisings in the Muslim World, which started beyond the geographical boundaries of the Middle East. Beginning with an exploration of the pivotal role of Al Jazeera and how it used social media content from protestors to make the uprisings a global conversation, this book takes readers through an overview of creative political protests in each of the three case countries, before delving into an in-depth examination of a specific icon that sparked each revolution in question, and an overview of social movements and the politico-cultural context in each country. In closing, this book offers an understanding on how the new collective memories of nations using social media to protest will affect future generations who are striving to rise against authoritarian regimes, including the Algerian Spring that is ongoing in 2019.

This book can appeal to a wide range of audiences, both inside and outside the academic world. Within academia, courses covering topics such as social media, social movements, comparative politics, Middle Eastern studies and global communication could use this book as a learning tool. In non-academic settings, journalism practitioners could benefit from this book to examine how social media can be an alternate media in the absence of traditional media, and how traditional news media outlets can collaborate with and utilize social media to perform their journalistic duty in oppressive regimes.

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6 Politico-Cultural Context of Pakistan



Politico-Cultural Context of Pakistan

Pakistan, which means, “Land of the Pure,” got its independence from British rule on August 14, 1947 (Lieven, 2011; Rashid, 2008). Even though the formal independence date of Pakistan is 1947, the country’s culture and traditions are deep-rooted in the human history of civilization. The “Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world and dating back at least 5,000 years, spread over much of what is presently Pakistan” (CIA, 2019, para. 1). Located in the Indian subcontinent, the area has a long history of successive invasions “from the Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Arabs (who brought Islam), Afghans, and Turks” (CIA, 2019, para. 1) and, most recently, the British.

The country, slightly less than twice the size of California, with a population of more than 200 million people, has a number of historical and contemporary problems including repeated military interventions, poor economic conditions, emergency crises, unfriendly relations with neighboring states (including India, Iran and Afghanistan), rising inflation, unemployment among educated youth and the challenges of media freedom (Al-Mujahid, 1982; Arif, 2010; CIA, 2019; Lieven, 2011; “Pakistan Blocks Access,” 2010). According to World Bank (2018), more than 24% of the population of Pakistan is currently living below the poverty line. More than 96% of the country’s population is Muslim (Sunni 90%, Shia 10%), while Christian and Hindus constitute 4% of the country’s total ←91 | 92→population. The CIA’s World Factbook (2019) summarizes Pakistan’s challenges this way:


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