Pakistan-India conflicts spur social media war among young

By Obaid Khan  |  Sept. 22, 2013 at 3:22 PM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sept. 22 --

Renewed conflict between Pakistan and India -- most recently Pakistani accusations that Indian troops shelled its territory along the disputed Kashmir border -- has ignited a social media war in which young people are using the new online technology to express support for their countries.

They use their messages to try to outdo and abuse each other, often resorting to profanity, and they post pictures of the opposing side's flag being burned, make jokes and try to boost their armies' morale.

"Students from both sides are using full force to put each other down," Zaid Hamid, an independent Pakistani defense analyst, told UPI Next.

He said he had been monitoring social media since the renewal of tensions between Pakistan and India, which have fought three major wars since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

Hamid said social media has become very important and powerful in Pakistan, as elsewhere.

"Everyone has witnessed a revolution, which came through social media," he said. "Social websites have become one of the most powerful tools to influence the opinion of the younger generation and to create pressure groups."

Some Pakistanis have set up web pages to support Pakistan's army and formed groups to answer posts from India. One Pakistani post on the Facebook page "Pakistan Vs India" said, "India is building war hysteria, and their [expletive] retired generals are saying that they can break Pakistan into two in two weeks of war. Come on. Swear to Allah we will never ever let [expletive] Indians dominate us."

Comments from the Indian side are also heated.

"Pakistan is home to Asia's largest brothel, known as Heera Mandi," reads one, referring to a Lahore red-light district.

"Pakistanis are known as the killer of innocent people in Baluchistan, Sindh, Afghanistan, India, USA , UK etc.

"Pakistanis are also known as a terrorist nation."

A senior Pakistan Telecommunication Authority official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not the designated spokesman, told UPI Next: "No single department is monitoring and maintaining records of social media users. That's why no one can tell the number and ages of social media users in Pakistan."

Nauman Ali, 17, a Pakistani Facebook user from Islamabad, told UPI Next that India was violating the border and shelling his country's territory.

"Being a Pakistani, I couldn't bear the violation by [the] Indian army," he said.

"Social websites are the best place to express emotions. That is why I made a group of my friends to answer Indians, who are also using social media as [a] propaganda tool against Pakistan."

Muhamad Saleem, 20, a student at the University of Karachi, said young Indians had posted many pictures and comments against Pakistan and were using profanity.

"Then I decided to do the same to answer them," he said. "I am ready to give my life for my country if India takes any serious action against Pakistan.

"Being Pakistani, it's my duty to protect my country on any stage and to support my army, who are giving their lives to save Pakistan. I have made a page to support Pakistan army, and now my friends are also posting pictures of Pakistani soldiers to acknowledge them."

Shwetank Mishra, an Indian student who spoke to UPI Next while chatting on Facebook, said Pakistan was violating the Line of Control -- a de facto military border in the north -- and blaming India.

"Indians couldn't bear it if Pakistan crossed its limits," he said.

Irish Sawant, 20, however, who works in a call center in India, told UPI Next Pakistan was interfering with the Indian border and forcing the Indian army to answer back.

"Pakistanis have made many groups on social media, especially on Facebook, to support their army and do propaganda against India," he said. "To counter this propaganda, I have also made a group of my friends to upload pictures and to make comments."

Sawant said Pakistanis were using abusive language and abusing India's army and political leaders.

"That is why we are doing the same," he said.

Pakistan has no law to control social media users or punish users for posting abusive language, the telecommunication official said. The 2007 Cyber Crime Ordinance, allowing action against such violators, is now under review and is not in force.

Hamid said there was a need to educate social media users to protest in a positive way.

Adarsh Mishra, 19, a student in Mumbai, agreed.

"In my opinion, there should be a code of conduct to use social media, and administrators of such websites should restrict users not to use slang while giving their comments," he told UPI Next.

"Social websites could be used to spread peace instead of creating more hate among India and Pakistan's new generation.”

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