Understanding جہالت (Jahalat) as incivility, rather than illiteracy

What are some of the things that come to your mind when you hear the word ‘China’?

1- Large population


3- Chaptay (‘flat faced’, in local parlance)

4- Godless

5- Food (more specifically, Chicken corn soup and Chinese rice)

6- Weirdos?

Do any of these responses sound familiar? There is probably a lot more to the only sophisticated ancient civilisation that has resisted the throes of Western modernity than a chicken corn soup recipe.

Indeed this is but one instance of our stereotype towards people of other nationalities. And, it should be of concern to any rational Pakistani why he/she has such a limited understanding of a country that they believe is an all weather ally.

But this post is not about clarifying stereotypes.

The responses above also say a lot about our media diet; a healthy doze of local television and newspapers and a large platter of heresay (word of mouth on WhatsApp or face-to-face conversations with others like us). It shows how what we have seen, read and heard about China has shaped our views, attitudes and behaviour towards it. You can do a similar mental exercise for any other country, object or individual.

The information we consume shapes our reality.

See there is nothing inherently wrong with consuming the local media content (which will gradually mature). Living on Pakistani soil we are dependent on it and have entrusted it with the sacred duty to provide credible information and serve the public.

As do citizens of other nations on the content of their media industry.

After all, Chinese people may have similar misgivings about Pakistanis; ‘brothers of the Chinese people’, ‘unsafe’, ‘supporters of Islam’, ‘women and hijab’, ‘terrorist’, etc. going by the typical comments of Chinese tourists on their travel websites.

Nor is there anything inherently wrong with our local media system. It gives us a sense of identity and projects a point of view that is typically Pakistani in the global market place of ideas.

However when we become dependent on this media diet it becomes a problem. Or in other words when what we see, read or hear comes mostly from our local media.

Now despite this seemingly common sensical explanation the ignorance in our society (myself included) about the media never ceases to amaze me. For instance, we blame television channels for broadcasting junk but conveniently forget that it is our tastes that it cater. And by the way, I have lived in Hong Kong for four years where the Chinese chicken soup looks and tastes nothing like you would imagine. Hint: they don’t ever add cornflour!

Last Monday I led a workshop titled “Thinking beyond professionalism: the role of journalism outside the newsroom”, at the Centre for Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) at IBA in Karachi, where I elaborated on this point.

Participants were masters students of the journalism program at CEJ-IBA. Image: author

The problems of the media industry are manifold but a crucial part is our lack of basic media literacy. It’s important to understand the distinction between ‘literacy’ and ‘media literacy’ here. Although I suspect we are implicitly aware of it when we use the cheeky phrase paray likhay jahil (Roman Urdu transliteration for: a countryside bumpkin who has acquired formal education).

Typically it is assumed that the rote learning centred public education system is the root cause of our jahalat جہالت  (‘iliteracy’ – if transliterated from Urdu; ‘incivility’ – more accurately as I will now argue). This argument doesn’t explain the many foreign educated Pakistanis who return to their home towns with the same attitudes towards women, religion, family ties, tribalism etc., they took with them.

That we must ‘do as the Romans when in Rome’ is a bit off-mark as well; many of us think it is justified to break laws because of circumstances. Although there are those who break laws as a natural right or a force of habit. Similarly, many educated Pakistani expats seem to share the same tribal mindset with those of us back home.

Conversely, many graduates of local public schooling  have a mature understanding of modern collective co-existence, respect for rule of law and empathy with the disenfranchised such as minorities and women.

It is becoming apparent that our formal education, public or private, foreign or domestic, doesn’t have a strong correlation with our jahalat. This is a unique Pakistani problem.

While I’m not an expert on education psychology the need for ‘civic education’ for Pakistanis of all colour, age, creed, class and education is abundantly clear. Have a look at this TedxLahore talk by Usama Khilji, director of Bolo Bhi on the issue for further clarity.

Media literacy continues in this tradition of raising standards of civility in a society. It aims to inculcate critical and clear thinking about the messages we receive. But at it’s core is the creation of an informed society. Where civic values, fact based reasoning and consensus building are cherished and go-to method to solve problems.

Learning about media is thus necessary for everyone. Not only for quality television content that will be needed for an informed public unwilling to accept junk but also for a public that must learn to co-exist with mutual respect and harmony in practice, rather than paying lip service to these values.

Media discourses after all occupy our public airwaves similar to what we do in our public squares, D-Chowks, roads, malls etc.




Doing journalism where public life is synonymous with violence

Originally published as a collection of case studies on ethics.mediaasia.info in 2018.

Dawn, Pakistan

In Pakistan, the politics of confrontation not only have material consequences but also manifest themselves in the symbolic realm. In this environment, Dawn, the most widely circulated and respected English daily, maintains a zero tolerance policy against “attack ads”.

“We only accept ads from political parties that are in praise of their activities, not if they are attacking a rival party,” says Zaffar Abbas.

Dawn’s attempt to foster a constructive national debate in a violently polarized political culture is no accident and is reflected in its commitment to professional practice. Ever since the paper’s foundation in 1941, managements have allowed the editors a level of autonomy unparalleled in the local media industry.

Indeed, Abbas, a career journalist with over 30 years of experience, is the most revered person at the newspaper’s headquarters; the custom is that even “the sahib (CEO) must walk down to the editorial floor for a meeting”. Something all staffers take enormous pride in.

The separation of editorial control from the publisher is a common practice among free and independent news organizations globally. However, it has special significance in Pakistan’s emerging media landscape where muckraking media barons, like other local business owners, often circumvent corporate and informal rules.

Such editorial autonomy comes with a price. The paper is suffering from heavy advertising losses, after it reported details of a special meeting between the powerful military and the civilian government in October 2016. This is in a country where 90 percent of newspaper revenue comes from advertisers, of whom at least 30 percent are government or government-related.

The editor standing next to an exhibit outside his office. – Photo: author

The concept of blocking-a-story doesn’t exist at Dawn, unless of course the story is completely off-tangent and doesn’t fit the standards set by us. But one tries to be careful; this is not a revolutionary newspaper, it’s a decent, objective newspaper where we support democracy and you don’t want to destroy anyone’s business. These rules are made by them (management). They can change the rules but at the moment this is how they function.”  – Zaffar Abbas, editor Dawn.

A respected brand

At the same time, the flagship daily enjoys the prestige of catering to elite educated Pakistanis and claims the highest share of English print readership, giving it a status similar to a newspaper of record. The parent company, Dawn Media Group, understands this well and has managed to inextricably link the professional ethos of the daily with the Dawn brand.

The daily maintains a strict code of ethics for advertisers, in addition to charging a premium tariff. Standard restrictions are applicable on editorial space allocated for ads; for instance, no full front-page ad is ever allowed. Advertisers may also be turned away because of what the paper considers sensitive content. In addition to “attack ads”, these may include sensitive or controversial categories such as marriage, investment, and religious matters.

Pakistani advertisers in turn, understand that the Dawn brand has the potential to leverage their products and are willing to accept such terms.

While the group charges one of the highest tariffs in the country for its flagship product, it maintains a more flexible policy, in keeping with the market, for its other media businesses, which include magazines, a 24-hour news television station, a radio entertainment station and a fast growing news website. For instance, the Dawn TV news channel, managed and run independently of the newspaper, may offer considerable discounts to advertisers, most of whom buy in-bulk. While Dawn.com, the papers’ online extension, follows the general editorial and advertising ambit of the print edition, it can offer a 10 percent discount. No value addition is ever given for the print edition.

The group also organizes exhibitions and trade fairs, which are otherwise rare public events in Pakistan. One such event is the DawnSpelling Bee. A regular fixture in schools, the competition is another example of how the group has based its unique selling proposition on best practice. Previously housed inside the advertiser-focused marketing department, it was shifted to the more reader-centric, circulation department. “We realize that through this programme we are investing in the future. Good readers today, will become the readers of print tomorrow,” explains Ali Hasan Naqvi, the head of marketing.

Management to the rescue

Despite enviable brand equity, the editors forecast that profits for the daily will likely sink below break-even in five to ten years’ time. This is due to commercial factors beyond the battles with disgruntled advertisers and the powerful state apparatus. Recently, much advertising revenue has been encroached upon by the mushrooming of private television channels.

The staffers derive their confidence from the management and with good reason. Hailing from a wealthy business family in Pakistan, the current CEO, Hameed Haroon, is the president of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society, a patron of the arts and heritage for the local government and hosts a radio programme on South Asian music. “We don’t have a financial goal per se of survival,” he says, speaking about Dawn at his alma mater, the London School of Economics. By this he meant that if the paper is not viable with the existing commitment to editorial independence, it would not be worth continuing with it.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who was arguably the paper’s first CEO, was a lawyer by profession and the president of the All-India Muslim League – the political party in British India which fought the constitutional battle for a separate Muslim majority nation-state, later called Pakistan. He became independent Pakistan’s first Governor General. Jinnah’s portrait is part of the paper’s masthead and reminds staffers to see their work as a professional public service, supported by their management.

Article under review: Comparative analysis of PPP Long March 1992 and PTI party’s Freedom March 2014.

Article under review in a peer-reviewed journal. Title and journal names and manuscript details have been left out.


In the emerging field of media politics of dissent most studies concentrate on industrialized societies where protests usually target state institutions, where national media systems are mature and internet captures more attention. There are relatively few studies on the role of 24 hour news television which in some societies is the most game-changing ‘new media’. In many parts of the world, a commercial and plural television is not much older than public internet and more powerful. Movements born in such hybrid regime settings may also have implicit support of state actors. This paper aims to broaden the debate in the field by examining two political protests in Pakistan with specific regards to their organisation and division of labour related to national news media. It draws on 650 Daily Dawn news reports from the year 1992 and 2014, 17 in-depth interviews with key party campaign planners and a focus group conducted at the Karachi Press Club. It will show how a traditional protest form remains extremely relevant to protest elites but that it has been transformed by the arrival of electronic media. The study contributes to media and movement studies understanding of how protest activity in Southern contexts is shaped by media pluralisation.
Keywords: contentious collective action, movement and media interaction, hybrid regimes, 24-hour news television.

Hate Spin: the manufacture of religious offence and its threat to democracy by Cherian George. Book review: Ayaz A. Siddiqui

Originally published in The News on Sunday, August 13th 2017.

Front cover taken from MIT Press site.

In their vehement critique of the media industry, Herman and Chomsky (1988) skilfully show how powerful corporate interests shape the news. It has been 30 years since then; democracies world over, including the US, have ostensibly experienced growing right-wing populism, radical campaigns and hate propaganda. Governance-wise these nations lie on an entire spectrum of democratic maturity, media concentration and diversity. Clearly, political economy is just one side of the powerful influences that shapes news content.

In Hate Spin: The Manufacture of Religious Offence and Its Threat to Democracy, Associate Professor Cherian George unravels how strategic religious hateful propaganda is being used as a tool by skilled political entrepreneurs in democracies the world over, for explicitly political goals. He draws particular attention to ‘offence-taking’, which is about playing the provoked victim with malicious intent, as opposed to the more commonly understood ‘offence-giving’ notion of hate speech. Together, the two form a double-edged sword he calls Hate Spin, which “exploits group identities to mobilise supporters and coarse opponents”.

George begins his inquiry by asking why there are strategic time lags between incidents involving violent indignation — protests, court petitions and such — and the moment of ‘offence giving’ activity — offensive cartoons, films — in the name of which they are ‘triggered’. Shrewd middlemen, usually elites, skilled at public relations, he argues, mobilise, often genuine, emotions of people where they see as an incentive. This contentious politics often fades away when there is no longer political advantage to gain.

To expand on these claims, a thick comparison of political campaigns of the Hindu-right in India, of Christian-right in the United States and of the Muslim-right in Indonesia is presented.

Hate Spin is a chilling reminder of the tangible link between material injustices in a society and restrictions in its market place of ideas. For instance, the escalation of the cultural homogenisation project of the Sang Parivar, dubbed Hindutva or ‘Hinduness’ (distinguishable from Hinduism), in Modi’s India is explained through the Gujrat pogroms in 2002, ghettoisation of Muslims and Muzaffarnagar riots in the run-up to 2014 Indian elections.

One can feel the reverberations of Pakistan’s own nasty experience with religious populism, especially in some recent times, throughout the reading. George’s deep theoretical insights will demystify everyday inciting news content we have grown accustomed to in Pakistan.

Such agents cause more abuse in closed societies where freedoms are already restricted. But in open societies this phenomenon presents a genuine dilemma for authorities. The unique case study of the US is telling. George shows how the ‘Islamophobia Network’ has taken advantage of the exceptional freedoms afforded by the First Amendment. However, its activities are necessarily restricted by the US Constitution’s equal importance to protection of minorities, including religions, against discrimination. In this context, the instigators of mosque-banning campaigns, for instance, might be losing the legal battle but they have succeeded in pushing hate propaganda in the middle of public discourse.

Generating national conversations thus is often the prime motivation behind Hate Spin. Which it does at the unreasonable expense of other point of views. This makes it anti-democratic.

The author also engages with various ways to curb the menace. He charts ethical responses that professional journalist can take; upstream approaches that deal with early warning signs of potential incitement and downstream approaches for troubleshooting the impact of hate campaigns. He emphasises the particular role that civil society and religious actors can play to ‘nudge hate speech out of public center’.

Not surprisingly, George believes that the overregulation of hate speech usually backfires for authorities. Insult laws such as those protecting blasphemy, for instance end up providing legal munitions to vested interests, which further harms minority groups and opinions. Citing the case of Shirin Dalvi, a Mumbai newspaper editor who was hounded by authorities when complaints were lodged against her after publishing a picture of the cover of Charlie Hebdo bearing the caricature of Prophet Muhammad. Or, the anti-pornography bill ratified in 2008 in Indonesia that gave a license to declare illegal anything certain uncompromising Muslim clerics deemed as indecent.

One shortcoming is that the analysis sometimes blurs the boundaries between populist politics in general and Hate Spin. For instance, when constitutional provisions to ensure a greater participation of out groups is suggested as a measure that can limit marginalisation of those in the crosshair of dominant groups. In contexts where politics of ‘otherness’ is a norm, hate speech thus could be inevitable. It would be useful to see how Hate Spin operates in hybrid democratic contexts, such as Turkey, Russia and Pakistan, to further crystallise the more dangerous repercussions of hateful propaganda from legitimate expressions of identity politics.

George is aware of this complexity as his cases draw strength not just from the novelty of analysis but by engagement with the most current debates at the intersection of free expression laws, human rights framework and religion. He believes that a plural and tolerant democracy doesn’t require religion to be forced out of the public sphere but that rule of law must be supreme.

One can feel the reverberations of Pakistan’s own nasty experience with religious populism, especially in some recent times, throughout the reading. George’s deep theoretical insights will demystify everyday insightful news content we have grown accustomed to in Pakistan. While specific analysis of international episodes like Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and Jylland-Posten cartoon controversy will make one aware of something that is always at the tip of our tongues but somehow get lost amid the ruckus when such stories land.

This review should be taken as a trailer for it’s impossible to highlight many other original insights and facts that make it a compelling read. Relevant international organisations and actors at different sides of the misinformation battle for instance, will be a valuable resource for journalists, policy makers, academics, students and concerned citizens fighting this web of hate and creating a more inclusive Pakistani society.

Hatespin The Manufacture of Religious Offence and its Threat to Democracy
Author: Cherian George
Publisher: MIT Press
Year: 2016
Pages: 328
Price: USD18.95

How has protesting changed in Pakistan since the 90’s?

University of Hong Kong logo.

On 24th February, 2017 I presented some findings on the Changes in Political Protests in Pakistan since the 90’s, based on my field work last year. The presentation was made in a closed reading group organised by faculty members at the Hong Kong Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (HKIHSS). In this post I summarize key findings of my presentation, some conclusions and finally a word on the reading group itself. I understand that use of certain terms will be unclear. I strongly encourage you to email so we can discuss.


I compared two major political protests, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Long March in 1992 and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Azadi Dharna (PTI) in 2014. In the paper, my focus was on protesters organisation strategies and division of labour within the party. These two ‘variables’ (in a manner of speaking) are taken from Gamson and Wolfsfeld (1993) understanding of the relationship between movements and media. Worth to mention that even though focus is on protest strategies, specific focus is on those strategies that are most related to media. I will not present my research design here. Those who are interested can contact me via email. However, my data sources are Daily Dawn news archives from year 1992 and 2014 collected at Dawn library in Karachi. 17 in-depth interviews with various party media cell officers, campaign managers, journalists and civil society activists. I also conducted a focus group at the Karachi Press Club.

Key similarities and differences between PPP and PTI protest organisation:

  • Patronage networks were leveraged in both protests but not as much by the PTI.
  • Protest events for the PPP were rather diffused where as heavily concentrated for the PTI.
  • Both protests chose the capital city as the major choice of mobilisation however, the PTI took special interest in concentrating resources there.
  • PPP brick and mortar media presence remained mostly limited to its party headquarters in Karachi whereas PTI expanded such presence to major metropolis in the country.

Key similarities and difference between PPP and PTI division of labour:

  • Both protests relied on campaign officers to generate corner meetings and mobilise people to protest sites and to agitate.
  • Both protests relied on young volunteers however, PTI had a much more diverse cadre of youth activist specially in metropolis where traditionally vote banks don’t function as effectively.
  • Both parties have media campaign managed by professionals but PTI campaigns were managed by professionals with a unique skill set related to electronic campaigns that PPP did not have.
  • Other political parties, including PPP, have imitated PTI’s style of division of labour in its protests.


Some discussion

Bearing in mind the changes in media landscape since the 90’s, in particular the heavy presence of 24 hour news television in Pakistani politics we can see why PTI protests chose to concentrate in one location over a prolong period. It firstly facilitates television news crews that, unlike print reporters need heavy and expensive equipment for reporting. It is difficult for such crews to report on scattered events. Secondly, prolong stay in certain locations facilitates continuous and therefore live coverage of events. Unlike in the past, where such news crews (state television) were barely present or only supported the incumbent government. This certainly shows protesters changing tactics to get better media standing. Certainly the new forms of expertise required to capture, retain and facilitate this kind of news coverage was also present among the party’s media cell. Such new forms of organisation in other metropolis certainly helps in liaison with various TV news organisations. In contrast, PPP protesters had to find different ways to capture the news attention of a media landscape dominated by a print medium. It fits our understanding of news bureaus and correspondents located in different cities reporting the latest in their area. For after a while, news editors in major cities ignore the protest-as-usual to make room for other events.

About the reading group

This is a brief word on the purpose of the reading group and the format of presentations so that I may illuminate how academic communities are built. It is a learning process for me as well. So a major purpose, as I understand, is to bring together budding scholars studying diverse topics, in fairly diverse university departments within and outside Hong Kong, but with a common interest in anthropological methods. Such methods are distinguishable for presenting in ‘thick descriptions’ the phenomenon/process that are being explored. Journalism writing, if one can call it that, often employs such methods and I find that they are helpful when writing my reports which are indeed qualitative.

Each session has two parts, an hour devoted to a presentation followed by an hour on Q&A. Each presenter has to submit a paper in advance so that participants understand in detail the context of the presentation. For me, the core utility of this exercise is to use my arguments to engage with people who don’t know much about my area. And in the process make the arguments sharper.


Gamson, W. A., & Wolfsfeld, G. (1993). Movements and media as interacting systems. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 528(1), 114-125.

Tracing the transitions

Op-ed published in The News, print edition, 28 December 2016.

If we look at our political history from 1990 to the present in four-year intervals, the number of transitions of the chiefs of army staff (COAS), quite accurately, corresponds to transitions in the government.

For arguments sake, let’s entertain an interpretation of this pattern before we dismiss these transitions as mere coincidences.

A common summation of Pakistan’s political history over the past 25 years is that the 1990s was the lost decade with numerous shuffles in the government, the early 2000s was the martial law era and the late 2000s entailed the revival of democracy.

These are seemingly unconnected periods. Yet, when one reads old news reports, there are uncanny similarities between them and present-day news stories to the extent that these old accounts would not seem out of place in 2016. I am certain that many journalists will at least partially agree with this.

It doesn’t help that our media discourse on government transitions is rife with conspiracy theories. Is the imposition of martial law or the dissolution of assemblies historically dependent on the whims of a few individuals? Or do such decisions take place in Washington or Riyadh? There are as many explanations as there are conspiracy theories.

What is often found wanting is an analysis based on these underlying themes. There certainly are patterns to be unearthed before more conspiracy theories take over. These patterns also encompass numerous shades of opinions.

Let’s examine our history through one such pattern.

The period between 1990 and 1994 was a tumultuous time in Pakistani politics when several governments were dismissed in quick succession. Benazir Bhutto’s government was dismissed in 1990 and Nawaz Sharif became prime minister. However, a contest of power ensued between the president and the prime minister. As a result, both were dismissed, paving the way for fresh elections and Bhutto’s return to power in 1993.

At the same time, COAS Mirza Aslam Beg handed over the reins to General Asif Nawaz in 1991, who later died of a sudden heart attack in January 1993, leaving the post vacant for Gen Abdul Waheed.

We have here two transitions in the military and two transitions in civilian government.

In 1996, Bhutto’s government was dismissed on charges of corruption once again and Sharif formed a new government. This period saw one transition of the COAS, where Gen Abdul Waheed, after completing his term, handed over the reins to Gen Jehangir Karamat. Between 1994 and 1998, there was one transition in the military and one transition in the government.

But perhaps the most exciting times in the 1990s came towards its end when the Sharif government was dismissed in 1999 and replaced with a technocratic government. This period saw Gen Musharraf taking over as the COAS from Gen Karamat in 1998. Once again, one transition took place in both the government and the military’s highest office.

The period between 2002-2006 was widely brandished as a period of unprecedented stability. We saw the technocratic government continuing from the late 1990s and Gen Musharraf served as both the COAS and the chief executive.

The trend continued. There were zero transitions in the government and zero transitions in the COAS.

Another exciting period was in 2007 during the Lawyers’ Movement. We also saw a return to a popularly elected PPP-led government in 2008. Gen (r) Musharraf, who was now just a president, handed over the reins to Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and stepped down from managing the country.

The numbers hold fast. There was one transition of the COAS and one transition in the government.

Interestingly, the government transitions were preceded by the dissolution of assemblies and followed by popular elections. Now, they are only preceded by popular elections.

Between 2010 and 2014, journalists and scholars were ecstatic when an elected government in Pakistan, after completing its term, paved the way for another democratic transition through popular elections. Gen Kayani, who was now nearing the end of his extension, handed over the post to Gen Raheel Sharif.

During this period, there was one transition in the government and one transition within the army.

The period between 2014 and 2018 raises some questions. If Imran Khan and Dr Tahirul Qadri were to be taken at face value, several governments would have come and gone by now. So far, we have seen only one transition in the COAS and our model predicts that PML-N government will survive till 2018.

But will the transition of a COAS correspond with a transition in the government? This may seem likely.

In the social sciences, an investigation of a phenomenon often starts with simple factual information. Our model provides for this, irrespective of the actual significance of a phenomenon or event, though historically moments of change in the military top brass have been politicised. In 1992, Benazir’s long march was seen to be losing momentum when the sudden death of Gen Nawaz changed the political opportunity structure for all political parties. Quite recently, much was made of the timing of the PTI’s supposed dharna and the arrival of a new chief.

What is the significance of the number four? The term of an elected government in Pakistan, according to the 1973 constitution, is five years. A COAS serves for three years. It’s tempting, as a casual observer, to mull the possibilities if both terms were for four years.

To be sure, there is never a magic bullet that solves complex problems, such as the need for a stable coalition, in a jiffy. Many other variables play a role. We can think of some right off the bat, such as external threat perception and the health of the economy, etc. Furthermore, the numbers above do not account for the interim governments.

Abstract of my thesis proposal

On 20th July, in an open seminar headed by my thesis committee, I presented my research proposal. The proposal defence is a process that we (post-graduate students) were told is just something everyone goes through, a merry statement that perhaps downplays the and must pass aspect of the process. After much deliberation however, I am now a PhD Candidate and quite keen to get on with field work and collecting data for the various parts of this project. Here I present the working title and abstract of my thesis proposal:



Investigating increasing media sensibilities of protests in Pakistan: Dharnas in the electronic media age.


This project explores and explains the consequences of increasing media sensibilities on mobilization strategies of protests in Pakistan. The dominant literature on contentious collective action emphasizes the role of communication, with an increasing focus on new media technology. Among scholars interested in the relationship between media and protest, the internet captures the most attention. There are relatively few studies on the role of 24-hour news television, which in some societies is the most game-changing “new media”. In many parts of the world, a commercial and plural television news media are not much older than the public internet, and much more powerful.

This thesis will address the gap by examining how changing media have affected protest movements in Pakistan. It will study Dharnas (protest sit-ins) organized by a major opposition party, comparing how recent protests have changed since the 1990s, which was a period that predates both the internet and commercial news channels in Pakistan. The year 2003 is chosen as a pivotal year as privatization policies formally came in to effect and the government started to issue news television licenses on a commercial basis.

It applies the political process model from social movement studies, which is a well-established framework for explaining how contentious collective action adapts to the political environment and resource availability. The framework gives due regard to the importance of media to movement organizers. Further, this thesis will apply the concept of ‘media logic’ borrowed from the theory of mediatization of politics. According to this theory, media are institutions with a logic that other institutions must adapt to in order to be successful in societies where much of social life, including politics, takes place through media.

The thesis will show that Dharnas, a traditional form of public event, remain extremely relevant to Pakistan’s organizers of contentious collective action, but that they have been transformed by mediatization. It will also show that, in this transformation, television has been more impactful than the internet. It will reveal in detail how the media logic of commercial news channels has shaped the modern Dharna. It will also explore how protest organizers have adapted to the internet that plays a limited albeit a particular role. The study will contribute to media studies’ understanding of how protest activity in semi-democracies is shaped by media pluralisation in the form of television and the internet.