Pakistan’s “long march” in the streets and on the Internet

March 11, 2009

Pakistani authorities banned public protests and detained hundreds of lawyers and opposition workers nationwide to prevent them from launching Thursday’s planned ”long march” towards the capital Islamabad to force President Asif Ali Zardari to reinstate a former Supreme Court judge.

Many went into hiding according to these reports, vowing to press on with the cross-country motor convoy that will set off from cities in Baluchistan and Sind and then Puinjab on Friday before culminating outside the parliament building in the capital.

And many others turned to the Internet, using blogs and Twitter to report on detentions, swapping pictures and information about security deployments and in so doing keeping alive perhaps the gravest threat to Zardari’s one-year-old administration.

Here some of the tweets or short messages on the popular Twitter site :

“One sp (superintendent of police)  in Gujranwala refuses to arrest people. Government removes him from his post,” wrote one.

Another wrote : “All fast food & other companies warned by Govt to NOT provide food to LongMarch participants and rest houses warned not to rent rooms.” Another wrote about police raiding the house of a political worker in Rawalpindi who died eight years ago.

Not everyone was rooting for the long marchers though in a country battling multiple security challenges as well as an economic meltdown. “They want us to stop work and go long marching … Therefore I have decided to work 1 extra hour every day … Say NO to #longmarch.” wrote  another.

You can see all the Twitter updates here

With all the wall-to-wall coverage on the Internet and on television, you have to wonder if the Pakistani authorities have bitten off more than they can chew. Pakistanis are recoiling  against the crackdown, according to this BBC story.

And  the Washington Post quoted retired army general Talat Masood as saying  this about Zardari: “If he wants to be a dictator, he is sadly mistaken because the army is not going to be behind him. He is on a suicide mission.”

[Photos of police detaining a protester in Karachi and Nawaz Sharif addressing a rally on March 11]

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