11/19/2007, 00.00
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Young people defy Musharraf online

With satellite TV shut down and printed press locked up, Internet becomes the venue for anti-government protest. Flash protests against the military dictatorship are organised on the net.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Defying a growing crackdown on dissent by President Pervez Musharraf, young Pakistanis are using the Internet to organise small anti-government protests and hit back at the state of emergency proclaimed on 3 November.

With the government shutting down private satellite channels and suppressing the free press, young people have taken to the net to discuss the situation in the big cities and co-ordinate quick protests avoiding the police crackdown.

“We are coordinating protests with other universities across Pakistan using Facebook, using blogs, cell-phones and text messages,” Ahmad, a student in his 20s from Lahore, said. “We are having flash protests for five or ten minutes so we do not get caught,” he added.

Gatherings of more than five people and public demonstrations are banned under emergency rule. And anyone arrested can be charged with subversion and stand before military courts since civilian courts have been suspended.

So far most protests have been small, but last week they escalated when 3,000 students from Lahore's Punjab University turned out for two days running to protest against the arrest of Musharraf opponent and cricket legend Imran Khan.

Internet use has soared in Pakistan in the past five years, with service providers saying between five and 10 million people, mostly young people, are online.

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See also
Countdown for democracy in Islamabad
Muslim League withdraws its ministers, plunging Pakistan government into crisis
Judge Chaudhry calls for a popular “uprising”
Hearing into President Musharraf’s conduct could lead to his incrimination
Musharraf announces end to the state of emergency


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