After gaining independence from Britain in 1947, for more than half of its history various authoritarian regimes and military dictatorships have ruled Pakistan. As military leaders needed civilian masks to legitimize their rule, Pakistan’s parasitic landlords and religious elite stepped in to fill the vacuum, in the process gaining significant control over the socio-political discourse via Islamic ideology. Under this authoritarian arrangement, no dissent or freedom of expression is allowed, and every channel of communication is placed under tight state scrutiny. Similarly, activist pockets of resistance have also never faltered to oppose and challenge such forces and the status quo, significant among them being the media, lawyers, intellectuals, and pro-democracy elements. The first part of this dissertation examines the resistance, social movements, and struggle for democracy under authoritarian rule, and the role of state controlled broadcast media and the independent but severely chained print media in a historical perspective. After the liberalization of private sector broadcasting and cable television in 2002, Pakistan saw a massive surge in digital technologies and new media. The second part examines the role of digital media in organizing collective action, and facilitating democratic struggles during General Musharraf’s tenure. It investigates the role of new media platforms and digital technologies in the service of the largest social movement of lawyers, journalists, media, and civil society from March 2007 to October 2008, a period that saw the imposition of Emergency Rule, crackdown on media, assassination of Benazir Bhutto, and ultimately, fresh general elections that saw the ouster of Musharraf. Given the dire scarcity of academic enquiry into these areas in Pakistan’s history, it is the intention of this dissertation to fill the vacuum.
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Thesis advisor: Howard, Pat
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