Blogs used to fight martial law in Pak

Islamabad: Defying a growing crackdown on dissent by President Pervez Musharraf, young Pakistanis are using blogs and social networking sites such as Facebook to hit back at a state of emergency.

Plans for "flash" protests in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and other cities are being posted at the last minute to skirt a ban on all political rallies under repressive emergency laws.

The Internet has become a vital tool for them, with the government shutting down the country's biggest two private television news channels on Sunday and rounding up thousands of Opposition leaders.

"We are coordinating protests with other universities across Pakistan using Facebook, using blogs, cellphones and text messages," Ahmad, a student in his 20s from Lahore, said.

He asked that his full name not be used in case he is traced by the authorities. Protesters can face jail if found guilty of inciting unrest, especially since Gen. Musharraf ruled that civilians can be tried in Army courts.

"We let students know through Facebook groups and blogs when the protests are taking place. We are having flash protests for five or ten minutes so we do not get caught," he said. "But the authorities have also been monitoring movies that have been sent to CNN I-Reports so they can identify the students involved," he said.

The most popular Facebook protest group for Pakistan is "We Oppose Emergency in Pakistan", which had 11,471 members as of on Sunday.


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