Why are Pakistanis so prone to conspiracy theories?

ajtr

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Our dogmatic liberals

The writer is a research fellow at the Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge, and teaches courses on globalization, religion and politics of South Asia.

"Why are Pakistanis so prone to conspiracy theories?" a colleague at Cambridge recently asked. He was referring to recent debates about the presence of Blackwater in Pakistan. A version of this question is echoed by the liberal intelligentsia of Pakistan. The local version emphasises the focus on Blackwater within the rhetoric of a segment of society, notably the Islamists. A common refrain amongst the liberal intelligentsia to the question of Blackwater presence in Pakistan is that we must look inwards, we must critique ourselves and our own creations such as the Taliban before we focus on Blackwater. Through framing any critique of Blackwater as conspiracy theory, there is some congruence between the stance of my colleague at Cambridge, who is largely unfamiliar with Pakistan, and the liberal intelligentsia: they both see this focus on Blackwater as an illogical act, as a hiding behind and of course, as an abdication of our own responsibility.

What this discourse of 'our' responsibility that 'we' need to confront hides in its language of the universal 'we' in Pakistan is the reality of an extremely fractured and polarised Pakistan. There is no unified 'we' who is responsible for the rise of the Taliban, no unanimous 'we' that supported the intrusion of neo-liberal economic policies in everyday life so that about half of Pakistan is now living below the poverty line, no united 'we' that decided to support either militancy or America's war for the last decade. There are many different interest groups and classes within Pakistan and some are more implicated in the destruction of Pakistan than others.

When a handful of advisers decide to sign treaties that sell our environment and our children's future to multinational companies, can we rightfully blame the many millions who were not even informed, much less consulted, about these deals? When a few generals make millions out of fighting an ambiguously defined externally mandated war, can we continue to blame the foot soldier who refuses to kill his own extended family? When some members of the ISI continue to believe that maintaining some link with the Taliban in Afghanistan will allow them 'strategic depth', can we continue to assume that the 15-year-old teenager in Swat must share responsibility and bomb his home with impunity?

Questioning the role of Blackwater and criticising those segments of our society that bear responsibility for the mess that we are in should not be considered to be mutually exclusive. It is naivety of the highest degree to assume that due to some confluence of stars the US interest in the region today coincides with that of progressive Pakistanis. But even if we assume that is the case, how precisely specific activities such as those carried out by Blackwater are to help the building of this democratic, just and secular society remains largely unclear. Are we to believe that the presence of Blackwater in Pakistan should be borne silently because it will conduce to making these ISI officers democracy-loving, committed secularists?

What is Blackwater doing in Pakistan precisely? There is no clear answer to this question forthcoming from our interior minister who has denied their presence as a holding tactic, in the face of mounting evidence to the contrary. The role of Blackwater in instigating sectarian violence within Iraq is no secret. We are also familiar with their role as a private contractor to the US army allowing it to bypass Geneva Conventions. Just as Gap could buy T-shirts at rock bottom prices from sweatshops claiming that the company does not bear any responsibility for what its sub-contractors do to their workers, similarly, US army officials can deny responsibility for torture, kidnapping and extra-judicial killings because they claim ignorance of, or lack of control over, their subcontractor's operations.

Of course, this separation from the US armed forces and the CIA is a line in the sand. On August 21, 2008, the New York Times reported that Blackwater performed aerial bombing on behalf of the CIA in Pakistan: "At hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan… the company's contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft, work previously performed by employees of the Central Intelligence Agency." In a feature-length interview in Vanity Fair, Erik Prince the founder and owner of Blackwater, now re-branded as Xe Inc., expressed a sense of betrayal: "I don't understand how a programme this sensitive leaks. And to 'out' me on top of it?"

However, when it is expedient Blackwater is not above claiming a close relationship with the US military. When the families of Blackwater contractors killed in Iraq sued the company for failing to protect their loved ones, Blackwater countersued the families for breaching contracts that forbids the men or their estates from filing such lawsuits. More critically, the company claimed that, since it operates as an extension of the military, it cannot be held responsible for deaths in a war zone.

Blackwater activities run the gamut of assassinations, bombings, bribery, kidnapping, torture. None of them truly conducive to building a democratic, peaceful society. It is more than irresponsible to assume that they are here doing the job for the democratic, secular citizen of Pakistan. If we are to get rid of the militants within our midst we have to do it in a sustainable way and in a manner that would ensure that a new generation of family-less children bent upon revenge is not being raised.

What this discourse of 'our' responsibility hides from view is the possibility that there is a continued nexus between the very groups that supported the rise of militancy in Pakistan and now allow the presence of Blackwater in Pakistan. What is precisely the nexus of power and interests that allows Blackwater to operate in Pakistan with impunity? We are not abdicating responsibility by asking that question but taking on the task of critical self-examination. Not all of us are equally implicated in this but some of us are. To take the question of Blackwater in Pakistan seriously is to begin to take the question of responsibility seriously.

When the Islamists raise this issue their slogan resonates with the citizen who has developed a social imaginary of continued US intervention in Pakistani politics through the control and manipulation of a small group of people. Charles Taylor, the well-known political philosopher, has defined social imaginary as distinct from social theory. Social imaginary refers to how people imagine their social surroundings in ways distinct from theoretical frameworks. Social imagination is carried in stories, images and legends. It is also more widespread and thus makes possible common practices and a shared sense of legitimacy.

The Islamists tap into this shared knowledge about the US role in Pakistan politics. The Islamists may have their own agenda but to continuously define themselves in a reactive opposition to their stances would be a fatal mistake for groups that claim a stake in progressive politics. History moves in dynamic and non-linear ways. By remaining stuck in a static definition of progressive and regressive and allying themselves ever more closely with oppressive power, the liberals may ultimately render their cause irrelevant. For those of us committed to a just and democratic Pakistan, these dogmatic liberals are as great a danger as the militants.
 

Energon

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This is categorically the most useless op ed piece I have read in recent times considering the author states a genuine concern in the title but never actually addresses it; even her rants are incoherent. I also find it funny that the author equates technical contractors working on the predator drone program to "blackwater having performed aerial bombing on behalf of the CIA in Pakistan." She needs to polish up on her reading and writing skills.
 

ajtr

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'New wine shops, conspiracy to destroy youth'


KARACHI: Giving permission to open more than 50 new wine shops in Karachi is a deep conspiracy to ruin the future of youth of this financial, trade and industrial lifeline of Pakistan, and if the government failed to withdraw the licenses of these new wine shops, the enraged people of Karachi would be compelled to raze these wine shops, warned Jamaat e Islami (JI) Karachi.

JI Karachi secretary general Hafiz Naeemur Rehman said that there is no precedent in the history of Pakistan to give permission to open wine shops in such a large number in Muslim dominated localities. He recalled that last time, 15 years ago, the then regime had issued 22 licenses to wine shops in one go in Karachi.

He said that the population of minorities living in Karachi is not large enough to justify the opening of 50 new wine shops. He said that allowing so many wine shops to operate in purely Muslim localities is a deep conspiracy and the whole nation should take a serious notice of this sad state of affairs.

Rehman said that some hidden hands want to spoil Pakistani youth and promote alcoholism in them, which is highly condemnable. He regretted that the rulers of an Islamic republic are patronizing alcoholism and drug culture instead of promoting Islamic values and culture.

He said that there is no place of wine shops in any Muslim society. He also said that there has already been a rising trend of crime in the areas where wine shops are operating. He said that he respects the rights of minorities, but promoting alcoholism in Muslim youth in the name of minorities' rights could not be tolerated.

He warned that a serious unrest is simmering in Muslim dominated localities where the imprudent rulers had allowed permissions to open new wine shops. He said that if the government failed to realize the gravity of this sensitive issue and cancel the new licenses of wine shops the people would be justified to take the matter in their own hands.

He demanded the sacking of provincial minister for excise and taxation and withdrawing permissions for opening of new wine shops in Karachi.
 

Tshering22

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Why hack articles after articles and waste bandwidth and paper on such a simple topic? Born out of religious terrorism, intolerance and xenophobia, a nation lacking a distinct cultural identity that was carved solely out of greed of one man to become the first leader using Islam as his tool, resulting in formation of a country that lacked vision, political structure, economic potential and intellectual thinking.

Religion formed the sole drape of identity for the country which never paraded its own so-called culture that was borrowed from mainstream Hindu customs and added with a twist of pan-Arab-Persianism. When mosques became more than schools, colleges and laboratories, when godmen became more politically powerful than the administration that they were supposed to comply with and when the foundation of the nation was based on everything its parent nation was NOT.....

You get a nation that is easily susceptible to conspiracies through one and one medium: obsession with religion. To all those who have intention of disagreeing with me, I would recommend a simple Google search for Pakistani forums: it doesn't matter whether it is defence, filmy, musical, hobbies, jokes or any other form of forum, there is going to be definitely at least a dozen comments that are focused on Quranic verses, digress from the topic, make the Pakistanis go back to Arab and Turkish history rather than their own (which technically means they've to agree their heritage from us which is not acceptable to them) and then by the end, the discussion either gets banned if the moderator is a liberal Pakistani (an oxymoron here), or it just gets closed due to misbehavior, rude remarks, harassing etc.

It doesn't need pages of reports, researches or books to understand this. A simple 30 minute surfing through net can make any person see why the nation has almost sunk in conspiracies.
 

Rage

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Because of their lack of entertainment.

Honestly, it may seem like a useless reason, but from my interaction with Pakistanis, I've come to believe that conspiracy theories are actually a form of 'entertainment'.

They have no clubs in Pakistan, no broad-based social interaction between the sexes, no culture of arts and cinema comparable to most other countries and most importantly, no sense of general direction in which their nation is headed.

Conspiracy theories serve as a 'talking point' at their parties, because that's what they do, sit around and talk about conspiracies and how much they hate Musharraf, love Musharraf, love Bollywood or hate India.

They dress well, but that's about as limited as their 'glamorousness' gets.
 
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navida

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Because of their lack of entertainment.

Honestly, it may seem like a useless reason, but from my interaction with Pakistanis, I've come to believe that conspiracy theories are actually a form of 'entertainment'.

They have no clubs in Pakistan, no broad-based social interaction between the sexes, no culture of arts and cinema comparable to most other countries and most importantly, no sense of general direction in which their nation is headed.

Conspiracy theories serve as a 'talking point' at their parties, because that's what they do, sit around and talk about conspiracies and how much they hate Musharraf, love Musharraf, love Bollywood or hate India.

They dress well, but that's about as limited as their 'glamorousness' gets.
That's true.. I was surprised to see the young fashionable Pakistanis having a very simplistic outlook on their nation and the rest of the world. Even the pop singers who are their biggest celebrities believe in conspiracy theories. I think it also has a lot to do with them wanting easy answers to their country's ills and feel a little better about themselves by shifting the blame on others.
 
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civfanatic

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That's true.. I was surprised to see the young fashionable Pakistanis having a very simplistic outlook on their nation and the rest of the world. Even the pop singers who are their biggest celebrities believe in conspiracy theories. I think it also has a lot to do with them wanting easing answers to their country's ills and feel a little better about themselves by shifting the blame on others.
When a nation is founded on a flawed principle and rejects its history and identity, it will naturally result in the minds of the people being screwed up.

I actually feel sorry for Pakistanis more than I hate them. If you take away all the bullshit ideology and conspiracy theories, Indians and Pakistanis are pretty much the same people.
 

Rage

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I'm not so sure about that.

I've heard that the red-light districts in Lahore and Karachi are thriving.
What percentage of the general, urban, middle-class yuppy visits the red-light district? I'd wager a bet, that the red-light districts were almost exclusively frequented by low-class, menial workers or truck drivers or bus drivers. Just as they are in India. Or in the case of fancy donnacia, the über rich with nothing else to do.
 

ajtr

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I'm not so sure about that.

I've heard that the red-light districts in Lahore and Karachi are thriving.
shame on you to equate red-light districts with that of entertainment joints.
 

sob

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When the leaders have nothing to offer the masses in terms of education employment and security they will have to pull out all these conspiracy theories to divert the attention of the electorate.

People all over the world love conspiracy theories but with nothing better to do Pakistanis relish them and it feeds on their various complexes, stoked by their political leaders.
 

Ray

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Khuswant Singh goes ga ga over the pleasures of Lahore's Heera Mandi.

It is what one would say embodies La Whore!
 

peacecracker

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Generally, Cospiracy Theories are More Prevalent in Muslim Countries.care to think Why? I believe Propaganda is what some groups use to survive.for eg: the absolute hate pakistanis in general carry in their inner mind for Hinduism and India.
 
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thakur_ritesh

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Such theories catching fire reflect insecurities and vulnerability on part of people who buy it, and failure to deliver on promises made, a part of bigger agenda and an inferiority complex on part of interest groups who float it, one finds all of that in Pakistanis who do either of the two. CTs are nothing but lies.

Pakistan as a country has failed on numerous fronts:

Their failure in able to keep sub-continent muslims together, 1/3rd never joined them the other 1/3rd joined them but never liked what was offered and separated. More muslims get killed in Pakistan to acts of violence in a year than they do in a decade in india. They failed the religion and in the process religion failed them!
Economically they have failed on various occasions, every now and then they look out for bailouts and aid money from kafirs.
Militarily they failed after losing numerous wars to a kafir india.
Strategically they failed, the terror groups that they thought would fight their cause today bite the same hands which fed and reared them.
Culturally they failed, they once had a thriving entertainment industry, and today all they watch are kafir Indians, their women cant move around alone, girl schools get boomed out, the only place for women is in the four walls, and much more.

Interest groups primarily compose of the military elite, and political elite who rule them, and so as to make sure their misrule and follies committed were never challenged so they floated such CTs, so one sees for every ill that country faces there is an outside hand and the insecure populace uncertain of a future relied on such theories for they had no other place to go and seek shelter. Those who intend to write their own destinies like the baluchis are mass murdered by the ruling elite, so for now there remains no escaping the misrule other than believe all the lies they are told.

So what was it that the pakistani ruling elite could really call itself a success? In pakistani ruling elite one finds a perfect answer to worst form of failures on all ends and an inferiority complex of not being able to stand up to the kafir Indians who for some reason were able to do everything better than they managed to.

Let us see for long the joke continues.
 

prototype

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Their r many reasons why they support conspiracy theory

Pakistan as a nation from the its emergence live in a feeling that it was betrayed by the world at every level,from its independence to Kashmir and Bangladesh

Moreover in recent times their economical condition,disasters,natural calamities,terrorism and their political instability,their ineffective leaders everything have plagued them in recent times

as a true national they find it hard that most of the result r their policies and feel all this happened because of the same betrayal they faced from this demoniac world,hence they made it a habit to blame others,blame a foreign hand for each and every misfortune of their

Soon the Media houses and certain people(u know whom)started to sense it and started to capitalize on it,roll every day a new controversy theory and increase ur sales and trp.Soon controversy theory became the national sport of Pakistan

the player in this game change every day.The popular 3 r India,Israel and U.S,every day one of them will b the centerpiece of their controversy theories,they r selected on the basis of against whom Pakistani's had the most resentment on the given day

Controversy theories r of two types,one in which how this evil world with the leadership of 1 of the above mentioned nation is planning a cheap and deadly mission to obliterate Pakistan and the other one's in which how even after so much misfortune how the great 6 foot tall,white,god fearing people from the land of pure r still superior to the people from land of infidels(India, Israel)and its military

some people had gained so much foothold in Pakistan publishing this controversy theories that they have become ultra popular,media houses fight with each other to bring this people for their evening show

Anyway Pakistani people believe that such kind of news will ward of all evils and the misfortunes from their society they can happily have it
 

maomao

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Strong belief in such conspiracy theories rather than introspection depicts only intellectual bankruptcy, frustration and insecurity amongst the indoctrinated people of the "land of the pure", their unacceptability to the fact that they are nothing when compared to their neighbors in a global scenario, nor they command any respect internationally whenever facing India on any issue which makes them wonder how can "Fort of Islam" / "Allah's Secret" is not ruling the world (or ruling (proud) Kafirs of India, atleast Islam should rule Kashmir?, isn't this their destiny, they ask), what follows next is trademark case of mass dementia, caused by years of brainwashing and these indoctrinated test subjects go to these Big Daddies of conspiracy theories and take refuge from their Failures by blaming others.

Moreover, this is the only way in which a delusional nation won't ask questions to the ruling elite (in this case pakistan army/pakjabi feudal lords) about Failures and shameless dependence on Kafir funds to survive, as the answers are all on their tables on every TV show watching pakistani and they are shamelessly told nothing won't change till the time these Powers exist (i.e pakistan army generals will keep on eating Dollars and fight like mercenaries, but won't do a damn about the country's poor or development, and the foolish awam should not bother as India, US and Israel won't let them develop).

This is a symbiotic relation not one sided dependency, pakistan army needs bogeymen to cover their corruption, greed and ownership details for which they require their ever jihadi awam to be engaged in some recreational activity or other (be it Kashmir, Afghanistan, Palestine, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkestan, Moros et al); on the other hand their awam needs psychological boosters to cover up their failure as a nation, society and as a community (obviously Islam cannot Fail), hence blame goes on others for pakistan being a debacle/failure. Pathological inefficiencies and genetic mutation of the society is termed as conspiracy against the "land of the pure" and "religion of peace".
 
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