Conspiracy Theories Galore- Hissan Haqqani

We, the Pakistanis, love conspiracy theories. From the killing of Osama Bin Laden to creation and funding of Taliban and everything in between, our upbringing on stories of Alif Laila manifests itself, and our creativity shines bright and pellucid. It is worth mentioning here that our neighboring countries in South Asia are not much different when it comes to spinning and brewing of stories, but for the sake of a comprehensive synopsis, I will limit the discussion to inhabitants of Pakistan.

For any good conspiracy theory there has to be a protagonist and an antagonist. We obviously know it is the Muslim Ummah who is the going to be the star of the story – and who better than America to dump all woes on, and make it the errant and devious villain. Needless to say the media fans such sentiments also and with the current strained relations between the two countries, it is not hard to pick and choose sides.

To top things off, these days it is also the latest fad, an almost instantaneous way to gain fame and support, to somehow point out that America is behind all the ills that have befallen our nation. The more anti-American one’s views are, the bigger patriot and well-wisher of the state he/she automatically becomes. Our media shows/programs are full of examples where words such as traitor, westernizer and liberal scum are used to identify those siding with US.

The example in particular that I am referring to is off course the conspiracy theory that US is behind the Taliban hit on Malala Yousufzai, the young Pakistani girls who was vocal in criticizing the Taliban for denying girls their right to an education – and the betoken animus behind such a tall claim? Pretty simple really; this Malala ‘drama’ is only to depict the Taliban as the bad guys for following ‘simple’ reasons:

  1. Clear grounds for a military operation in Waziristan – US has been eyeing that area for a while now. The lackey government, which serves as a puppet for the US, will waste no time entering FATA and the tribal belt area. People will sympathize with Malala condemning the TTP (who in fact are agents of CIA themselves) and approve of the move– a false flag operation if you may.
  2. Create public and mass sympathy for CIA who is committing ‘atrocities’ by using drone strikes to murder innocent civilians in the name of collateral damage.
  3. Clear grounds for creating permanent bases in Pakistan and put US boots on the ground.

 It is also worth mentioning here that Ehsanullah Ehsan, the Taliban spokesperson immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on the Malala Yousufzai and her two class fellows who were riding in the same school bus with her. In fact, later on the Taliban also gave a statement that if Malala survives the attack, which she did thankfully (she is now recovering in a hospital in Birmingham), they would target her again and make an example out of her. But does that stop us from looking past the obvious facts? Sadly no.

Taking an objective look at the above reasons presented, one can easily find the gaffes in such theories.

First, president Zardari clearly said in his speech that there would be no anti-militant operation without national consensus and warned of possible blowback ruling out a possibility of military operation in the area.
Second, Mingora valley, the area where Malala Yousufzai was targeted, has not had any drone strikes so the idea that such a move would clear the path for drones operation is ludicrous. The contentious issue of drones is much more complex and has various facets to it. But irrespective, drones and Malala are two separate issues that do not mix well together.
Third, if US wanted boots on ground, they had eleven years and a military force that could easily do so. Why wait till now? It is similar to the whole Osama Bin Laden conspiracy, which suggests it was all a drama and that Osama Bin Laden had been dead since early 2000s. This whole ruse was purportedly to give President Barrack Obama an edge in his domestic presidential campaign. One would think if that were the case, President Obama would have waited till his first presidential debate and not used his trump card in May of 2011.
Social media has been a key platform in propagating such conspiracy theories. One could see the propaganda apparatus churning its wheels on social media with pictures of Malala meeting with late ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and dubbing her as a US agent and spy. Other photographs showed comparisons of Malala being made with Afia Siddique, the Pakistani American who sentenced by a United States district court to 86 years in prison for terrorism related charges. Captions in such photo comparisons labeled Malala as the westernized, liberal and secular minded person versus Afia Siddiqui who was shown to be very religious and dubbed as the real daughter of Pakistan. Various other photographs showed handicapped children allegedly because of drone strikes, asking if the liberals siding with Malala would also speak for these children.
Many tend to believe that such conspiracy thinking is because of the confined national security state we Pakistanis live in, and suggest that it is powered by the shady and infamous security agencies feeding off these misconstrued notions to steer domestic and foreign policies in whatever direction they deem appropriate.

Needless to say, a large chunk of these who subscribe to this idea are accused of being disloyal to the country because anyone who points a finger at national security has other than best interests in mind for the nation. Clearly.

As this scribe mentioned in the beginning, we Pakistanis love conspiracy theories. We will always go on and on about a conspiracy no matter how little evidence we have to go on, or how much of what we have has simply been discredited by way of logic and rationalism. We have an innate inability to understand the Occam’s Razor principle and we also fail to understand that a claim made by anybody, anywhere, is not enough to use as a citation or evidence of proof. Everything has a dastardly reasoning behind it. My dad explains this famous story that when jawaans (soldiers) are served chicken in langar (kitchen) everyone suggests something devious is the reason because who serves chicken in langar? – and when this same lot is served daal chaawal (lentil and rice), the talk of the town becomes that the langar incharge has been pocketing money by not providing meat to everyone.
There is always a story behind even the most inconsequential of things. Nothing seems to quench our insufferable thirst for conspiracy theories and excuse making.

As the famous Punjabi saying goes:
Kithay paasay jaawan, manjhi kithay dhaawan – (where do I go now, where should I put my cot)

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