The Truthers of Pakistan

By HUMA YUSUF

Editors’ Note Appended

LONDON — As the security situation in Pakistan continues to deteriorate, trading conspiracy theories has become the new national pastime. Nothing is more popular on the airwaves, at dinner parties or around tea stalls than to speculate, especially about American activities on Pakistani soil.

According to many Pakistanis, the C.I.A. used a mysterious technology to cause the devastating floods that affected 20 million people in 2010. Washington had the teenage champion for girls’ education, Malala Yousafzai, shot as part of a campaign to demonize the Pakistani Taliban and win public support for American drone strikes against them. The terrorists who strike Pakistani targets are non-Muslim “foreign agents.” Osama bin Laden was an American operative.

 

The Pakistani penchant for conspiracy theories results from decades of military rule, during which the army controlled the media and the shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence agency controlled much of everything else. The lack of transparency and scarcity of information during subsequent democratic rule has further fueled rumors.

Mostly, however, conspiracy theories persist because many turn out to be true.

A few years ago, Pakistan’s independent media denounced the presence in Pakistan of C.I.A. agents and private security firms like Blackwater. While U.S. and Pakistani government officials denied any such infiltration, private television channels broadcast footage of the homes of Westerners, allegedly Blackwater agents. One right-wing newspaper, The Nation, even named one Wall Street Journal correspondent as a C.I.A. spy, forcing him to leave the country. (The allegation was false, and the reporter now works for The New York Times.)

For a time liberal Pakistanis condemned this as a witch hunt and decried poor journalistic ethics. But soon the international media disclosed that Blackwater was in fact operating in Pakistan at an airbase in Baluchistan used by the C.I.A.

Then it was revealed that the American citizen who shot and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore in January 2011 — an American diplomat, the U.S. government claimed initially — turned out to be a C.I.A. agent, just as many conspiracy theorists had surmised.

And what about those U.S. drone strikes targeting militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt? It turns out those suspicious Pakistanis were right to imagine that their own government was complicit. That became clear when, in November 2011, to protest a NATO airstrike that killed Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan, the Pakistani government ordered the C.I.A. to leave the Shamsi airbase in Baluchistan, from where the drone attacks were being launched.

ZHOther rumors concern India, Pakistan’s long-time rival. Zaid Hamid, a jihadist-turned-policy analyst, alleges that the Indian spy agency R.A.W.funds and arms the Pakistani Taliban. Some Pakistani officials accuse New Delhi of facilitating the separatist insurgency in Baluchistan.

This paranoia was confirmed this week by Chuck Hagel, the new U.S. secretary of defense. A video clip from 2011 that circulated during his confirmation hearings shows Hagel claiming that India uses Afghanistan as a “second front” against Pakistan and “has over the years financed problems for Pakistan on that side of the border.”Hagel

The allegation outraged the Indian government and undermined liberal Pakistanis who believe India wants a stable Pakistan and support improved bilateral ties. Meanwhile, of course, it validated those conspiracy mongers who have long warned that India wants to culturally subsumecolonize or destroy Pakistan.


 

Huma Yusuf is a columnist for the Pakistani newspaper Dawn and was the 2010-11 Pakistan Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

 


Editors’ Note: March 1, 2013

This version of the post clarifies that the allegations made by a Pakistani newspaper that a Wall Street Journal reporter was a C.I.A. spy were false.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/the-truthers-of-pakistan/

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Comments

  • Faisal Imam  On March 3, 2013 at 1:34 am

    India is a non-believer of Pakistan as a concept just like some living in Pakistan today. They are the advocates of the concept of ummah and deny the nation State as a concept. Their thinking comes from the dark ages, pre nation state which started in the seventeenth century.
    How can India reconcile with a strong ,vibrant Pakistan when it does not believe in it?
    Our ideologues have been set aside by the non-believers(of Pakistan) and its two nation theory.
    They cannot define two nation theory because it is in direct conflict of their archaic beliefs.
    They have infiltrated our classrooms,our campuses and turned them into morgues. Happiness has been thrown out of the windows.
    Growth has been stifled. Thinking outside the box is taboo. Trying new things and thinking outside the box is sacrilege.it has become a turf for the illiterate clergy.
    Our problems are within us and not foreign.at least not from the tradionally so called enemies but this ideological cancer which has crept in our society.

    Sent from my iPad

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