Conspiracies abound

Published: December 28, 2014
The writer is Editor of The Express Tribune

The writer is Editor of The Express Tribune

This week I received a SMS text from a friend of mine. This forwarded message talked about how the “so-called” militant groups only attack schools, mosques and bazars and how this really proves that the attackers are not who they claim to be. After all, the TTP and others are Muslims and so their targets would have automatically been “places of obscenity” like bars and discos as well as gambling dens and brothels.

Therefore, the text message concluded, these attackers are actually foreign agents in the garb of Islamic militant organizations. Case closed. I would have laughed this off except that many people in Pakistan believe this. In fact, most swear that this is indeed the case. That is why they continue to silently support the militants.

There are some who are not even silent in their support. They believe in the cause and are happy to provide sanctuary as well as financial help. In most instances, al Qaeda operatives have been arrested from the houses of such people. And yet we are unable to wake up to this reality.

If there is any doubt about the commitment of these sympathizers, one only has to look at the video released by Jamia Hafsa students in which they have paid homage to the leaders of the ISIS and their fighters. The language, the tone and words used give one an idea of how committed such people are to turning Pakistan into an ISIS controlled state.

I remember a visit to Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar some years back where I talked to a policeman whose foot had been blown off due to an explosive device planted by militants. When I asked him how he felt, he said he was confused. On the one hand he was angry at his injury but he still didn’t blame the other side and said he was sympathetic to their cause too.  This sums up our predicament.

Forget the few hundred who rant and rave on social media (which is largely in English) or those well-meaning commentators who write strong pieces for our English language media.  The majority of Pakistanis, who have grown up on a diet of a sensationalist media and a hate-mongering  school curricula,  or have been moulded  in their thinking by rabid religious or political figures that thrive on the anti-India, anti-West propaganda, their perceptions are entirely different.

You cannot make them believe that in fact the militants our government nurtured all along have turned against us.  I once asked then president Asif Zardari why was it that when there was a drone strike there were several protests but when there was a terrorist attack, no one stood up to protest in the same manner. Not even the politicians. He did not have an answer for that.

This is a country that believes there were no Jews in the World Trade Center building on the day of the September 11 attacks, or that Neil Armstrong actually heard a call to prayer when he landed on the moon. They believe that a car can be run on water.

It is no surprise that in most terror attacks in the country, there is almost always a foreign hand to be found. It is either Central Asians or Afghans. But never Pakistanis.  Never do we say that the terrorist killed was actually from South Punjab or Upper Sindh. It is always someone else. Never us. Strange tattoos are found on the bodies of these terrorists. As if they are part of some secret cult and not a militant organization.

As we enter a new year, maybe we can also come up with a new look at how to deal with the war of the minds. This is as important as the battle being fought in North Waziristan. Pakistanis have to be convinced that it is their war. And more important, they should be willing to fight it.

I am hopeful that the small civil society protests started by brave people like Jibran Nasir and Shan Taseer are able to gather momentum in the coming months. But most of those who attend these rallies come from an enlightened background. The masses are missing. There is still not enough anger against the losses we have suffered.  We need to change that.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th,  2014.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • F Khan
    Dec 28, 2014 - 11:36PM

    Where I agree with most part of the write up I would like to disagree that the educated class are moderate and enlightened.I have talked and seen the worst apologist and supporters of this conspiracy theories are the educated class.We have to start with changing the school curriculum and teach moderation and tolerance as a basic compulsory subject, control these hate spreading mosque imams,reform madressas,make laws to restrict glorifying the extremist and their cause in the press and media.The change should start from class room and mosques, the very place this all have started.This is a two generation work.What we have sowed in 20 years will take 100 years to go that even if we do all the right things for the next few decades.


  • Saif
    Dec 29, 2014 - 1:40AM

    great article…an article which hits nail on its head


  • Mohsin
    Dec 29, 2014 - 6:46AM

    It is not our war. If the prevailing narrative is to be believed these militants are the army’s doing. It is the army’s war and it is their job to secure the country. They are failing miserably at that job.


  • Feroz
    Dec 29, 2014 - 9:39AM

    When presented with choices we need to make the right decisions. If we do not do so, we lose not just years of our fruitful and productive life and spend precious resources to correct it, but will also tend to shift blame to others for our misery. To avoid these happenings we need to encourage free thinking in the youth, so they do not need tutoring in differentiating between good and bad, right and wrong.
    Secondly, the easiest path to follow or the most convenient one, may not be the right one. Taking hasty and opportunistic decision can come back to haunt the country, more so when it comes to legislating in haste. A lot needs to be done, but without a change in mindset and some kind of deradicalization, positive results may elude the country.


  • Tariq Malik
    Dec 29, 2014 - 11:16AM

    I agree. We need to stand up and tackle this cancer, which threatens us from inside, deceiving us and killing our children, destroying our future generations and harming country.


  • outspoken
    Dec 29, 2014 - 12:12PM

    I don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories. I agree that it is TTP and the army, -old buddies,- that are today at each other’s throats. But I also find that Taliban have a point and their fight is legitimate because they demand that the government should follow the constitution in letter and spirit by enforcing sharia as enshrined in t he constitution.


  • ishrat salim
    Dec 29, 2014 - 2:34PM

    If ” It is our war “…why should we demand CSF money from the Americans ? we are actually fighting our war on behalf of the Americans to keep America safe, so, that is our justification when demanding CSF money, which by the way has been extended till 2016…..this disease was inflicted during Gen Zia era, which has now become cancerous. MUST watch Ms Clinton press conference talk show video, wherein she conceded that they assisted to form Al Qaeda & Taliban then left Pakistan to face this menace….then we nurtured it as cushion between India & Afghanistan & in between we left it spread its tentacles through numerous madrasas & funding by self-interested countries to keep their houses safe by sacrificing our people, which we are still doing. It was our fault to have made such policies, which increased the activities of these groups under different names to operate inside our country with impunity. It was our incompetence, due to which it has now taken a shape of ” 100s headed monster “. Cut 1 head, another grows….cancer stage is over, no chemotherapy will work, because cancer has its final stage & that stage has passed, so calling the problem as ” cancerous ” is wrong. It was never a cancer but a monster in the making which no one realized then & not realizing even today….because not us not even the Americans & the Europeans have been able to define ” terrorist, terrorism “.


  • raider
    Dec 29, 2014 - 4:59PM

    @F Khan:
    dear u are missing very important thing that is change within political parties unless untill they are not tended to become real Democrats and dynastic politics is abandoned, political change within country would be day dreaming


  • Umer Arif
    Dec 29, 2014 - 6:57PM

    @F Khan you are right. Among doctors I have heard calls for bans on Ahmadiyas performing Haj. I have heard these same educated doctors make such vile hateful blood curdling condemnations of Shias. The disease of hate is everywhere in all sections of society.


  • Dec 30, 2014 - 7:54PM

    My question is what is the world doing do to compensate the innocent prisoners subjected to torture, mock executions, sleep-deprivation, profanities, chaining naked, and sacrilegious attacks? Why the suffering? Why the non-erasable emotional scars? Now that US doesn’t have any ‘vested interests’ left to safeguard in the region, they leave out the ‘Global War against Terrorism’ and ‘making the world safer’ ideology behind. After creating an army of brutally retaliating terrorists and making it easier for them to recruit more – giving them reasons to further retaliate through such gross human rights violations, they have created a never-ending fiasco for others to deal with. How convenient is that!


  • Muhammad Atif
    Dec 31, 2014 - 12:46AM

    The author is right in concluding that the majority of Pakistanis don’t believe that this is ‘their war’. But rather then dwelling on simply saying that Pakistanis dwell on ‘conspiracy theories’ we should look at the evidence. Then interior minister Rehman Malik famously denied in December 2010 that Blackwater was operating in Pakistan. Well it may not have been Blackwater but when CIA agent Raymond Davis popped up in February 2011, when he also murdered two Pakistanis, it exposed our politicians as liars. Incidently Davis, who did not face the death penalty and was allowed to go home, was not the only one. Most recently in April 2014 Joel Cox was caught at Karachi airport and then allowed to go home.

    When Pakistan is accepting huge amounts of US aid in the form of CSF payments and other disbursements (our CJCSC Gen Rashad Mahmood) went straight to Washington after Zarb-E-Azb started, the US Senate approved $950 million on his arrival) its hard to make the argument that this is indeed ‘our war’. Pakistan’s leaders have failed on every front; they don’t care about the children dying in Thar, there’s no electricity/gas, inflation is sky high, unemployment at levels that our youth who can afford it only look to go abroad for their future, abysmal healthcare and a failing education system; then our politicians say they are going to lead this nation into war? Please, the truth is that they are simply not trusted any more. So let’s not insult the intelligence of the ‘masses’, let’s give them some credit where its due because they are not going to get anything else from our leaders.


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