Ahmed Rashid: the power of Pakistani conspiracy theories
Pakistani seminary students gather in front of the final hiding place of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 5, 2011.
May 6th, 2011
01:40 PM ET

Ahmed Rashid: the power of Pakistani conspiracy theories

Ahmed Rashid has a piece over at The New Republic on Pakistan.  This section on the power of conspiracy theories caught my eye:

Pakistan is not a failed state, or as yet a failing one, even though it may be in a state of chaos or meltdown. Unlike really failed states, it has a powerful army and a corrupt, run-down, but still functioning bureaucracy, judiciary, and police force. Pakistanis perform outstandingly well in the realm of culture: in the arts, television, fashion design, pop music, and of course cricket. What is missing are adequate social services, such as health care, education, population-control programs, and jobs for a population that is nearing 200 million people. Like many Arab countries, Pakistan faces a youth bulge, with an estimated 60 percent of its people under twenty-five years old.

For these young people without adequate education and employment, who have to deal with a corrupt system that offers no panacea to the poor, joining an Islamic extremist group is not at all unusual. It is the norm. For this reason, a replay of an “Arab awakening” in Pakistan would not lead to the dawn of true democracy, but rather to a mass movement whose leadership would swiftly fall into the hands of Islamic extremists, who would then try to overthrow the state.

What Pakistanis desperately need is a new narrative by their leaders—a narrative that does not blame the evergreen troika of India, the United States, and Israel for all of the country’s ills, that breaks the old habit of blaming outsiders and instead looks at itself more honestly and more transparently. Pakistanis as a nation seem incapable of self-analysis, of apportioning blame according to logic and reason rather than emotion.

Along with the causes that I listed above, the wave of intolerance sweeping the country is also due substantially to the conspiracy theories put about by the ruling establishment and their allies in the media. These various hallucinations paint Pakistan as the victim, maligned and wronged at the hands of foreign powers—especially the United States and India. In the imagination of many Pakistanis, the country is regularly used for some geopolitical aim by the Americans and then discarded in favor of India. These sinister outsiders want to subvert, destroy, and undermine Pakistan—but no logical reason is offered as to why. And few will publicly argue that in fact it is the selective state sponsorship of extremism that is destroying the country.

The narrative that has been peddled by the state for much of the past decade is that Pakistan is being undermined by the presence of American forces in Afghanistan, and that if they were to leave the Pakistani Taliban would go home, the suicide bombings would cease, and everything would go back to normal. The ultimate aim of the United States in Afghanistan—so the narrative continues—is to capture Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, even as India is busily dismembering Pakistan by funding Baloch separatists and the Pakistani Taliban. But if that is so, why on earth did the state allow the revival of the Afghan Taliban in 2003, which has only delayed the American withdrawal from Afghanistan? And for those demanding higher military budgets, the most self-serving conspiracy theory is that Pakistan is locked in an interminable conflict with India, which cannot be resolved.

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Topics: Pakistan

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. RAJ

    Ahmed Rashid, I absolutely agree with you. Why ? You have shown deep understanding and explain in plain language, the fact of all Pakistan's present issues with its good sides. Major faults are open to everyone, constantly blaming India and USA for all its problems to gain political advantage. Problem for Pakistan is that politicians are afraid of ISI and military and always feel that they will loose there political power if they do not cooperate with them. Military power is enjoying the freedom and hegemony on politicians. Hiding of terrorist, supporting Taliban indirectly, creating problems to India by sending trained terrorist group, all these are done under the pressure from ISI and military leaders. Once they do do get caught, these leaders adopt habitual easy solution to lie on this facts. Pakistan must understand that they can fool few sometime but they cannot fool everyone all the time. This habit of lying is going to cost them very badly. India is getting impatient which have stronger capability to strike and defeat Pakistan, USA is fed up with constant lies and will cut all economic help and may punish Pakistan with dire consequences. Other world countries also fed up with Pakistan lies and this country will be isolated. Ahmed Rashid, if you do not want this end result then better bring this sense to Pakistani corrupt and lier politicians soon before it is too late.

    May 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Reply
    • Salman Khan

      Many Indians, including the ugly-faced Hindu Fareed Zakaria, are basking in the illusion that their forces can also do some sort of hit and run operation against Pakistan. They have yet to see a befitting response. Until then enjoy your fools' paradise.

      May 6, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Reply
      • Manoj Bharat Kumar

        Have peace. Drink a coke and take a breath.

        May 6, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
      • Mansur

        Manoj have your permission to add a bit more. Drink alcohol, eat pork, and dance with air Pak hostesses, like all well to do pakis, do. It is the poor downtrodden peasants who follow the strict code in Pakistan. The well to do in government, business circles, armed services and ISI have a whale of a time.

        May 6, 2011 at 6:11 pm |
      • New Asian

        Your response kinda reminds me of a bad joke about a guy losing a coin in a dark alley but looking for it in the well-lit street on the next block since he could see better in the well-lit street. You seem to be mad at the US and, pardon the phrase, barking at India about it.... The larger question you should be asking the 'deep state' is – how come OBL was able to live there, supposedly undetected, for the past 6 years?

        May 8, 2011 at 10:19 am |
      • henry

        Fareed Zakria is not a hindu-

        May 10, 2011 at 2:13 am |
      • OpinionIndia

        Pakistanis always look at any issue with a HINDU-MUSLIM prism and they only see divide.This phenomenon will destroy PAKISTAN :)

        May 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • j. von hettlingen

      It would be difficult to end the animosity between India and Pakistan, after the traumatic partition of the Indian sub-continent. The reason why the two countries are so hostile towards each other is again land – Jammu and Kashmir. Maybe the U.N. should declare this region as a buffer state, grant it a statehood, help it to thrive economically. As time goes by, a sense of nationalism would develope and the people wouldn't be bother to identify themselves with India or Pakistan.
      The conspiracy theories among the ruling elite are a means to sek attention and to wield power. Pakistan has to project itself as a key player in the region, firstly to gain financial aid from the West and secondly to boost the self-assertiveness of its people. Ordinary citizens in Pakistan, however much they loathe their government, they are proud, that their government could twist the U.S. around its little finger. The complex mindset of the people there is part of their colourful and inspirational culture.

      May 6, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Reply
      • cm2522

        >The reason why the two countries are so hostile towards each other is again land – Jammu and Kashmir.

        Wrong.
        It is the Pakistani muslim's hatred towards hindus and all things hindu. If Pakistan gets J&K, then next step is kerela.

        May 7, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
  2. muin

    India got lucky in 1947. They had many intellectuals who were able to steer the country to a right direction. Fareed zakaria's father is one of them. Pakistan is a mess. All bangladesh got going is micro finance,natural gas and telecom but political uncertainty prevents investment even though there is potential.

    May 6, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Reply
    • Manoj Bharat Kumar

      India also inherited a 5-millennia old Hindu tradition of cultural and ethnic tolerance - recall Jews, Parsis, Sufis, Christians, Tibetans - who lived in peace and prospered. The stress on pluralism in the world's most diverse society has paid rich dividends for Indian democratic and economic progresss, despite the remaining problems.

      May 6, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Reply
  3. Hamid Qureshi

    Ahmed Rashid is a non-Muslim Pakistani and has a deep animosity against the state and its vital organs particularly the Pakistan Army. The proof is his admiration and encouragement by Pakistan's arch enemies, the Hundus.

    May 6, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Reply
    • Manoj Bharat Kumar

      Shant ho jaao, beta. Have peace, my son.

      May 6, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Reply
    • Ali

      we all know your an Indian pretending to be a pakistani sad really get a life

      May 9, 2011 at 8:21 am | Reply
  4. Drdl

    Here is a conversation from an American Movie called "The American President". Its between between The President and his secretary Lewis.

    Lewis Rothschild: People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand.
    President Andrew Shepherd: Lewis, we've had presidents who were beloved, who couldn't find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight. People don't drink the sand because they're thirsty. They drink the sand because they don't know the difference.

    May 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  5. Amrullah Yousafzai in Mingora, Swat

    Though there are conspiracy theories propagated by some people in Pakistan, conspiracy theory is not limited to Pakistanis.

    The americans claimed that there were WMDs in Iraq EVEN THOUGH the UN inspections, BEFORE the invasion, showed that there was no evidence on a WMD program and Hans Blix and Mohamed Elbaradei had a meeting in the UNSC which attested to this fact , in spite of that American public believed it, which put them in a war which spent nearly $1trillion and did not help either the American of the Iraqi people at all because of high gas prices in increased violence.

    Another absurd conspiracy theory which some Americans believed was a Saddam Hussein 9/11 connection. Do a search on google for "USA today Poll 70% believe Saddam 9-11 link"

    Its like a broken clock but sometimes conspiracy theories end up being true.....here in Pakistan for a while people claimed that blackwater has a prescence here and they were laughed at as being conspiracy theorist. But about a year ago, Robert Gates the American defense minister had a visit here and on that visit here he held an interview with a on a news TV channel here called ExpressTV in which he admitted that blackwater had a presence so that removed doubts about Blackwater.

    Another conspiracy I heard of once was that there was a war that Americans had with Portugal in late 1800 which started out because a US navy ship sank and they blamed it on Portugal (or whatever country they were fighting)....years later that ship was found and it was proven that it went down because of mechanical fails ....so this is another case where a conspiracy theory ends up being true....sorry I don't know much about American history so I don't remember which war that was.....

    May 6, 2011 at 10:14 pm | Reply
  6. John

    Pakistan has brought all of its problems upon itself. They remain continually obsessed with India, wasting their money on the military, even though it was Pakistan that started all the wars. They support the Taliban, the Haquani (sp) network, are responsible for the Mumbai attacks, the bombing of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan, and now we find even sheltering Bin Laden. They send terrorists to Kashmir, tolerate all types of extremist groups, and think it's ok to gang rape women. Oh, and no one pays their taxes but they want money from the US to split between preparing to attack India and Swiss bank accounts. They should forget about India, Kashmir, stop meddling in Afghanistan, and spend their resources educating their people and building a decent nation.

    May 6, 2011 at 10:50 pm | Reply
  7. John the Kiwi

    Ahmed Rashid has got it right, but Westerners too have silly theories like "the CIA did it". 911 started with Ramzi Yousefs Bojinka Plot and two buildings badly built by a Mafia riddled building industry. The Islamist extremists are not fighting to protect their people but for "The Caliphate of the World or The Umma concept. AlQaida managed to indoctrinate young Muslims with a hate for the west fuelled by U.S support for Israel's injustice.' The Muslims world needs an Enlightenment of it's own.

    May 7, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  8. 1MoreStarInUSAFlag

    According to the current situation of Pakistan through any angle economically, Militarily, socially, Morally, education wise or population wise it is in the best interest of Pakistan to help US have one more star in American flag. Pakistan end of Pakistan future problems and Pakistan future will be secured for ever and ever. Now I am sure poverty and mass corruption in Pakistan will force our youth to rethink on it. Just a suggestion what is happening indirectly just make it happen openly and directly and make life beautiful out of religion. Pakistan has never followed the religion of Book but every home there follow their own self satisfied religion in their own shape and color. My advise think what is best for you and act on it.

    May 8, 2011 at 11:47 am | Reply
  9. Thomas

    Pakistan has a population of 160 million not 200 million.Ahmed Rashid is the most unreliable and retarded journalist in the world.His sole aim in life is to fullfill the neocon agenda and soft of pakistan image to make it look crazy so that if in the future america decides to invade the world will support.Rashid makes pakistan to be a police state with an all powerful ISI. Last time I checked there were no suicide bomber sells in China or Cuba.

    "India, the United States, and Israel"

    No one blames Israel except for selling arms to India.America is blamed because its aggressive actions around the world encourage extremism and they support pakistans unpopular corrupt leaders.India is hates for blocking water,engaging in properganda and seing militants in via afghanistan.Afghanistan has a population of 20 million yet there are 12 Indian consulates all doing anti pak activities

    May 9, 2011 at 8:20 am | Reply
    • OpinionIndia

      Thomas is a brainwashed Pakistani hiding under a Christian name.Pakistanis have a legacy of pretending like Indians in the west, perhaps being called a Pakistani brings them infamy now

      May 11, 2011 at 2:36 am | Reply
  10. OpinionIndia

    To Pakistanis who bring up Kashmir to deceive the world and hide all blame,here is the truth

    Lets GIVE BALOCHISTANIS a chance for vote to decidde if they wanna continue to be part of Pakistan ( A failed state that discriminated agaInst Bengalis and now Balochis )

    BALOCHISTAN WANTS PLEBISCITE AND FREEDOM FROM PAKISTAN.Pakistan stop discriminating against people of Balochistan where they do not get revenue spent on their development after their mineral wealth is eaten away by Pakistani state.

    FREEDOM FOR BALOCHISTAN.

    May 11, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  11. OpinionIndia

    Pakistan is an international migraine as told aptly by Madeline Albright(Former US Secretary of State) .Today the world faces threat from Pakistan and India says we have been facing this for decades.Pakistani innuendos against India stem from extremism, hate and an offshoot is terror inflicted by Jamat Ud Dawa, Laskar e Tayyaba and Hizbul Mujahideen on India.Satanic Intelligence service, the ISI ,which virtually runs Pakistan.ISI and Pakistaniarmy are a pain in the neck to the world.They have has supported the Taliban for years to fight the Soviets.It now covertly supports the Afghan Taliban to harm the Afgani people(who are my brothers and Muslims )

    To radicalized Pakistanis,I can say this.Not only has your insidious Army perpetrated human crimes in Indian Kashmir by training militants and attacking innocent Kashmiri Pandits(Hindus) and Kashmiri Indian Muslims,but also discriminated against your own people by not allocating funds in yearly budgets for Balochistan and break away East Pakistan.Your country had imposed Urdu as the only official language in East Pakistan contemptuously ignoring the feelings of the Bengali section.Did not the Bengali Genocide in East Pakistan happen with the acquiescence of the Pakistani Army.Did not fanatics like Aurangazeb impose jaziya on Hindus?Did he not forcefully build mosques in Hindu holy sites to sow the seeds of conflict?.Is not Jinnah the epitomy of greed for power by going to the extent of Dividing India and insisting on partition with religion as basis .If Religion was the basis for partition or to claim Kashmir my hideous friend, let me tell you that Hindu sacred texts mention Kashmir as one the holy places where Hindu gods reside in the himalayan mountains.Indian ancient history and culture revolves around Kashmir I know verses in Sanskrit that mention them.

    It is known that a Kashmiri Muslim's culture has some distinct Hindu flavor as many were proselytized from Hinduism as Islam entered India.We know, that an Indian Muslim is far better off in India than Muslims in your country and he is as patriotic to India like any other Hindu or Sikh

    Pakistan is the HUB of terror in the world today and world must fight back and respond like it did in Serbia /Yugoslavia or like it did in Kuwait when Saddam attacked or like Libya where where NATO is fighting Gaddhafi.

    I have got my facts right, Pakistanis better know that your country does not treat minority Hindu's and Sikhs well.The only way to deal with Pakistan is to liquidate it.Secularism is the key to ending religious extremism.Afghan intelligence head had also spoken the truth about Pakistan

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFLowe0U53g&w=640&h=390]

    May 12, 2011 at 10:34 am | Reply
  12. OpinionIndia

    ‎"Mark my words. When Osama bin Laden is found, he will be found in a Pakistani city"

    – Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2006 to Fareed Zakaria

    May 12, 2011 at 10:46 am | Reply
  13. OpinionIndia

    To defensive Pakistanis

    we know you sympathize with Pakistans ISI and rogue Army

    If you are so much defensive about Pakistan's role( which is dishonest and worthy of shame) then stop accepting AID from US and return the 20 billion $ aid you have so far received ..:)

    May 12, 2011 at 10:49 am | Reply
  14. OpinionIndia

    For Pakistanis who say US should leave the region, here is the response :

    Why should USA leave the region,US would not have come unless Sept 11 happened from the region which included Paki conspirators :) .Before sept 11 , Pakistan was supporting Taliban in Afghanistan :) the only nation on earth ( probably saudis also) .Then after US started bombing Afghanistan , Pakistan had to shamefully airlift 16000 Paki soldiers from Afghanistan who were with the Taliban :)

    You Pakistanis should leave the region or go to another planet.We wish we can catapult you and your people across to another planet :) as we believe in value of human life , we don't wanna harm you :)

    You can settle in the this neo planet and then fight among yourselves as you will have no neighbours..No India or America or Israel :)

    May 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Reply
  15. OpinionIndia

    :( :( PAK TERROR :( :( PAK TERROR :( :( PAK TERROR :( :(

    Chief Foreign affairs correspondent of CBS Lara Logan after speaking to "top Intelligence and Military officials in the United States" says that all of them are UNANIMOUS THAT

    IT IS INCONCEIVABLE THAT PAKISTAN DID NOT KNOW THE LOCATION OF BIN LADEN :) :) :) :)

    IT IS INCONCEIVABLE THAT OSAMA BIN LADEN WAS HIDING OUT IN THIS CITY WHICH IS CRAWLING WITH RETIRED MILITARY OFFICIALS OR MILITARY CADETS(PAKISTANI) OR ACTIVE MILITARY PERSONNEL ...

    THIS COMPOUND WAS 8 TIMES LARGER THAN ANY OTHER BUILDING IN AREA...IT IS IMPROBABLE THAT PEOPLE LIVING IN THAT CITY ( ABBOTABAD ) , LET ALONE MILITARY ESTABLISHMENT HAD NO IDEA ,NEVER ASKED A QUESTION ABOUT IT, ...

    IF IT CAME TO THE ATTENTION OF US INTELLIGENCE THEN IT CENTAINLY WOULD HAVE COME TO THE ATTENTION OF PAKISTANI INTELLIGENCE,THEIR MILITARY BRASS,

    ..MOST OF THE OFFICIALS SAY THAT PAKISTAN HAS BEEN LAUGHING AT THE United States , LAUGHING IN THE FACES OF THE AMERICANS BECAUSE THEY HAVE KNOWN ALL ALONG THAT OSAMA BIN LADEN IS THERE

    AND PAKISTANIS STOOD UP AND SAID THAT OSAMA BIN LADEN WAS NOT IN PAKISTAN .....

    BUT NOT ONLY IS HE IS PAKISTAN ,BUT HE NOW ,TURNS OUT TO BE RIGHT AMONGST THE "MILITARY ESTABLISHMENT" ITSELF

    PRESIDENT OBAMA SAID OSAMA BIN LADEN WAS FOUND "DEEP INSIDE" PAKISTAN

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y723IjRAcKg&w=640&h=390]
    ..NOT IN THE BORDER WITH AFGHANISTAN , NOT IN CAVE

    MOMENT OF TRUTH HAS ARRIVED ...WORLD SHOULD DISMEMBER PAKISTAN , IMPOUND ITS NUCLEAR WEAPONS THEN GO FOR A WAR TO ELIMINATE ALL TERRORISTS HIDING INSIDE PAKISTAN

    AMERICAS GREATEST ENEMY IS NOT AL QAEDA, ITS PAKISTAN :( :( :( :(
    :( :( PAK TERROR :( :( PAK TERROR :( :( PAK TERROR :( :(

    May 17, 2011 at 4:04 am | Reply
  16. ImanShah

    I have read your comments with GREAT interest. How ironic it is on the one hand you are teaching moral values to Pakistan for the neighbours and on the other hand ..... READ your comments once again and realize your double standards. Having said that I would like to ask a few of questions (though there are number of them....)
    * Can you answer the involvement of an army guys of our PEACEFUL neighbour India in Samjhota Express blast which took hundreds of lives?
    *Can you also justify the presence of several Indian consulates in Afghanistan? Also check the number of visas they are issuing to Afghans.
    *Please google the number of deaths of innocent Christians, Muslims and Sikhs in India by the extremists Hindus and I'm sure you will find that the minorities more safe in Pakistan.

    *Instead of suggesting a PLEBISCITE in Balochistan to us suggest it to your leaders for Kashmir under the reslotion of the UN. Look inside your country how many communities want separate states and to get rid of India.

    * It is not Pakistan but India who has started the race of weapons in the region. The living standard of a common man is far better than it is in your country. Go and see people living with their whole families even in your capital city. Instead of spending money madly in buying arms and destructive weapons spend for the sake of more than 50 percent of your people who are living below poverty line, spend it for the children and women who have to sell their bodies to get even a single meal.
    And last but not the least, can you ask the US to provide a single evidence that they found bin Laden in Abbottabad, why they did not brought the video or even pictures on the scene as they did in the case of Sadam Hussain.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:11 am | Reply
  17. mayaprophetx

    I'm new here, but I'm really into this sort of thing, and I like to help people understand what is truly going on,l and how you can prepare for it.

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    I hope some of you find this helpful. Good luck, and god bless you

    2012 Survival

    August 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Reply

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