But in Pakistan, conspiracy theories about CIA, Mossad, or Indian intelligence (RAW) roles in, well, everything, abound nonetheless. The two most attractive things about conspiracy theories for Pakistan are that they don’t have to make sense (hey, the enemy is crafty), and they help maintain the state of denial that anything wrong in Pakistan might have something to do with Pakistan. And one can’t fix a problem one can’t acknowledge. “Amid bombings, Pakistan turns to conspiracies,” by Chris Brummitt for the Associated Press, May 29 (thanks to JCB):
ISLAMABAD — Facing a surge in violence after the killing of Osama bin Laden, Pakistanis are taking comfort in conspiracy theories that allege Indian or American agents “” not fellow Muslim countrymen “” are behind the attacks, especially last week’s brazen assault on a naval base.
Lawmakers, media pundits, retired generals and even government officials often hint at suspicions of a “foreign hand” in the violence, despite there being no evidence and often explicit claims of responsibility by militant groups like the Pakistani Taliban.
Aired on television talk shows and in newspapers, conspiracy theories are everywhere “” underscoring the challenges facing the United States as it seeks to convince Pakistan’s overwhelmingly anti-American population that it faces a shared enemy in the Taliban.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton fought back Friday against the stories flying around.
“America cannot and should not solve Pakistan’s problems, that is up to Pakistan,” she told reporters. “But in solving its problems, Pakistan should understand that anti-Americanism and conspiracy theories will not make problems disappear.”
While tales of malign intervention by foreign powers exist in other developing countries, in Pakistan they come with a heavy price. They confuse the country as to who it is fighting and complicate efforts to defeat militants and counter their extremist ideology.
Shifting the blame away from Islamist militants and onto foreigners helps protect the powerful Pakistani army from an uncomfortable truth: its long association with militants that are now turning against the state.
Right-wing Islamists who support the Afghan Taliban and share the Pakistan Taliban’s hatred of America and calls for strict Islamic law are also put in a difficult position by the terror being unleashed on the country. For them, it is easier to blame foreigners out to destabilize the country than acknowledge the slaughter carried out in the name of Islam.
No evidence is ever reported to back up the claims, but unsubstantiated rumors make it into media coverage: the bodies of suicide attackers were uncircumcised, for example, implying they were not Muslims, or Indian-made ammunition was found at the scene.
Ironically, the Pakistani Taliban share Clinton’s dislike of the conspiracy theories “” but for different reasons.
“Those who are accusing us of working for anyone else’s agenda should ask themselves what they are doing,” Waliur Rehman, the Taliban’s No. 2 commander, told The Associated Press.
“We are neither working for CIA, Mossad, RAW nor any other organization,” he said, referring to the Indian spy agency. “We work to get the blessing of God.”
The attack on the naval base in Karachi was one of the most brazen in more than four years of militant violence. A team of gunmen infiltrated the base, destroying two U.S-made surveillance planes and killing at least 10 people during a 16-hour standoff.
The fact that the attackers destroyed planes that are believed to be used mostly to guard against India and do not appear directly related to the war against militants has given grist to the conspiracy theorists, as has the supposed sophistication of the assailants and their weapons. […]
Militants are normally referred to as “miscreants” and there is no serious effort to discredit their extremist ideology. […]
Hamid Gul, a former head of the country’s main intelligence agency and a supporter of the Afghan Taliban, is a prime conspiracy theorist. Since the bin Laden killing, he has appeared on television repeating a popular rumor: The al-Qaida leader was really killed in Afghanistan and brought to Pakistan to humiliate the country.
“My feeling is that it was all a hoax, a drama which has been crafted, and badly scripted I would say,” he told an Indian TV station recently. “But they shouldn’t make a scapegoat of Pakistan in this way. This is very wrong.”
Once again: the handy thing about conspiracy theories is that they don’t have to make sense.