By Josh Shahryar
October 8, 2013
Malala: Right to Education, A File Photo
To combine all the ridiculous conspiracy theories: she is a clone of George W Bush who had an Israeli surrogate mother and was raised by two RAW agents, who are men and in a gay relationship. This entire process was funded and supervised by Dick Cheney, who remains the secret head of the CIA. It’s all part of a plan devised by the Vatican to destroy Islam back in the 18th century. They were just waiting for drones to be invented!
Ridiculous, I know.
I’ve heard friends and colleagues talk about why these conspiracy theories are born.
I personally think it has much to do with the dire state Pakistanis find themselves in today after 66 years of independence.
It’s hard to be living in a country where landowners are crushing peasants. The police is crushing the victim. The court is crushing the constitution. The government is crushing the constituents. The army is crushing the government. That’s been Pakistan’s case for decades. Recently, though, there’s a new player in town: the terrorists. And they are crushing everyone.
Under these circumstances, the common Pakistani – the aam aadmi – finds himself utterly powerless. What good is hard work when you can’t feed your kids? What good is feeding them when you can’t send them to school? What good is school when there are so few jobs? What good is a job when there’s no financial security? What good is financial security when there’s no physical security?
It’s A Hopeless Circle of Misery.
When you try to figure out why everything is falling apart, all you get is a bucket of blame that keeps getting passed around from the government to the judiciary to the army to the police to religious figures to… the bucket keeps getting passed around until it rests in “foreign hands”. They save everyone. You know why foreign hands are such convenient reason for all of Pakistan’s failures? Because even when you name them – Naapak India, Manhoos Israel or Shaitan USA – they don’t care. The accusation is simply too stupid for them to respond. Their silence out of amusement is taken as an admittance of guilt.
The Truth Is Far More Depressing.
India is leaving Pakistan way behind economically. America has bigger fish to fry. As for Israel, I know Israelis, who are into politics, security and foreign policy. I swear to everything I hold dear, I’ve not heard them utter the word “Pakistan” once. Not once, because Pakistan is not a threat to anyone except its own citizens.
It would be a threat if it was a strong country. The “fort of Islam” is really a nation teetering on the brink that regularly has to be saved by the rest of the world. Yet, it’s the rest of the world’s fault that Pakistan is where it is now because unlike those with power in Pakistan, they aren’t on Pakistani TVs or newspapers passing the blame bucket.
This creates an image in the minds of some Pakistanis that all of their country’s affairs are controlled by outsiders. It’s a lot easier believe that there is no semblance of power left in Pakistan and have an answer – even if wrong – than remain frustrated without one. It gets much worse than that, though. The narrative that, however, has the power to destroy the soul of a Pakistani is that they too are personally powerless. That they cannot get to great heights in life on their own unless they get help from the India, Israel, USA, UK you name it.
In comes Malala.
She clearly got somewhere in life. She was brave. She stood up for her right. She didn’t get it, but she didn’t give up. She faced adversity and came out with a bullet wound on her head and a hero’s badge. But how?! How can she become a hero when everything is stacked up against her in Pakistan? That’s where the “foreign hands” narrative strikes hard. She can only be successful if she had them behind her. No, she didn’t succeed. She failed! Because if you accept that she succeeded, then the whole narrative of Pakistanis being able to do something on their own falls apart.
This is not about religion. It’s a heartbreaking tale of personal failure for many of these conspiracy theorists. It’s not jealousy. It’s about not being able to find answers for why Pakistan is failing; why Pakistanis are failing. Pakistanis are not alone in believing them. You’ll find many of these conspiracy theorists across the developing world with their own versions of how the “foreign hands” are the root cause of their personal failures.
It’s a bit like Devdas, where no matter how many Chandramukhis try to console the embittered Dev with reason and rational explanations, he can’t stop destroying himself and doubting her because Paro – success in this case – is as elusive as ever.
Pakistan can be successful. Pakistanis can succeed. But first, this self-defeating narrative of “we can’t do anything on our own!” has to be discarded.
Josh Shahryar is a US-based reporter and blogger, covering human rights in South Asia and the larger Middle East.