By Khaled Ahmed
October 10, 2014
Pakistan has once again unsurprisingly succumbed to the lure of a conspiracy to explain why Imran Khan is making the country miserable these days. Former army chief General (retired) Aslam Beg came on TV on September 21 saying that the current army chief, General Raheel Sharif, “has foiled a conspiracy to create anarchy in the country and bring about martial law”.
No one challenged the lack of factual logic in the statement of a retired man, with the case of a big-money rip-off called “Mehrangate” pending against him at the Supreme Court. This was anticipated even by Beg, because the Pakistani mind prefers to understand life through conspiracies. He laid it on thick: “The US, the UK, Canada and Iran are hatching conspiracies to destabilise Pakistan.” Why leave India out, some of us India-centrics may ask?
If your mind is not used to inductive logic — a scrutiny of events without a “categorical”, prejudging, initial statement — you cannot join the dots of probability as a normal person would. As an instrument of demystification, conspiracy enables the primitive man to survive a life he can’t understand. Muslims suffer from life-explaining conspiracies collectively and have become dangerous for the rational world.
Beg’s conspiracy is an interpretation of what Imran Khan and Tahir ul Qadri did in London in June, before deciding in July to hit Pakistan with an agitation to dislodge Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from power. What was not a mystery in Pakistan was the spoiled relationship between the country’s powerful army and the Sharif government. Some thought that the Khan-Qadri duo was egged on by the army as the latest trigger of regime change in Islamabad.
Then a leader of Khan’s party revealed more: that a retired ISI officer was writing the script for the overthrow. It envisaged the gathering of a mammoth crowd in Islamabad’s central square, paralysing the government. Even the murder of a “prominent Pakistani” was planned as a curtain-raiser. The climactic moment came after a “Dharna”, but the army chief didn’t stage the coup.
Now ex-army chief Beg throws in another conspiracy, which primarily bails out the current army chief by piling kudos on him and pleads subliminally for some help in bailing Beg out of his big money-grab case. Forgetting his past shoddiness as a thinker, the media has swallowed his latest gem, hook, line and the entire fishing rod.
Now join the dots if you can. America and the UK invited Khan and Qadri to London and asked them to derail democracy in Pakistan because they expected Pakistan under Sharif to become a pain in the neck after Nato’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The taming of a cantankerous Pakistan would thus facilitate India into a commanding regional position against China.
This is not enough. Throw in Iran too. Beg said “unfortunately” Iran was no longer the Iran of his time, when he had made an illegal secret pact worth billions of dollars for nuclear-tech transfers from Pakistan without telling then PM Nawaz Sharif, who balked on knowing about it. Beg was not strong enough as army chief to topple Sharif then. He tends to go nuts when talking about global politics.
Has Iran joined the US-British plot? Qadri, it is said, was taken to Qom in Iran and made to meet Iranian leaders. (Qadri swears he didn’t visit Iran.) Then he was taken to the Pope in the Vatican, as if the kind old man controlled world events. (Qadri swears he didn’t visit the Vatican.) Ignored was Qadri’s career as a Sunni-Barelvi religious leader, closest to accepting the rituals of the Shia in Pakistan, and in return admired by them for his lack of prejudice. If Iran decorates him for this, it would be normal.
Qadri is a lonely “peacenik” in times of a grand civilisational clash with the West led by Muslim clerics. He ducked out of a Pakistan that had chosen its warlike non-state actors entirely from among anti-Qadri Deobandi-Wahhabi elements, funded for a quarter-century by a Saudi Arabia scared to death by the rising power of the only really big nation of the Gulf region, Iran.
Why were the pro-Shia Barelvis kept out of jihad? Because the funding Pakistan received then was through grants from the US, matched dollar-for-dollar by Saudi Arabia. In Pakistan, Qadri doesn’t stand a chance. The non-state actors are too powerful and are backed by Saudi money. Joining with the Shia, Qadri has actually shortened the lease of his life.
Imran Khan is a “normal” Pakistani, who hates America from his guts and has recently finished disrupting NATO supplies going to Afghanistan through the province he rules, not least because he knew that the then army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, was opposed to the past policy of favouring America on Nato supplies and drones. Inside Pakistan, he was strategically placed for a toppling in Islamabad. How come he now joined America in the London plot? But a primitive mind doesn’t care for that kind of illogic.
Pakistan will stew in the juice of its conspiracy theories while the world can kill it by ignoring it. It is still simmering with the theory that India had upended its illegal dams on Pakistan to drown innocent Pakistanis. India’s dams are actually meant to trap Pakistan’s water to be better able to inflict floods on Pakistan.
If Pakistan is going through one of its typical convulsions, simply blame the CIA, Mossad, RAW, the US and its secret arm called “Blackwater”. If, as a retired army man, you want to send a message to the active army chief, who can bail you out of a red-tape thicket, say that he has averted the latest conspiracy by Hunud-o-Yuhud.
Hunud, of course, is the Arabic plural of “Hindu”, and Yuhud is a plural of “Jew”. Often, the two unite under the evil flag of the Israel-worshipping and India-supporting US to do us down. A conspiracy is nothing if you don’t first create space for it by creating eternal enemies you are not supposed to reconcile with.
Conspiracy theories leech you off your brains. Till recently, the most pathetic community walking around with empty skulls were the inspectors-general of police, who survived by accusing America, Israel and India of committing terrorism in Pakistan, of blowing up naval installations and generally messing up Karachi and other cities — till the rascally Taliban and al-Qaeda started owning up to the incidents. Of course, New Delhi has the Taliban on its leash!
Umberto Eco, in Turning Back the Clock: Hot Wars and Media Populism, traced conspiracy to Homer, who told the Greeks how events were born in the minds of the gods on Mount Olympus. Tragedies occurred because the hero couldn’t read the minds of the divine conspirators. There was an inevitability of defeat in this divine theorem. What the Pakistani mind is doing is a kind of embrace of the irrational to signal inevitable defeat.
Of course, Raheel Sharif is not going to like the gratuitous bestowal of heroic defiance on him by an ex-chief in trouble. He should remember that the man, as head of the Pakistani army, had predicted the defeat of America at the hands of Saddam Hussein in 1991, only to be foiled by Nawaz Sharif, who opposed Saddam but had to suffer a discredited Beg. The writer is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek Pakistan’