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Pakistan's conspiracy cottage industry

Blame for the recent spate of bombings is being laid at the door of foreign powers by many ordinary Pakistanis. Why?

Although the Taliban have openly claimed responsibility for the recent epidemic of suicide bombings against civilian targets in Peshawar and Islamabad, many Pakistanis appear convinced that the real culprits are India or the United States.

"These are India's agents," an anti-narcotics bureaucrat tells me in Islamabad with a confident grin. With its operatives active in a string of Indian consulates along the Pak-Afghan border, so goes the popular claim, they direct New Delhi's latest attempt to topple the Islamic Republic. It is a common refrain in Pakistan. In fact, so common, that almost everyone I venture to ask blames the Indians, or Americans, or foreigners for the terrorism.

The country has faced many crises over the years, but these are particularly unsettling days. In the past, violence tended to be unilateral: avoid the angry mob on days of protest, neighbourhoods patrolled by gangs, or criticising vocal mullahs and life was generally quiet. But today's enemy moves with stealth and could be anywhere.

Already poor migrants from Afghanistan and the central Asian republics have been evicted from the slums of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Karachi on the suspicion that someone among their numbers is responsible for the violence. But these are just the small fry, and even the media and the government claim there is good intelligence implicating foreign powers.

So where, one has to ask, do these rumours come from?

There are three broad explanations. First, this is a traumatised country that is justifiably in shock over the extent to which violence has become an everyday reality. The images of fellow Pakistani men, women and children being martyred on our television screens has a deep impact too. It is only human to look at outside forces to explain this chaos – surely we couldn't be doing this to ourselves? There must be a foreign conspiracy against our country.

Linked to this is a powerful denial complex that is not unique to Pakistan. Much as most Americans refuse to reflect on their own government's past support for Osama bin Laden, there is widespread incredulity over the radicalisation of organised Islam in Pakistan. Because the state itself has historically encouraged client jihadi organisations there is limited public discourse on the militarisation of Islamic doctrine in Pakistan. When these groups kill ordinary Pakistanis, as a consequence, few are willing to accept people from their own towns and provinces are responsible.

A third factor that influences conspiracy theories is that there is occasionally evidence to suggest foreign involvement in the violence. After the Iranian revolution of 1979, Iran and Saudi Arabia exported Islamist militancy to their Pakistani co-religionists in a petty confrontation of regional empires that sowed the seeds for today's brutal Shia-Sunni violence.

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there is always an india vs.

there is always an india vs. pakistan paradigm going on there. if anything goes wrong in india, they blame it on pakistan, as well as the other way around.

the conspiracy at this point is to assume it is the u.s., proxies etc. which would be even more interesting if it were coming from india.

Anything is possible.

It is not like our government has any boundaries.

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