Pakistanis: past, present and future


Syed Kamran

If you believe that 9/11 was an inside job (which means that the American government connived to kill its own people); that the US raid in Abbottabad of May 2, 2011 in which the leader of the al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden was killed is a US drama; that Malala Yousafzai has contributed nothing except to promote western values in Pakistan; and that Malala was never shot in the head or the whole story around her attack serves to misdirect the people, then my friend, Pakistan is the best place for you to find company. And a lot of it! According to one study, Pakistan ranks at the top in subscribing to conspiracy theories as reality.
Like blood running through our veins, conspiracy theories, no matter how unfounded or ridiculous they are, pervade every faction of our society. And contrary to the common perception, the more educated you are, the more likely you will be convinced of these ‘plots’. Why? It is because you will have access to the Internet and the social media to dig out the information that you already believe in disregarding the more reliable sources of news. So you will not trust the New York Times of course, but you would have full confidence in a fake news website.
Not all conspiracy theories align with each other like beads of a rosary. They sometimes clash like an entangled mess of yarn, twisted in complex loops and tied with a surgeon’s knot. But, overall, they make a straight line: 1) that the West as a whole has unified against Muslims and Islam, 2) that they want to take full control of all energy resources within the Islamic countries and 3) that they want to damage Islam’s reputation as the religion of peace and an alternative for the long-term success of humanity, the only ideology standing against capitalism and human greed. For a moment, pit these explanations against the failure of Muslim governments to provide the basic life necessities to their citizens; wouldn’t you feel relieved and lighter if you believed in these alternative explanations? Relieved because your failure is at last not your fault, it is your enemy’s misdeed, and lighter because you are on the right side of the history standing on principles, while your rivals are burdened with wrongdoing, malice and hypocrisy. Would they not make you feel better about yourself?
Having settled that, let us for a moment divide time into three different but equal phases: the past, the present and the future. Technically, the three of them are not equal. Past can be stretched over millennia where as future holds infinity in its grip. The present when compared to both is short and slippery. Anyway, conspiracy theories deal with only one portion of this arbitrary division, which is to say, the present or the current era. The remote past or the history covers another third, and the future keeps the last third.
You are well aware that in elementary and middle schools we have been taught about Islamic history, history of the Pakistan movement, the truth about the Muslim Empires, character of our Caliphates, the Mughals, the golden age of Islam, and the pioneering of scientific studies. It is only after years have gone by that we realise that our textbooks are filled with fantasy stories, lies about our past, full of accusations and character assassination of anyone who does not fall in line with our definition of virtue and piety.
Now let us talk about the last portion of time: future. That too is not any different. Religious ‘research scholars’ come up with newer interpretations of semi-confirmed, and sometimes, totally unsubstantiated Ahadith on monthly basis to share the picture of an impending apocalypse in which a war between Muslims and the rest of the world will be fought soon. Sitting on the pulpit, they tell us how a great future lies in front of us. To achieve that, all we have to do is to get ready for a great battle. This vision is based on war, destruction, devastation, death and loss of millions of human life.
How it can be reconciled with the religion of peace, prosperity and progress, I am not sure. What I am sure though is that our imagination about future is also distorted like our understanding of the past and the present.
How much more do we have to stay out of touch with reality? Isn’t it delusional at its core? As if a witch has cast a spell on us by converting the virtue of intellectual curiosity into a vice, by taking away even the last shred of sanity from us.