Interesting Dawn News Show – Nadeem F Paracha vs. Zaid Hamid on conspiracy theories

I came across an episode of the Dawn News show +92 ID. The format of the show is really interesting, it’s 20 minutes long and divided into two 10 minute sections which are produced by different teams and the aim is to present two sides of an issue from opposite perspectives. The topic of the show was “Conspiracy Theorists” and the first part was an interview with Nadeem F. Paracha, one of Pakistan’s most outspoken critics of conspiracy theories:

NFP makes a great point about how history is taught in Pakistani schools:

I started realizing that whatever us Pakistanis have been taught at school in the name of history and taught by the Maulvis what Islam is or Islamic history, most of that has been half-lies and that was startling. So I sort of studied more about it. There’s so much layers of half-truths where the truth’s been buried. It’s not impossible to go find that out. One just has to do a bit more study and go beyond the history schoolbooks and go beyond what a preacher tells them on television or otherwise.
[..]
There’s been a drastic increase in the proliferation of conspiracy theories. When someone used to come out with a conspiracy theory at once there would be a counter-theory. But this hasn’t been happening very often recently and that’s very dangerous trend because we see a lot of people coming on mainstream television and sitting there for hours talking about theories which can be very easily be refuted and debunked. But nobody’s really doing it. Nobody’s giving a counter-theory the time and effort and the platform which it requires. So what’s happening is that you’re getting a lot of young people who are looking for answers, who are not satisfied with the answers that let’s say the history books at school have given them. They’re getting fascinating, fantastic answers from these conspiracy theorists from these mainstream platforms.

Basically what’s he doing here is drawing a link between the inadequate historical education in school coursework and the demand for the truth which is unfortunately channeled into the demand for conspiracy theories in place of actual history.

This reminded of a great comment by the author of the blog Tab’an Khamosh:

Now I understand why they got rid of history from the school books. The past actions of our “heroes” (as declared by Munh-Kaala Pakistan) are too embarrassing to note and it takes too much work to twist everything to look hunky-dory! So they just got rid of the History Subject altogether. Easy Peasy! As long as you ignore the problem.

I always think about this comment when thinking about the hold that people like Zaid Hamid have on seemingly well-educated and reasonable people all over the country. It’s so true! A typical Pak Studies history course starts with young Muhammad Bin Qasim’s invasion, some paragraphs about Mehmood of Ghazni and the Mughals, a few selected excerpts from the Pakistan Movement, the Lahore resolution, and then stops at around the passing of the Objectives Resolution in 1949. If it weren’t for a study of the Green Revolution and high-yield rice in Geography class, I doubt our schoolwork would have made any mention of Ayub Khan.

So the average person is left to himself to figure out anything of any significance in parsing what the hell is going on. This is at least partially responsible for how something as wildly fantastical as Zaid Hamid’s theory of “Hindu Zionist Taliban” can gain traction among so many people. Muhammad Bin Qasim, Mehmood of Ghazni, Wily Gandhi and Hindu-Taliban. They all fit pretty well together in a narrative that isn’t too unsettling and leaves plenty of room for outrage and self-righteousness.

So that’s that from the CIA, RAW AND Mossad agent, Nadeem Paracha (according to a youtube commenter).

Now here’s the next section, with Zaid Hamid (it starts about 1 minute into the clip):

Whatever one may think of Zaid Hamid, in my opinion he’s a really good speaker and knows how to tailor his speeches for the audience.

It is often said that we are conspiracy theorists and we are always blaming the others for our mistakes without looking at the problems we have within ourselves. We definitely and totally acknowledge the faults and the mistakes within our political, judicial and economic model and the social disorder we are facing.

That’s a pretty good response to the accusation that conspiracy theorists are not self-critical enough, and in a way he is right. Pakistani conservatives are somewhat unique in the sense that their conservatism is ideological and not based on loyalty to the existing order. In fact it’s based on loyalty to a mythical order, some kind of utopia distilled from the collected works of Allama Iqbal. You could say that people like Zaid Hamid, with the dismissal of Pakistani democracy as a Western conspiracy and their general contempt for our existing politicians (the Ahmed Quraishi quotes in the post below are a great example of this mindset) are a lot more radical than people like NFP. In fact poor NFP’s prosaic recommendations in the clip below make him look like a conservative, arguing for an unattractive status quo or incremental change via democracy and for people to Google history and sound a lot less appealing and high-minded than Zaid Hamid’s appeals to the Golden Age of Islam and a complete reworking of our “political, judicial and economic model”.


NFP has a great article talking about the aftermath of this show on his website. I won’t quote an excerpt because the whole thing is worth reading.

11 responses to “Interesting Dawn News Show – Nadeem F Paracha vs. Zaid Hamid on conspiracy theories

  1. Mr.Tambourine Man

    Hey, Thanks Rabia. I’ve been meaning to check this show out ever since NFP’s article. It would have been much more appealing had they been interviewed together face to face. That sure would have made for some interesting TeeVee.

  2. Rabia

    yeah, I agree. Somehow I don’t think that a show about conspiracy theories as a phenomenon was meant to become a platform for yet another zaid hamid grand conspiracy theory.

  3. Those hate-emails sent to Paracha are classic. Man, I really hope I never become famous.

  4. Rishad

    I saw this show and then read Paracha’s article in Dawn. Hamid must have thought he’d scored points over one of the most vocal critics of Islamic fundamentalism and conspiracy theories, but Paracha so systematically and convincinly blasted Hamid in that article.
    Journalists like Paracha are vital during a time like this. They are constantly swiming against the illogical, paranoid and irrational trends of the time.

  5. Brother, both gave their views in isolation. However, NFP made a big deal out of the fact that he was not put face to face with Mr. Hamid (referring to the article u just mentioned). When you believe Anne Patterson, Hillary, Holbrooke, CNN and BBC etc you are enlightened moderated and when you disagree you become a cult/conspiracy theorist🙂 Media and these people decieve us big time ! ground realities are that Muslim brothers and sisters are being butchered in every corner of the World. If they SO DONT care about Pakistan then why are they ganging around us from all corners? Its our choice if we want to buy their words and sit content in our cozy homes or to actually open our eyes and read between their lies and deceptions.

  6. Paracha rocks ! since paracha is a also a commentator on music scene of Pakistan ( if there is any🙂 ) . I want ask him a question. wheter music channel like AAG should be allowed to show programs of these reactionary commentators like Zaid Hamid and his disciple Ahmed Quarishi ??? the kind of hatred they are spreading among youth is really is alarming .

    Or its a case of Zaid Hamid and Ahmed Quarishi is more saleable than Hadiqa Kiyani..

    first it was Politian like Imran Khan and Aela Khan hosting political shows on AAG. Pakistan maybe is the only country where a Political party head who proudly tell the world being the biggest party hosted a political show and of course Aila Khan is so refreshing🙂 .

    whenever I visit FACEBOOK i find program highlights of Ahmed Quareshi program being posted and almost in every eposide General Hameed with all of his revolionary tales of his youth to tell is invited as a guest and ofcourse guest cameo act of Imran Khan is not bad . suprising is the show is part of music channel which supposed to be our MTV or CHANNEL V.

  7. Zaid Hamid sure knows how to take full advantage of his speaking skills. However, NFP’s article he wrote after the show was enough to do away with most of Zaid Hamid’s arguments.
    However, I believe we need to strike a balance here. Granted our history has been altered and altered severely through biased contents and ideological alignments and that it’s students grow up with pre-conceived false notions. And for that, we need to devise suitable curricula which doesn’t breed hatred towards other nations or countries.
    However, other than the nonsense he spews, Zaid has a point in that Pakistan is indeed meddled with, by the rest of the world. The problem with Zaid Hamid and the likes, I believe, is that they take things in the wrong course. We need to correct ourselves first and rectify the many wrongs we, as a nation, possess. It’s only after this that going after the conspiracy theories would be any good, and that too, only the ones well substantiated by valid proofs.

  8. Humza: I haven’t watched AAG for a long time…. it seems really crazy that they are showing political shows. I guess the problem is when the demand is there for channels to show these people, it would be interfering with media freedom to dictate what kind of shows a channel can show.

    Humaira: thanks for your comment. I agree that that was actually an effective rhetorical point by Zaid Hamid. but on closer examination, it’s not really correct. It’s not like the people who criticize Zaid Hamid are just plugged into CNN or Fox News all day. NFP’s point was that you can research history on the internet and in history books and do your own research and come to the conclusion that Zaid Hamid’s allegations are often simply factually incorrect. Surely not every source of information out there has a CIA/Mossad agenda!

    Rishad & Salman: good points and I agree.

    Ahsan: I think it’s too late for you guys – you already have a dedicated base of blog trolls at Rs 5!

  9. Pingback: The Difficulties In Being A Liberal In Pakistan | Tea Break

  10. Many Pakistanis fear democracy is not he best system for Pakistan.

    The likes of Zaid Hamid and Qureshi are good at exploiting this particular fear of common Pakistanis, and making them love ‘sipah-e-salar’ (read: army generals).

    I am myself not sure how good democracy is but that does not mean I support conspiracy theories of the likes of Zaid Hamid..

  11. Hamza Javaid

    I have got many friends who are crazy over Zaid Hamid,. They are supposedly impressed by his speaking skills. And Zaid Sahab is exploiting them to the full limits. Unfortunately this is the mindset of the majority of the pakistanis. For they think he is quoting muslim examples, considers himself as somewhat of a religious scholor , so he must be right.
    Frankly , i find him as a person set on a mission to spill seeds of hatred against jews, hindus, christians or anything unislamic. He forgets one of the basic principles of Islam i.e Tolerance.
    Keep it up NFP, we so dearly need more people like u .

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