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.