On Sunday night, a large part of the country was plunged into darkness.
But while the lights went out in major cities, Twitter and other social media forums lit up with panic, or perhaps relish, as people started speculating on terrorist attacks, cyber attacks and even a military coup:
The panic spread quickly, and soon people started receiving text messages claiming that ‘something wasn’t right’ – despite the fact that power outages, although not on the same scale, are a regular occurrence in Pakistan.
The blackout isn’t the only phenomenon people think is the result of a ‘conspiracy’.
Our politicians and media also use the word “saazish” (conspiracy) regularly to talk about everything and anything. Across the spectrum – whether from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) or Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) the country’s leaders speak of sinister plans to derail democracy, for example.
It appears, therefore, that ‘unseen forces’ make up a major component of public discourse in Pakistan – on television, in drawing rooms, and at public and political gatherings.
But how much of this is justified? Is it naïve, or even ludicrous to pin down the various ills Pakistan faces – whether a weak civilian government, constant power outages, or terrorism – to a conspiracy? Do these conspiracies have some truth to them?
Even if they are unlikely to be true, given Pakistan’s rocky political history, is it only natural for people to assume the worst when an unprecedented blackout occurs, like the one on Sunday?
After all, even a recent blackout in the US created a frenzy laden with conspiracy theories. The questions to ponder on is – In Pakistan, are conspiracies the domain of the paranoid, or the realistic?