Pakistan's only viable and efficient institution has been attacked. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has accepted the responsibility for intruding into well guarded naval and air force bases; and managed to destroy state of the art equipment – two PC3 Orion aircraft costing millions of dollars – in a long drawn out operation.
The nightmare is over now. At least 10 security officials have been martyred in line of their duty and according to the Interior Minister Rehman Malik, four terrorists have been killed. The facts are unclear and true to the non-transparent culture we are used to. However, Pakistan has been shaken once again at this huge security lapse. Thus far the naval leadership is not willing to accept that this is a security failure.
However, the public at large after the May 2 strike is not willing to accept the usual tale of intelligence failures and lapses. Given that no answers are being given on the nature, motive and details of these events the Pakistani mind – an indoctrinated house of conspiracy theories – has gone overboard in creating a new version of Arabian Nights.
As the shocking news flashed on TV screens and the Internet, the conspiracies started to flow as it comes naturally to us. Let's face it we are a resilient and dynamic society and there is no reason why to belittle the indomitable will of Pakistanis. We survive and carry on with our lives. At another level, we happen to be a bit psychotic as well.
Minutes after the attack took place, Twitter-friendly Pakistanis at home and abroad started to express their bewilderment. There were many – the usual 'liberal' lot - who bemoaned the rise of extremism and the way al Qaeda wants to damage the Pakistani state. However, one wizard was convinced that the Karachi attacks are the handiwork of a 'pro-US militant' group. Thank God he did not tell us that the terrorists at work were definitely not circumcised, as was the case with the Taliban fighting in the northwest.
As hours passed by, the venerated nukes entered into the discussion. Here is the conspiracy: the Americans are perpetrating these attacks to prove that we are incapable of guarding our nukes. The attacks on PNS Mehran were therefore a far-fetched scheme through which we will lose our nuclear assets.
It appears that many Pakistanis are yet again convinced that it is anti-Pakistan foreign enemies who can do it. Muslims cannot be the enemies of Pakistanis so it has to be non-Muslims. These simplistic and dangerous narratives are now being reinforced by a handful of TV anchors and their security savvy guests who are also casting wild aspersions on everybody and their Uncle except the militants.
Even the Pakistanis who are not given to conspiracy theories suggest that this is a civilian failure as if Zardari and Rehman Malik hold the keys to military installations. Worse, many of them also fail to recognize that Pakistan is faced with a formidable enemy – the Al-Qaeda now bolstered by and operating through its local partners such as TTP and several other sectarian outfits. "Army is short of budget and resources" is another refrain. A self-styled 'defence expert', also infamous for hosting a rude show, (which extolled rapists earlier) fired the best shot: ‘The alliance between Israel, India & USA is trying to malign Pakistan’. A celebrated anchor at DAWN News alluded to the civilian failure.
How can we ever move towards a democratic society if the media continues to reinforce the conspiratorial mindset and deepen the collective psychosis?
May has been a cruel month for Pakistan. Since the assassination of bin Laden, terror attacks have intensified and their target is the security installations and debilitating the state. I want to support our Armed Forces as only they have the capability to fight the menace of terrorism. Pakistanis will stand behind their Army if it resolves to take a single-minded approach to terrorism and review the security doctrine that has brought us to this pass. However, media persons spinning orphaned theories and misleading the country will serve no one's purpose.
About time the country's political parties stand united on this issue and enter into a dialogue with the security establishment. If this resolve and consensus is not going to emerge then there may come a time, not too distant, when it would be simply too late.
Pakistanis outside the domains of power and pelf echo what had Faiz said in one his rare Punjabi poems:
Mainu shahi nai chahidi
o rab sohniya
Min ta izzat da tukkar mandga haan
(I do not want glory, dear God, I want a decent meal)
Raza Rumi is a policy adviser, writer and editor based in Lahore. His writings are archived at www.razarumi.com