New Provinces, Conspiracy Theories, and Turtles

Jan 30th, 2013 | By | Category: Conspiracy Theories, The News

Turtles All The Way DownIssues like creation of a new province can spark legitimate debate and discussion about the pros and cons of such policies. Or, if you need a short cut, you can always accuse the other side of acting in the interests of foreign powers. This is the case in Major General (r) Tahir Ali’s recent piece for The News (Jang Group) that claims that creation of Bahawalpur Southern Punjab Province is part of a US-India agenda in the region. While the General’s piece offers nothing of real substance in the discussion of whether or not creating a new province in South Punjab is good policy, it does provide an opportunity to examine some of the classic elements of a conspiracy theory.

Gen Tahir Ali begins by admitting that his theory “may seem far-fetched” until you consider “a critical analysis of happenings and events in the last five years”. Naturally, he is happy to provide a “brief highlight” of the analysis that serves as a premise for the rest of his theory. This includes the following points:

  • The US and India are united in wanting to ‘contain’ China
  • The US and India want to exploit the mineral/energy resources of Central Asia
  • The US wants a secure corridor from the Arabian Sea to Central Asia through Pakistan
  • The US wants India to have pre-eminence in the region
  • The US wants India to have a secure corridor through Pakistan
  • The US wants Pakistan to facilitate Indian ingress into Central Asia as demanded
  • The US controls Pakistan’s ruling elite
  • The only thing standing in the way of the US ‘grand design’ is Pakistan’s Army and nuclear weapons

In other words, in order for Gen Tahir Ali’s new conspiracy theory not to seem ‘far-fetched’, you first have to accept another conspiracy theory – one that itself has serious problems. For example, If the US controls Pakistan’s ruling elite, why did they close NATO supply routes? Why did they kick the US out of Shamsi airbase? If the US wants India to be pre-eminent in the region, why does the US give Pakistan over 700% more in military aid than India?

Even if Gen Tahir Ali’s premise is correct, though, it still doesn’t explain how does a change in provincial administration facilitates the US’s alleged ‘grand design’. Here we get into the General’s new conspiracy which is just as inexplicable.

For example, Gen Tahir Ali claims that the creation of Bahawalpur South Punjab Province will turn the Indus into a ‘wasteland’. How? Obviously, there is no explanation for how a change in local administration would destroy a river that has existed for thousands of years or longer.

In the end, though, the General gives away his real agenda when he complains that “With no prominent Saraiki leader in the limelight, nobody should have a doubt as to who would occupy the driving seat in such a dispensation…Zardari & Co in total control with marginalized MQM.”

And there you have it.

In his conclusion, General Tahir Ali acknowledges that “the above scenario could be a figment of my imagination” but argues that “those who are supporting the idea of a new province in the proposed configuration must analyse the issue from all perspectives”. The first part may be true, but the second certainly isn’t. Does the proposed configuration have to be analysed from the perspective that it is part of an alien mind control operation? Or that those opposing it are Mossad agents? No. Because there is no evidence of any of that and doing so would be an unnecessary distraction and waste of time. Of course, if that is your goal all along…

Gen Tahir Ali’s piece reminds us that conspiracy theories are like the theory of turtles. After hearing a lecture on astronomy, the story goes, an old woman stood up and said to the professor, “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is flat and is sitting on the back of a giant turtle!” The professor smiled and asked, “And what is the turtle standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old woman. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”

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