Report: Conspiracy theories sweep Pakistan

June 1, 2011 at 1:29 AM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 1 (UPI) -- A poll on the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces in Pakistan suggests Pakistanis seem to accept conspiracy theories easily, political analysts say.

In the poll by the international market research company YouGov, two-thirds of Pakistanis did not believe the al-Qaida leader died in the raid on his compound by a U.S. Navy SEALs team, the Los Angeles Times reported. Some even said bin Laden died several years ago.

Analysts told the Times Pakistanis' refusal to accept such official accounts stems from their deep distrust of America, their desire to protect Pakistan's nuclear program, and acceptance of what hard-line clerics say.

The analysts also blame some media that publicize conspiracy theories by Islamist supporters and those just seeking to raise doubts.

One leading conspiracy theory purveyor went so far as to claim an India-U.S.-Israel axis wants to control Pakistan's nuclear arsenal by secretly supporting terrorist groups within Pakistan to foment civil war, the Times reported.

Analysts told the Times hard-line clerics in mosques take advantage of their poorly-educated audience to preach conspiracy theories. Nearly half of the country's population is illiterate.

"All over Pakistan, religious people have lionized bin Laden. He became a hero. And now they refuse to believe he's dead," said retired Brig. Javed Hussain, a former Pakistani special forces commander.

The Times, citing a 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable disclosed by WikiLeaks and carried by Dawn newspaper, said the cable talked of strong anti-American bias among lecturers at the National Defense University, a leading military college in Islamabad attended by colonels and brigadiers.

Conspiracy theories that blame America and India for everything wrong in Pakistan free its people from accepting accountability, one analyst said.

"Conspiracy theories contribute to the rejection of pragmatism. And we need pragmatism to identify our problems and figure out the best way to resolve them," said Rasul Bakhsh Rais in Lahore.

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