By Anas Abbas
Conspiracy theories are common all over Pakistan and they specifically target the youth of Pakistan that accounts for a substantial percentage of Pakistani population. According to Dawn News (Fifty-seven per cent of Pakistan’s population is between 15 and 64, and 41 per cent are under 15. Only four per cent are over 65. Pakistan is now experiencing its largest ever youth bulge) United Nations Report.
According to the New York Times news paper, in a survey report, commissioned by the British Council and conducted by the Nielsen research company, Pakistani youth is pessimistic about its future and is severely impacted by the austere economic conditions and political chaos in the country. The survey revealed that majority of those interviewed were deeply depressed, demoralised and a part of highly frustrated young generation; a generation which feels abandoned by its government. While most people do not trust their government, they do however; attach loyalty to the military and religious institutions. Three-quarters of those interviewed identified themselves primarily as Muslim, with just one out of seven identifying themselves as Pakistanis. Moreover, the same study reveals that the despair among them is rooted in the unhealthy state of their lives: only one-fifth of those interviewed had permanent full-time jobs. While half of them said they did not have sufficient skills to even enter the workplace. Moreover, one out of four could not read or write- ‘a legacy of the country’s abysmal public education system, in which less than 40 percent of children are enrolled in schools- far below the South Asian average of 58 percent’ (New York Times Newspaper).
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/world/asia/22pstan.html?_r=2 (Please refer to the survey here)
This already despondent youth finds considerable respite in religious groups and other radical groups which give a sense of belonging, a shared feeling of helplessness – the realization that the same problems are shared by those within these groups– and in in the case of madrassas some form of education, food and boarding is also provided.
In a society with a low literacy rate, a bulk of the population does not value research or articles and are mostly guided blindly, like sheep, by conspiracy theorists such as Zaid Hamid and other such radicalists who provide a ‘feel-good’ element to the youth by presenting a false concoction of conspiracy theories where the blame is poured over other societies such as the Jews or America. .
According to Farooq Sulehria’s article titled “Conspiracy theories”, Pakistanis readily buy conspiracy theories because the masses here feel disempowered.
The best example he has given is: “Conspiracy theories, by oversimplifying complex political questions, save you mental labour. Why strain one’s nerves to understand Marx’s dull essays on economy to understand the current financial meltdown when we know ”Jewish bankers” have engineered this crisis?”
Under such circumstances, it is understandable that majority of the population would not strain their already stressed nerves over dull essays and articles with an open mind and make a daunting effort for independent research when they can simply listen to the theories and lectures provided by Zaid Hamid and the likes.
Besides, it’s human nature not to oppose the masses. To oppose means to take a stand, to have the guts to say ‘No’ and that surely requires something more than education. It requires courage, wit, intelligence and an enlightened mind.
http://www.thenews.com.pk/editorial_detail.asp?id=210415 (Refer to Farooq’s article for the quotes)