On May 9, students from various communities, including Pakistanis, Kashmiris and Palestinians organised a teach-in at the School of Oriental and African Studies (popularly known as SOAS) in London, on the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM). Teach-ins are mostly informal, quasi-academic and open to contribution from participants. Though the Pakistani media was invited, only a few people from the industry made it to the event and, expectedly, did not cover the discussion due to the media blackout on PTM activities. Some of the organisers posted photos and live streamed the event to reach those people who were unable to attend but still wanted to listen to the discussion. This kind of teach-in or discussion is part of routine activism around the word. But in Pakistan’s context, nothing is normal. Everything is a part of some conspiracy or evil war being waged against this remarkable nation. On May 12, a self-proclaimed defence analyst — who also acts as a defender and expansionist for the armed forces — Zaid Hamid, Tweeted photos of our event (which, by the way, was stolen from one of organiser’s Facebook page) and captioned them as: “These are exclusive secret pictures of CIAs information warfare and psy-ops teams creating an insurgency in Pakistan through social media and NGOs. This is the reason for serious friction between ISI and CIA these days. Like Syria, 5GW [fifth-Generation Warfare] is being pushed against Pak.” Viewing society from the security lens alone is a part of Pakistan’s colonial legacy. The British considered any upheaval a threat to the monarchy This statement received hundreds of retweets and subsequent abuses and conspiracies. Another post Facebook and Twitter captioned same pictures as ‘Hidden Cam Pictures taken during a meeting being held by CIA operatives and NGOs planning information warfare, creating insurgency in Pakistan by supporting so called PTM.’ One Facebook post even termed this venue as the CIA headquarters negating all geographical and spatial factual realities. But discussion on disinformation and propaganda is incomplete without mentioning some semi-fauji media anchors who pretend to be journalists but work as self-appointed military spokespersons. One is Aamir Liaquat Hussain, who made the allegation that the event was a conspiracy against Pakistan on the May 14 episode of his TV show. According to him, the event was jointly organised by RAW, NDS, CIA, NGOs and other foreigners. These accusations were made despite the fact that the event was adequately publicised, posted on social media, sent people personal invites and published on the SOAS Student Union website. The media and populace in general seem to be in a rush to buy and promote any conspiracy theory they can. There are various reason for this, and it is also true that culture of conspiracy is present in almost every society but in the context of Pakistan, especially in political settings, there are two interlinked explanations. The first is fairly simple, insecurity. Viewing society from the security lens alone is a part of Pakistan’s colonial legacy. The British considered any upheaval a threat to the monarchy. Although insecurity could be found in different empires, the institutionalisation of insecurity — in modern bureaucracy and army — was arguably the gift of the British Empire which was later advanced by the Pakistani state, particularly under dictatorial regimes. Since Pakistan was born with an ‘enemy’ (India), this fear of India had given moral and political legitimacy to the securitisation of state apparatus. Therefore, the idea of building a healthy society was replaced with the notion of protecting society from an ‘enemy’. That was one of the reasons for the state crackdown on progressives and democrats from the 50s to 80s. It was for the same reason that blood-thirsty Jihadis were presented as an antithesis of progressives, who could not only thwart inclusive and progressive politics but fight alongside the Pakistani state. The second explanation is the control over the national narrative exercised by the establishment. The strongest narrative it has constructed is that anyone who is critical of the military and opposes its political role is an enemy, and is conspiring against the whole institution. From the time of Fatima Ali Jinnah to date, no civilian has been spared from this accusation. Now Manzoor Pashteen and the PTM are being viewed from the same old security obsessed point of view. Numerous sedition cases have been made against PTM leadership, social media has become an inane conspiracy factory and journalists are didactically explaining that there are good and bad Pashtuns; of course the latter are those who are critical of the military. Those who think that they could stymie PTM’s popularity by using these conspiracies need to understand that their approach will not work. It’s not the PTM that needs to revisit its position; it’s the state that has to change. A rational analysis makes it clear that it is democracy, the federation and society which will benefit from PTM’s demands most. We need a strong, democratic, inclusive, and progressive society and whoever demands this can only be an agent of peace. Writer is an activist. He was a Chevening Scholar; studied Religion in Global Politics at SOAS. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter @jafferamirza Published in Daily Times, May 23rd 2018.