Pavlovian Response



‘s story today was guaranteed click-bait. It’s basically the sensational allegations of Rao Anwar cloaked in the credibility of the BBC. That’s a big deal. Whether or not anyone in the UK really cares, it will probably be the BBC’s biggest story today as it will have the undivided attention of hundreds of millions of Pakistanis. Hyper-nationalists began hysterically Tweeting making hashtag #BBCprovesMQMisRAW top trend in Pakistan.

This too is a big deal. Even the typically levelheaded, though, are affected by such hyper-nationalist propaganda. Adolf Hitler explained this in his book Mein Kampf:

The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly and with unflagging attention. It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.

Hyper-nationalists and their bot armies repeat talking points ad nauseum because eventually we all begin to internalise them whether we realise it or not. Here is an intellectual who I respect a great deal whose response to the BBC story is essentially an expression of internalised hyper-nationalism.

Why do I say this is an expression of internalised hyper-nationalism? Let us set aside all the problems with sourcing in the report and for the sake of argument assume that everything in the BBC story is true.

Officials in Pakistan’s MQM party have told the UK authorities they received Indian government funds, the BBC learnt from an authoritative Pakistani source.

This is really the blockbuster revelation and the only point to the BBC report. The rest of the contents are old allegations and probably apply equally to every political party and others: Money laundering, criminal activity, illegal weapons, etc. The only difference is that now we are told that some of MQM’s money, which we were always told before came from criminal enterprises, came from Indian government. This is where the conversation ends. The simple fact of taking Indian money is enough for conviction on all counts of ‘selling their souls’ and ‘betraying the country’. Something is missing, though, which is any explanation of why. What India got for their money?

Was it Indian money that funded massive rally in support of Pakistan Armed Forces?

The typical answer is actually presented by Owen Bennett-Jones himself in his report: destabilising Pakistan.

Back in 2011 a British judge adjudicating an asylum appeal case found that “the MQM has killed over 200 police officers who have stood up against them in Karachi”.

Last year another British judge hearing another such case found: “There is overwhelming objective evidence that the MQM for decades had been using violence.”

The problem of violence that plagues Karachi is undeniable, but the British journalist perpetuates the hyper-nationalist error of presenting violence as one-sided and without any historical context. The truth is, MQM was founded in the 1980s as a defensive move by Karachi’s Mohajirs who found themselves helpless victims. Anti-Mohajir violence has persisted since before 1965 massacre, Qasba–Aligarh massacre in 1980s, and actions like ‘Operation Clean Up’ in 1990s. MQM has been the target of near constant schemes by officials who have taken to inventing fictitious evidences against the party such as fake ‘Jinnahpur Map‘ saga. It is fair to note the history of violence that continues to plague Karachi, but pretending that MQM is the guilty party due to Indian money requires closing one’s eyes to the rest of the story. This does not excuse MQM violence, but if MQM is guilty of destabalising Karachi, aren’t Pakistan Rangers are equally guilty also? If 90 is a base of destabalisation, what is GHQ?

This is the biggest failing of the BBC report. Even if everything in it is 100 per cent authentic, it is so incomplete as to be worthless. Even if MQM took Indian money, there is no explanation of why or for what. In the end, though, that isn’t the point. We have all been conditioned like  Pavlov’s Dog to respond to the words ‘Indian funding’ with hyperventilating and frothing at the mouth. Even an esteemed lawyer like YLH has been sent into a spiral of despair over the selling of souls and betrayal of the country, and yet both of these are nothing but assumptions based on the initial Pavlovian response to hearing the words ‘Indian funding’ and nothing else.

Despite being dressed in BBC’s suit, there are serious questions about the credibility of claims that MQM has taken funding from India. The sources are anonymous and identified as only ‘a Pakistani official’, which could very well be DG-ISI or even Rao Anwar himself for all we know. It is old wine in a new bottle. Or in this case, the same accusation only wearing a British suit instead of Pakistani uniform. What remains missing is not only any hard evidence of the Indian funding, but what that alleged funding actually bought them. But that’s not the point, is it? Merely mentioning ‘Indian funding’ is enough to achieve the goal, which is more than simply discrediting an opponent – it activates our Pavlovian conditioning so that we will accept anything that comes next, no matter how much we know it is not in our best interests.


Author: Mahmood Adeel