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US a villain for Pakistanis

Americans may think that the failed Times Square bomb was planted by a man named Faisal Shahzad. But the view in the Supreme Court Bar Association here in Pakistan’s capital is that the culprit was an American “think tank.”

world Updated: May 27, 2010 00:32 IST

Americans may think that the failed Times Square bomb was planted by a man named Faisal Shahzad. But the view in the Supreme Court Bar Association here in Pakistan’s capital is that the culprit was an American “think tank.”

No one seems to know its name, but everyone has an opinion about it. It is powerful and shadowy, and seems to control just about everything in the American government, including President Barack Obama.

“They have planted this character Faisal Shahzad to implement their script,” said Hashmat Ali Habib, a lawyer and a member of the bar association.

Who are they? “You must know, you are from America,” he said smiling. “My advice for the American nation is, get free of these think tanks.”

Conspiracy theory is a national sport in Pakistan, where the main players — the United States, India and Israel — change positions depending on the ebb and flow of history. Since 2001, the US has taken center stage, looming so large in Pakistan’s collective imagination that it sometimes seems to be responsible for everything that goes wrong here.

The problem is more than a peculiar domestic phenomenon for Pakistan.

It has grown into a narrative of national victimhood that is a nearly impenetrable barrier to any candid discussion of the problems here.

In turn, it is one of the principal obstacles for the US in its effort to build a stronger alliance with a country to which it gives more than a billion dollars a year in aid. It does not help that no part of the Pakistani state — either the weak civilian government or the powerful military — is willing to risk publicly owning that relationship.

One result is that nearly all of American policy toward Pakistan is conducted in secret, a fact that serves only to further feed conspiracies. American military leaders slip quietly in and out of the capital; the Central Intelligence Agency uses networks of private spies; and the main tool of American policy here, the drone program, is not even publicly acknowledged to exist.

(The New York Times)