Pakistan: conspiracy theories, military establishment & media



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Law


This thesis explores the interaction of three different factors in Pakistan’s politics: the political role of conspiracy theories as a propaganda tool, the position of Pakistan’s military establishment, and the role the media plays in discussing and exploring the ‘unwarranted’ conspiracy theories in a biased manner that suits and serves the military establishment. Pakistan’s military establishment manifests the popular anti- American, anti-Indian and anti-Israeli conspiracy theory themes and promotes their media discourse.

The thesis uses case studies to explore the most popular conspiracy theory themes in the post-9/11 Pakistan and examines their ‘warrantability’ vis a vis counter-facts and counter-arguments. It finds that much of the conspiracy narrative in Pakistan is flawed and ‘unwarranted’. More importantly however, it argues the conspiracy narrative contains a strong pro-military establishment that promotes and protects its own policies while providing a cover up for its political blunders and exploitations by blaming the external forces such as the US, India and Israel for their occurrence.

While the enormous control and power of the military in Pakistan has been extensively researched and commented upon, this thesis examines these matters through the lens of conspiracy theory and how this phenomenon plays the role of a propaganda tool at the hands of this powerful element in the polity of Pakistan.

The thesis critically analyses some popular television talk shows on certain key events in Pakistan since 9/11, events that generated an enormous amount of conspiracy talk. It conducts a ‘Critical Discourse Analysis’ of their content. It is also therefore the first systematic study of Pakistan’s vast but allegedly ‘free media’ and how it tackles the events that generate conspiracy theories in the country’s national and international politics. These findings are of particular significance for several reasons, and the thesis explores how important events generate conspiracy theories and the role the media plays in their public dissemination as well as discussion. Further, it shows how a biased or more precisely, a pro-military debate of these events and the conspiracy theories attached to them can serve on the one hand to confuse the public, and on the other to create a favourable political environment for the military establishment.


This thesis is unavailable due to its continuing embargo