Back when the American-led coalition was still running riot in Afghanistan, we used to have a very peculiar phrase in our daily vernacular: “jo karawa raha hai, America karwa raha hai” (whatever is happening, is happening because of America). Admittedly, it was a concise and fairly astute comment about the prevailing political situation. NATO forces had their way with our eastern border, the TTP had theirs with the tribal regions and free-flowing coalition dollars handled the rest. The war in Afghanistan dominated our politics and unsurprisingly its chief architect commanded our complete attention. “Jo karawa raha hai, America karwa raha hai”.

But the phrase soon took a life of its own; going from a simple statement of current affairs to an icon of popular culture – with spectacular results.

Spoken with a grim face and the right tone, the phrase substituted for any in-depth analysis those days. Expanded into a paragraph or two it could substitute for complete policy positions – to the delight of our politicians and journalists. George W Bush made the equation even easier: “You are either with us or against us”. Binary positions and simple explanations - ah, simpler times those.

Unrest in the tribal region? Must be those pesky Americans. Corrupt politicians in all the important positions? It’s America I tell you. The local dhaba is out of your favourite daal? Curse you George W Bush. Stubbed your toe on a piece of furniture? It’s all a CIA-backed American black operation. The phrase had gotten so out of hand that whenever somebody jubilantly announced the birth of a child, someone could always be found in the background snidely remarking “must be the Americans”.

Now that our omnipotent evil men have returned to their bases, the phrase found less traction than it used too. Politicians started floundering when attending press conferences; they actually had to think before saying things, come up with facts and figures- imagine the indignity. “Analysts” had no easy answers; smug smiles were wiped off and they were forced to admit their uncertainty. Catchy political slogans had to be reworked because nothing really rhymes with “weak state institutions” or “patronage politics”. There was a time when ‘the Jewish lobby’ used to be the world’s wholesale conspiracy dispenser – a panacea for who-to-blame-our-problems-on problem. But no one will really believe that the pan-spitting, gin-swilling (reportedly), Urdu speaking Altaf Hussain is a Mossad double agent – at least not with a straight face, or without copious amounts of gin.

But before despair set in Pakistan realised that we had forgotten our original bogyman – our first and our only. One that has always been there for us in the past, one who would never leave us like the fickle Americans did, one who needs us as much as we need them – India, incredible India.

And much like a Bollywood heroine running through a wheat field to euphoric music, we went rushing to the arms of the evil Indians, and political discourse was child’s play again.

Flooding in Punjab? Those Indians must have maliciously released water. Balochistan feels underrepresented in the government? Those crafty Indians are at it again. The local dhaba is out of your favourite daal? Curse you Narendra Modi. Stubbed your toe on a piece of furniture? It’s all a RAW-backed Indian black operation.

Once more we returned to easy distinctions; journalists and politicians were either loyal Pakistanis or Indian agents – without so much as a “disenchanted citizen” in between.

But before I am termed the latter and we get out our pitchforks, it must be understood that India does indeed meddle with Pakistani affairs, as we meddle in theirs. What do you expect from two nuclear powered developing countries with a long standing territorial and water-sharing dispute which have already fought two wars against each other and continue to harbour barely restrained hostility? Not carrying out subversive activities would be an affront to all real-politick statesmen, past and present.

Yes, India does interfere in Balochistan, that much is obvious, and the large number of newly constructed dams on Pakistan’s upstream water supply is surely a cause of concern. But is India the cause behind your serially stubby toe or the missing daal? Is it the sole cause of all our problems? Could there be things that we have ignored while fixating on our nuclear neighbour?

It seems so.

The problem with grand narratives involving clashing civilisations and warring nations is this; they are frightfully averse to ambivalence - the difficult art of holding multiple, often contrasting opinions about a single subject at the same time. Populist slogans aren’t built on caveats and provisos – fact and figures have never enraged a mob either. What we gain in passion however, is lost in common sense. Unless we are talking about pure Newtonian physics there is rarely and event that has a single defined cause. Real life is gloriously complex, and political life even more so. There is always interplay of factors that lead to any problematic situation, and reductive reasoning strips our conclusions of all nuances. As the eloquent ramblings of one Donald J Trump show us, placing all the blame on one factor or one community is not just plainly wrong – it is stupid.

When Balochitan’s Chief Minister blamed RAW for the Quetta hospital attack moments after it happened – and Rawalpindi backed it up with a more measured statement later in the week, they are not technically incorrect; India might as well have played a part. Yet by laying the blame solely on the bogeyman’s shoulders we ignore aspects that might have played a part too. Is the Islamic State (IS) gaining ground in Pakistan? Does the security regime in Quetta require a rethink? Have our intelligence agencies failed us? What does this mean for the “successful” Zarb-e-Azb? So many questions, only one answer – India.

Keep it as an answer by all means, but don’t ignore the wider picture; as simple as that. The optimist in this situation would say that our zealous nature jumps the gun, and all options are kept on the table. The cynic would argue that throughout history having a bogeyman has been mighty convenient – everybody seems to have them, including India. They have us.

Trouble in Kashmir? Those Pakis will never learn. Separatist movements in Assam? I see ISI’s hand in this. The local dhaba is out of your favourite daal…