That the blast in Lahore, which killed 35, including nine policemen, could be blamed on the government as a distraction from the Panama Leaks case, showed the same low opinion of government morality as makes the public willing to believe that politicians are corrupt. It also fed into the narrative of India, which seems to have convinced the USA that Pakistan foments terrorism.

The difficulty that Mian Nawaz Sharif is facing in the Panamagate case is best illustrated by the suspicion. The charge which the JIT has recommended is also illustrative of the same mindset. It is that of assets not matching income: It is a charge where the burden of proof is on the accused. In a strange reversal of norms, it is the accused who must prove his innocence, not the prosecution his guilt. The provision of the NAB law stands on its head the legal maxim about innocence until guilt is proved, and the saying that it is better for a hundred guilty men go free than for one innocent man to be penalised.

Then there is also the impression that the ‘agencies’ are very powerful, and can do almost anything. The agencies are supposed to be behind the deep state, and the establishment. First the PPP, and now the PML(N), are supposed to be first victims and then opponents of this ‘deep state’, which is actually the military, which depends on the intelligence agencies for its ability to achieve its ends. At present, the establishment is supposed to want the PTI to take power.

It should be noted that the anti-establishment narrative is not about dismantling it, but subordinating it. The PPP, and now the PML(N), does not want the deep state to stop its interference in the political affairs of the country, but to interfere on its behalf, on its leader’s orders. This may well be why there is a continued ability to interfere. The civilian arm never attempted ending the military’s ability to intervene; it always attempted to make sure that it intervened on its behalf.

This was a part of controlling the government: That officials were willing to do anything, no matter how illegal or against the rules, to retain their post. Military officials did not comply, and were thus singled out. Perhaps the difference between civilian and military officials was that of postings. Certainly, Indian civilian control of the military is based on the existence of the Cabinet Committee on Appointments, which approves every single posting of colonel (and equivalent) and above. In Pakistan, on the other hand, this is done by the service HQ, and thus the service chief. The Defence Ministry and the Prime Minister, are thus just a rubberstamp. As postings are very important for promotions, the Indian mechanism is very effective.

However, overall, the Indian example also provides for the preservation of the military from civilian interference. While there are multiple examples of the Indian bureaucracy committing atrocities to help prop up civilian politicians, there are none of the Indian military doing so. This is despite the fact that the Indian military is so badly reputed in committing atrocities whenever it has been called in to meet civil disorder, that there is virtually an atrocity culture in existence.

It is therefore an easy assumption that those practicing politics are involved in corruption. It must be remembered that the military constitutes a meritocracy, and there are many from humble origins who rise to high rank. There is no disadvantage to having a father enjoying high rank, but it is not a prerequisite. Politicians, on the other hand, may have no other qualification than being the sons (or daughters) of their father. Apart from institutional reasons, there is the factor that in the case of politicians, there are elections to be fought, which mean electoral machines, which may be inherited, and need money to run. The politician’s child learns the utility of both very early.

The assumption behind the rumour of government involvement in the Lahore blast is that the government could have carried it out, not just in the sense of wishing to, but of being able to. This assumes either the government has sufficient control over at least some militants as to make some of them blow themselves up. It is also counter-intuitive, for it assumes that the agencies are obedient to the civilian government, not their parent organisations. The agencies are supposed to follow the orders of their immediate superior, the COAS, rather than of their ultimate, the Prime Minister, so if the deep state is conspiring against the government in the Panamagate case, it is not likely to bail it out with a bomb blast.

Perhaps the sentiment behind this rumour is one of helplessness. If the state is able to arrange carnage like in the Lahore blast, then the individual cannot change it, and is absolved of the responsibility. It may well reflect people’s feeling of powerlessness. If so, it may well mean that they feel that the political parties presently in the field do not have the ability to empower them.

Another thing militating against the theory of the deep state being behind it is the choice of target: The police. They are the civil armed forces par excellence, and are the only department outside the military allowed the use of force. It is also impossible to prevent them being attacked, because unlike the military, their work is primarily among the people. Not only are they supposed to investigate crimes, but they are also supposed to act as the strong arm of the executive. It is only as a last resort that the military is supposed to be called in.

It may well be thought that this attack is a response to the Army’s Khyber 4 operation, which is supposed to have cleared the area of militants. If it is, it shows that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, which claimed responsibility for the blast, is still able to undertake such large operations in the country. There is not really a question of Kabul’s involvement, because Kabul was also targeted, with 90 killed. There might be a wider factor at work, the Taliban attacked a Hazara neighbourhood in Kabul, with an obvious sectarian angle. The sectarian factor means that those supporting militancy also support this sectarianism, which creates especial difficulties in Pakistan, where the Shia are not only numerically significant, but where the Sunni majority has traditionally accepted them.

The lesson of the Lahore blast is that ending corruption does not mean an end to militancy. No one is saying that the proximity of the blast to the Sharif’s residence indicates disgust with corruption. This blast was such that it is impossible to play politics with it. However, politicians being politicians, the attempt had to be made. It should not be a matter of choosing between terrorism and corruption, but unfortunately, that is what it would be, if the conspiracy theorists are given their head.

The civilian arm never attempted ending the military’s ability to intervene; it always attempted to make sure that it intervened on its behalf.