A fresh wave of terror attacks that has killed more than 100 people across Pakistan in the past few days is fueling conspiracy theories that the United States and India are behind the violence, and officials are stoking the popular perception.
On Tuesday, a truck bomb set off at a security checkpoint in the city of Multan in central Pakistan claimed 12 lives, including some civilians.
Analysts say government officials are blaming recent attacks on a "foreign hand" (usually a euphemism for regional rival India) in an effort to shift attention from their inability to provide adequate security.
Monday's attacks on the eastern city of Lahore and the northwestern city of Peshawar were blamed on "foreign elements" by Punjab Province's law minister, Rana Sanaullah, and the North West Frontier Province's senior minister, Bashir Ahmed Bilour, respectively.
While Pakistan and India have a long history of pointing fingers at each other in times of internal strife, the Pakistani accusations have multiplied along with the rising number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Recent targets have included mosques and markets, as opposed to exclusively hitting facilities associated with security forces.
Some Pakistanis say that while the Taliban have targeted Pakistan's security forces for their "collusion" with the US (killing civilians as collateral damage), the Islamic militants would not gratuitously kill civilians.
"Obviously this is the work of the Indians and Americans," says Viqar Khan, a rickshaw driver in Lahore when questioned about the recent strikes. "If the Taliban had done it they would say so, because they don't lie."
Analysts dismiss the theories
According to security analyst Hassan Askari-Rizvi, the idea that India may be behind the terror attacks is "a very widely shared perception, but there's hardly any evidence to substantiate that. They [the militants] have attacked civilians in the past. I think the government consciously creates that confusion."
"It is easy to communicate [this idea to] people who are already somehow convinced because of religious arguments that everyone is against Pakistan because we're the only Muslim nuclear power," says Mr. Askari-Rizvi. "This is a faith-based argument, not an argument based on reason."
That view is shared by Badar Alam, a senior editor at Herald magazine, a leading Pakistani monthly.
"Both the intelligentsia and the government are behind the latest trend [of blaming India] because it absolves them of responsibility of doing anything to stop it," he says.
Shock and blame
Monday's attack on a crowded marketplace in the eastern city of Lahore, which killed more than 40 people, and last Friday's attack on a mosque in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, which also killed 40 people, have shocked many here in a way that past attacks haven't.
Pakistani news channels have played lengthy tributes to the victims of the blasts while newspaper editorials have ruminated on security breaches at length.
In Lahore's busy Main Market, many express their anger at the Taliban, but also wonder out loud how the militants are being trained and equipped.
"What can one say about these people? May God guide them and show them the true path. Suicide bombings are not lslamic," says Zarina Ali, a housewife. But, she adds, India or America may be funding the militants.
Others go further still, like Ghulam Mustafa, a banker, who suggests that the Taliban "don't really exist" and that the bombers are "Indians in disguise."
Such views are counterproductive, according to Mr. Alam. "This is a dangerous trend," he says. "It says there is nothing within this society which we need to fix."