10 things I hate about Washington DC's Af-Pak ‘experts’

If they speak Urdu and know half a dozen Punjabi curse words, they are automatically dubbed an authority on Pakistan.

Huma Imtiaz November 20, 2011

1.    Only in DC can you be a Pakistan expert without ever visiting the region. Yet your average Pakistan expert, fresh out of college or mid-career, claims to possess a deep understanding of how Pakistan’s politics, military and society work.

2.   Ten years into the war in Afghanistan, the difference between Afghan and Afghani is still lost on many. Afghan is for the people, Afghani is for the currency or a type of naan.

3.   Minutes after a new snafu in US-Pakistan relations, they will have an op-ed/essay/20-page report about it. It doesn’t matter if it is a variation of the op-ed they wrote last year. From the Haqqani Network to Pakistan’s power woes, they know all.

4.   They employ so many clichés one wonders if there’s a special Oxford’s Guide to Clichés About Pakistan on their desks. From “Pakistan’s nukes are safe” to “A Rogue Ally”, the words are so tired, they’re begging for a pillow.

5.    Most Af-Pak experts have never been to Ravi Kebab, the place to eat the best Pakistani food in this state. How can one understand Pakistan without ever having sampled nihari?

6.    When they do go to Pakistan, cab drivers are their best source of “what the common man thinks” or research polls that only sample 1000 people in urban areas.

7.    The assumption that everyone in Pakistan is a radical and hates India.

8.    If they speak Urdu and know half a dozen Punjabi curse words, they are automatically dubbed an authority on Pakistan.

9.    Their love for drones. Didja hear they don’t kill civilians?

10.    How often I find myself in their offices, asking them for their analyses.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 20th,  2011.

Facebook Conversations


Charles Ebinger | 8 years ago | Reply | Recommend

Bravo for the author.As one who has worked fro every government in Pakistan since 1977 an written numerous books and articlea and travelled all over the country I could not agree more that what passes for expertise on this very complex country is appalling. I know a different Pakistan whetre the poorest villagers (Naltar) share their their meager rations with a complete stranger, where mosques provide weary travelrs a place for food and to sleep and where the tradition of hospitality can not be beaten anywhere in the world.Washington is full of noted authoriteis and some such as my colleague Steve Cohen are among the best but most especially those in the WB never really see the country or have any idea how many people struggle just to feed their familiies or are ravaged by floods while their own elite bask in luxury and few people do anything to alleviate their suffering.

Ozymandias | 8 years ago | Reply | Recommend

@Marvi Sirmed: You do get that this is satire right?

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