The desire for special exemptions — from traffic rules, visa procedures, customs clearance — and the assumption that their press card holds a self-contained, no-objection-certificate for odd behaviour.
The habit of bringing their stories with their luggage. Here in Pakistan they look only for characters and quotes to support the texts they have compiled in their heads prior to their arrival.
The incessant complaining. Living in outsized houses, many times the size of the shacks in which they spent most of their lives in back home, their instinct for comfort grows in inverse proportion to their desire to find the truth. It is almost as if Pakistan is a shopping mall of special privileges and they have unlimited credit on their cards.
The complete lack of nuance. Pakistan, for most of these correspondents, is a country neatly divided into ‘Bzombies’ (short-hand for ideologically motivated, unthinking suicide bombers) and ‘Social Butterflies’ (no shorthand needed). In between lies a vast humanity deserving attention only in the case of gang-raped women, shackled children at madrassas, or some strange pandemic leading to high fatalities. If these things are not happening, Pakistan has no news value.
That they forget while the country has existed as an independent state for some decades, its civilisation dates back to a couple of thousand years. In other words, ‘Stone Age’ may be a phrase some Pakistanis use to describe their problems, but in reality, as a phase of history, it ended roughly the same time here as elsewhere in the world.
The half dozen rent-an-analyst experts most of the correspondents rely on. The garbled inanities of this lot are chiseled into sharp insights. Their redundant designations (retd this, retd that) are woven into news stories like plastic beads on a cheap thread. This trash-in-trash-out cycle of news spins on subjectivity, which of course can’t be challenged because a foreign journalist ‘knows his/her job’ best.
Newcomers, relocated from some unknown town of some non-descript state, who land in Pakistan carrying the viewfinder of an explorer, finding mystery in every road sign and a cultural conundrum in every glance thrown at them.
Those who ‘cover’ Pakistan from 10,000 miles away and, incredibly, speak with an air of authority that no native could ever hope to command. This breed shines in their careers in the electronic media based on their exceptional ability to speak official truths. It is another matter that most of them would find it hard to locate on a map the areas they claim to know like their backyard.
The lack of understanding that, for all its faults and self-inflicted wounds, Pakistan would still have been a better place if Washington, London, Berlin and Brussels hadn’t fought their dirty wars on its turf. Their collective amnesia about the recent past and the role foreign powers played in wrecking peace and prosperity in this part of the world is most striking; it is an ailment that is cured only once they are transferred to another ancient land on a new assignment.
The fact that Pakistan, for most of them, is a vacation, extendable into infinity by producing reams of vacuous work.