So there was a video piece on raves in Karachi, which I can't find the link for. There was the article in the NYT on students picking up trash to change the world. And then there was my personal favorite, the "ordinary people are rising against the Taliban with Facebook" piece.
You will notice that none of these pieces actually refer to "ordinary" Pakistanis in any way, but in fact the elite. Which is fine, because Western reporters can generally only speak English, and the only people who can speak (comprehensible to Westerners) English are the elite, so it would make sense for the two to meet over coffee on Zamzama. But let's not kid ourselves with the "ordinary" bit, shall we?
Anyway, via AfPak, we are told by ABC News -- gasp, shudder -- that there actually exist homosexuals in Pakistan. We are also told that being gay in Pakistan is difficult. Finally, we are told that some brave souls soldier on despite the perils of social and familial shunning. Ok, then.
To be fair, the ABC and NYTs of the world aren't writing for us, the people who already know all of this, but for the people in the West who ask questions like "Wait, you have cars there?" when they meet me. To that end, it makes sense that they would go for the most eye-catching stories, even if they speak to (and about) very small minorities of the population, be it ravers, beat-the-Taliban-with-Facebookers, or outed homosexuals. So again, I get it. It makes sense.
It's just that Pakistan is an enormously fascinating country, and I'm not just saying that because I'm from there. Western journalists often have opportunities denied to local reporters because of a lack of resources and/or access issues (very important people will gladly talk to the NYTs and Financial Times of the world, and will never divulge anything useful to the Jangs and Dawns of the world). So my plead would be: do something with those opportunities. Don't talk to me about the elite. Don't talk to me about drugs at parties, which we all know exist. It's not an important discovery.
There's plenty of things Western reporters could dedicate themselves to, that local reporers can't. How about we see an article on the urbanization of Pakistan, which has gathered apace in the last generation? How have these demographic trends affected the lives of the people actually moving, and the people staying behind? How about a piece on the roads-and-cable-and-cell phone explosion in the last ten years which have brought rural Pakistan closer to the rest of the country, both physically and metaphorically?
How about a really good profile piece -- I mean Gladwellian/Steve Collian type feature writing -- on Nawaz Sharif and the (apparent) changes in his political outlook? You know he'll talk to a Westerner. You know he will. I want to know what he was thinking the minute he heard BB died, after all they've been through. I want to know what he was thinking not allowing that plane to land in October, 1999. I want to know what happened in Saudi Arabia. I want to know what convinced him to get a hair transplant. I don't know any of this. I read three Pakistani papers every single day. There's an opportunity here.
Or what about a good, technical piece -- backed by energy experts from around the world -- on Pakistan's energy crisis, mixed with stories about the various irrigation projects (Kalabagh being the most famous one) falling prey to ethnic and regional divisions within the country? You don't think that would be more interesting, compelling and useful than "there are gays in Pakistan"?
I really don't mean to pile on these people. I like journalists. They help to, you know, keep me informed, and I like to be informed. It's just that I hate to see stuff from these big mainstream news organizations which no one cares about. They could do so much better.
By the way, the ABC piece had the greatest two opening sentences I've ever read.
It wasn't until she was 16 years old, when she'd left her Pashtun family in Peshawar for an elite school where the teachers were nuns, that Minot realized she was gay.
"I found out when I dated my literature teacher [a nun]," she said. "I got an A."