How to become a successful ‘rent-an-expert’
By Ayesha Siddiqa
Published: February 29, 2012
The writer is adviser to the chairman NAB and author of Military Inc. The views expressed here are her own.
If you are a white-skinned foreigner trying to make a career in journalism or academia, here is an opportunity of making it big by becoming an expert on the ‘most dangerous country’ in the world — Pakistan. The colour of the skin is critical for success because those guarding information inside the country about the country do not prefer darker complexion as it reminds them of what they were before being invaded and exposed to genetic re-engineering through processes that are better be kept secret.
Being a female helps tremendously as powerful circles in Pakistan believe that women are most effective in conveying messages to the world. A genuinely pretty face is not a prerequisite as long as the female has a man-attracting-magnetic personality, can speak English well, and falls in the category of a ‘liberal scum’ (most likely she will never be a true liberal). Although domestically numerous versions of females are now available, some of them original and other clones, to communicate the views of the ‘state within the state’, there is always the need for the superior version: the white-skinned female who can naturally speak with an accent and easily make inroads in the western system. A well-dressed woman with airs is certainly a huge advantage.
An appreciation of norms of research and inquiry is certainly not a prerequisite either in the country of origin or in Pakistan. The right instinct as a salesperson, who could sell anything from dishwashing liquid or a used car to a used idea, is essential. However, certain conditions can make the sales pitch extremely impressive. For instance, a couple of generals, senior bureaucrats and politicians in the pocket with whom you can demonstrate familiarity on a first-name basis works really well. It will be naturally assumed that these people have unloaded all national secrets on to your hard drive. Some of this may not be a fallacy as those in position of power feel extremely elated talking to a gora sahib or a mem sahib. They would love to boast about their power and knowledge which is nice since you can write a book after several such conversations. These people, who will willingly become your hosts during visits to Pakistan, will not even bother with what you have written about them and how they have been quoted as long as they are named in an international publication. This, of course, will increase your market at home where you will immediately be invited to talk shows on which Pakistan and the South Asian region are being discussed and taken seriously. Given the concern for security of their nationals in Pakistan, some western countries have started using its (Pakistan’s) non-gora nationals as well. However, the dark-complexioned ones have to work doubly hard for making clients in their countries of residence by first showing off deep contacts in their countries of origin. Of course, dropping names helps a lot as well. But for both, the coloured and white ‘rent-an-expert’ type, it helps to recount certain very private kinds of information. These details, then, help others in foreign capitals assume that the information you have as an expert on the whereabouts of bombs and booby traps is correct.
But the vital personal information requires that you first get close enough to the bigwigs in Pakistan for which a recommended recipe is initial investment in making contacts in the right circles. You will be lucky if you are a female and go through an established introducer in the country of origin. But once past the initial handshake it will be worthwhile to make initial contact successful which you can do by faking a genuine interest in the people, culture and country — and convincing your Pakistani clients of your access to the right circles in important western capitals.
As you get a chance to expand your circle you must remember to say the right things at the right time. For instance, words like ‘feudalism’, ‘clientist’ and so on are a sign of you knowing it all. Also, public claims regarding the state not being a failed one, will bring assured gains. Before long, you will become an author of a few books and an acclaimed expert.
Who says selling the soul to the devil doesn’t have benefits?
Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2012.