Breakfast at Lahore

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The way to a Lahoris heart is through his stomach. It is a meandering path, with many clogged arteries. Ambassador Cameron Munter sure did earn his hazard allowance the other day, when he publicly had a desi breakfast, along with his Consul, Carmela Conroy. Also known as the heart-attack-on-a-plate, the typical Lahori breakfast invokes warm feelings in the hearts of the good citizens of the city like nothing else can. The venue was the sterile environment of cantonment because security concerns would have presumably precluded venturing into the old city where they serve the real deal. Had the ambassador been more enterprising, he could have made a dash to the peri-urban area of Raiwind, where one particular family is said to serve the best breakfast riyals can buy. Fit for a king, if you will.

The envoy is on a PR exercise. God knows the US needs one. The WikiLeaks scandal proves a lot of the suspicions that Pakistanis have been harbouring since some time now. Though the cables dont directly reveal any American pulling strings, the fact that the entire political and military leadership of the country talks more to the American diplomats than each other, as if the latter were some sort of referees, doesnt sit all too well with the public.

The plain folks approach to PR, though it can be charming, has a limited utility beyond a certain point. Even local politicians, who actually have to speak on the issues that matter to the common man, cant manage to get good press these days. Doing simple things like having a meal or playing the occasional cricket game in extremely controlled environments can even turn out to be counter-productive. On the other hand, tangible steps, like revisiting the policy on the drone attacks in the tribal areas or perhaps focused financial aid for the electric power crisis, could yield more of what the State Department wants.