Let's admit it. Travel guides to Pakistan are not exactly setting the international best-seller lists on fire these days. Most of those still collecting dust on the shelves are terribly out of date too.
Given that there is no discernible stampede by tourists eager to board Pakistan-bound flights, let us hope that some unsuspecting gora hippy living in a time-warp doesnt actually buy an out-of-print guide and set off to Pakistan believing that Swat is still the Switzerland of the east, full of friendly people dying to meet foreigners. In the new Swat, dying is the operative word, especially if Mr and Ms Hippy insist on spending too much time with the the poor locals. And Matta, despite what the guide books say, is NOT a picturesque side valley worth a day trip for those foreigners interested in exploring the area's Buddhist heritage.
So time to edit and update these guide books. And where better to start then to tell foreigners the do's and dont's of the new, post-terrorism Pakistan. Here are some faux pas that a foreigner, expat or naive Paki MUST avoid in the new Pakistan:
Do not take Daniel Pearl's parents to lunch at the Village restaurant in Karachi
Never invite Sri Lankan guests, especially cricket-loving ones, to go shopping in Liberty Market in Lahore.
If you happen to encounter Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on the Murree Road, do NOT invite him for a picnic in Liaqat Bagh.
Do not phone in a request for " choli ke peechhe kia hai" if you happen to be listening to the Fazalullah channel on your FM radio.
If you are a foreign company that has built an overhead bridge on Sharea Faisal in Karachi, do not invite Iftikhar Chaudhry to inaugurate it.
Refrain from requesting Rehman Malik to personally supervise your security if you are heading a high-powered foreign delegation anywhere in Pakistan but especially in Rawalpindi.
Avoid asking friends, and especially Swat locals, if they want to hang at the central chowk in Mingora.
Never say you would love a fauji cut at a Mingora barber's shop.
Do not ask a prostitute, or anyone in the area for that matter, to give you head.
Do not say you are a firm believer in the Sufi philosophy in the vicinity of Swat.
Never give a motivational anti-Taliban lecture to a burqa-clad woman in an IDP camp. You never know who she/he might turn out to be.
Do not insist that your New Zealand friend take the window seat in a restaurant at the PC in Karachi.
Similarly, avoid asking your French engineer friend to take a coach if he is to meet you at the Karachi Sheraton.
Never confess you studied engineering in Poland if you are travelling in Balochistan.
Do not tell the suspicious security guard manning the entrance that you could kill to get into the Marriott, Islamabad or Karachi, even if you are very tired and have travelled 24 hours to get there.
If you are a neo-communist liberation theologist, do not venture into the Lal masjid believing you will meet like-minded radicals there.
Never go up to young men ticking loudly and ask them what time it is. Just run.
Do not send the link of this post to Ansar Abbassi. Unless you fancy a visit from the cyber crimes unit at midnight...
Any other tips for the unsuspecting foreigner that I might have left out?