The condescension, lack of depth, and clickbait headlines found in the US coverage of Pakistan’s elections begs US publications to reflect on the way they write about this country and acknowledge the power they hold as referees of Pakistani opinions on the world stage. The Washington Post Editorial Board’s opinion was entitled Pakistan’s likely next leader is a Taliban sympathizer. Its assessment of Imran Khan claimed, “he has endorsed the Taliban cause in Afghanistan.” What was their hyperlinked source? A Guardian article. The article’s source? The existence of the pejorative “Taliban Khan” and Khan’s continued funding for Darul Uloom Haqqania. Rather than assess the validity of a policy that placates extremism, the Editorial Board opted for the quick thrill of sensationalism. They could have even cited Khan’s refusal to condemn the Taliban’s attack on Malala, but why bother when labels will do. The New York Times’ couldn’t resist clickbait journalism when it asked, “Is Imran Khan, a legendary cricket player and international sex symbol, about to become the leader of Pakistan, an Islamic republic with nuclear weapons?” The juxtaposition of ‘Islamic Republic’ with nuclear weapons to get clicks through casual Islamophobia and a tabloidesque headline about a playboy-turned-extremist was too tempting to resist. This follows an easily visible pattern in US coverage of Pakistan. Consider the 2011 Atlantic article The Ally From Hell. The authors claim that “Pakistan would be an obvious place for a jihadist organization to seek a nuclear weapon or fissile material: it is the only Muslim-majority state, out of the 50 or so in the world, to have successfully developed nuclear weapons…” Unable to distinguish between conservative Muslims, pro-state Islamists, and anti-state extremists, the articles draw a shallow caricature of Pakistan’s military. As I write this op-ed, I adventitiously came across a 2002 book about Pakistan titled Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan. The cover features a man prostrated in prayer before a Pakistani flag, with a Kalashnikov behind him for effect. We could assume such sensationalism is a product of the existential battle for clicks that modern newspapers face, but it extends beyond popular journalism and current times. Consider an interview of Royal Bisbee who served as a US Public Affairs Officers in Lahore from 1958 to 1961. When later asked about corruption and the Bhutto family, he responded, “in Pakistan there is always corruption because it is tribal.” An American diplomat who spent years in Pakistan could not differentiate tribalism from the corruption of landed families in Sindh. The same erroneous rhetoric persists today for anyone who is listening. Also read: The case of the Basking Ridge mosque Some articles did present nuance, and reputable Pakistani analysts, journalists and academics were interviewed. Censorship through intimidation is not an imagined phenomenon in Pakistan and Western publications provide an outlet for unpopular reporting and opinions. But this has also produced a feeling that the best way to get published in a major US publication is to write a scathing indictment of Pakistan’s military and intelligence apparatus. The similarity of the views selected for publication is curious for a country as politically divided as Pakistan. By shining the spotlight on only a select few Pakistani voices and opinions, US outlets have produced a skewed snapshot of the country. It isn’t enough to include Pakistani voices if those voices don’t reflect Pakistan’s diversity. Censorship through intimidation is not an imagined phenomenon in Pakistan and Western publications provide an outlet for unpopular reporting and opinions. But this has also produced a feeling that the best way to get published in a major US publication is to write a scathing indictment of Pakistan’smilitary and intelligence apparatus This should not be understood as a criticism of the quality of Pakistani voices in the US media. It is only a call to increase the diversity of those who are featured and a reminder that it is unfair to burden any single Pakistani with the task of speaking for a nation of 200 million people, which is made up of at least seven major ethnic groups, a variety of sects, three major political parties, and dozens of provincial ones. Pakistanis hold biases too and those should be presented with transparency. It simply looks silly when a US newspaper features a known partisan’s opinion on a rival party as objective without identifying affiliation or longstanding party loyalty. Missing from the Washington Post Editorial Board’s analysis was the endorsement for PML-N by the militant sectarian organisation, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. It then unquestioningly dismissed the seriousness of Nawaz Sharif’s corruption to adopt the position that he was singled-out for prosecution. There is hope for better journalism. Some Washington-based analysts offer balanced insights and there are numerous Pakistanis who offer analysis no outsider can replicate while also acknowledging their influences. What the Washington Post’s Editorial Board lacked in nuance the same newspaper’s Monkey Cage blog makes up for with articles written by academics who study Pakistan. These are the kinds of pieces that should be promoted and emulated. The writer is a veteran of the US Marine Corps and served in Afghanistan. He works as a policy analyst and focuses on South Asia and Iran. He tweets at @AdamNoahWho Published in Daily Times, August 4th 2018.