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Two Karachi comedians now mock Western bloggers who told the world Pakistan is beautiful

From asking for ‘naughty films’ to calling a thela ‘Pakistani Ikea on wheels”, the duo is cracking up Pakistanis.

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New Delhi: There was a time when Western bloggers and influencers swooped down and sent a postcard to the world, saying Pakistan is beautiful. You would think Pakistanis would be grateful for this endorsement. But, no. Two Pakistani comedians, Bassam Shazli and Hassaan Bin Shaheen are producing a YouTube video show called Global Nomads, making fun of the gora influencers. Armed with blonde wigs and an American accent, the duo are traveling through Pakistan, looking at everything with First World eyes.

From getting summoned for asking for “naughty films” to calling Pakistan a “trying-to-develop” or a “two-and-a-half-world” country, to calling a thela “Pakistani Ikea on wheels”, Bassam Shazli and Hassaan Bin Shaheen’s comedy series has not only people cracking up for their unapologetically good/bad puns but also carries a strong message for Western influencers touring and promoting their country: ‘Cut the crap.’

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Western travel bloggers and Pakistan

In the past few years, Western travel bloggers, including some of the world’s most famous such as Eva Zu Beck portrayed Pakistan as the No. 1 travel destination in the world, not focusing on other grim realities of the country, especially security situation.

“Man, I just want to be like Eva Zu Beck”, Hassaan says sarcastically in one of their videos, adding that “I want the Pakistani government to recognise that I have a story to tell about Pakistan and its people”.

Here is some context. Zu Beck is a travel vlogger and a YouTuber from Poland, who visited Pakistan and uploaded on her channel a video titled Why Pakistan Can Become the #1 Travel Destination in the World, after a phone conversation with Prime Minister Imran Khan in 2019. The video went viral, garnering over 1,216,342 views.

A year later, she also hosted TRT World show A Place Called Pakistan.

In April 2019, four months after Zu Beck uploaded a video of her enjoying time at a beach in Gwadar, 14 people travelling to the city from Karachi were shot dead after gunmen stormed their bus. When The Guardian asked about her views on her attempt to portray the reality differently, she said, “Expecting all travel bloggers to cover subjects related to politics or national security is a tricky demand”.

Zu Beck’s is a case of Western, white influencers favouring the Pakistani government to back their push for tourism growth and in turn, get access to sites and places to fetch eye-catchy visuals for their travel vlogs.

Zu Beck and other foreign vloggers have painted a picture of Pakistan that is incomplete. In fact, people from the vlogging community themselves have fallen prey to some of the most harrowing experiences. Cynthia Ritchie is one example.

Ritchie, a travel blogger from the US, caused a major political storm last year after she accused a prominent politician of raping her in 2011. She also accused former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of ordering the rape of the women with whom her husband and former President Asif Ali Zardari allegedly had an affair.

Also read: Afghans are telling world to #SanctionPakistan as Taliban seizes more territory

‘Pakistanis fall for fake foreigners’

In an interview with The Express Tribune, the comedian duo Bassam Shazli and Hassaan Bin said they started the show simply “to make fun of white vloggers”, who, they claimed, “get so much leverage from the Pakistani audience” for not posting something that “really isn’t our lived experience”. They like to live in ignorance of the reality around.

Where white vloggers speak with a background that has breathtaking beauty, the makers of Global Nomads see Airbnb in dilapidated buildings.

“The great thing about this place is the architecture,” Hassam says in one of his videos, speaking in front of a series of dilapidated buildings in Karachi’s Burns Road, a hub for wide-ranging street food in Pakistan. A few seconds later, he adds, “Man, that’s like an Airbnb but for ghosts”.

In another episode, the duo visits Rainbow Center — apparently a popular spot for pirated video content— to buy ‘blue films’. They search for “naughty films” in the dark-shady building, where every corner looks filthy with red colored-pan stains, which Hassam calls pleasing “local graffiti”, and corrects a disgusted Bassam, who yells, “Dude. People regurgitate here man”. Despite the building authorities warning them of action, they don’t come out of their characters, insisting they are from Portland, United States, before they are kicked out. ‘Talking about porn in public is a big no no/unacceptable’— their learning.

Also read: Another medal missed – Arshad Nadeem’s loss makes Pakistanis demand better sports facilities

A shot of reality, with a pinch of humour    

While their comedy series hasn’t gained much traction as yet like the travel vlogs posted by real “goras”, the unique mix of tourism, comedy, and Pakistan, however, seems to have found its niche, loyal fans already. A viewer called the show “really underrated” while another urged them to “do a whole Pakistan tour”, something the foreign vloggers aren’t doing.

“As a white person I feel personally attacked by this content (sic) would’ve enjoyed more milking of the ‘toilet humour’ gag. Quality puns overexplained is good white person comedy haha”, Johntopaz wrote on Instagram.

In the latest video of trespassing inside someone’s house, a concerned Bassam reminds his partner, “We’re trespassing man!”, to which Hassan responds, “But we’re white, we can get away with this shit”. Checking out their toilet, a confused Hassan asks if the lota is a magic lamp Pakistani uses to pray Genie for cleaner washrooms.

In another episode, Adam and Steve hire a local guide Bilal Hassan for 100 dollars. While Hassan impresses Steve with insightful descriptions of some historical sites, it angers Adam who suddenly feels “insecure” and goes on to accuse Hassan of “literally taking jobs straight from white people”, almost leading the two into a fistfight.

In an apparent dig at Western vloggers, the comedic duo make fun of their local guide who was passionately trying to make them understand, explore and experience Pakistan’s culture. Adam says, “Dude, You’re trying too hard to sell Pakistan. We’re already sold”. Steve adds, “Pakistan is not a develop-ing country but a “trying-to-develop” country”.

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