Migration, immigration, emigration, and refugees are different terms that deal with the same issue: movement of human resource from one place to another either by force or willingly. Pakistan has been one of the countries in the world that hosted a huge number of refugees since 1990. Pakistan is, also, among one of the top ten emigration countries in the world.
This huge influx and out-flux of people has had repercussions on the social and economic development of Pakistan since its inception in 1947. The nexus between migration and development in Pakistan has largely been overlooked throughout history and it seems that the only lesson it has learnt from its past mistakes is that it has learnt nothing.
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Apart from forced migration that takes place either in times of conflicts or natural disasters, there is another type of migration called voluntary migration. There can be economic, political, social and religious causes of it.
Overseas Pakistani seeking economic opportunities abroad and sending remittances back to their homeland is the sunny side for a developing country like Pakistan. The country’s 6.5 per cent GDP is made up of remittances received and it is a huge sum for a country like Pakistan.
Therefore, these overseas Pakistan are often objectified and taken as a source of monetary benefit for the country. The following paragraphs discuss the impact of migration, whether to or from Pakistan, on the development of the country.
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Another homeland for Afghanis
The largest population of refugees that Pakistan has ever hosted came from Afghanistan. Pakistan shares its western border with Afghanistan and Iran so a major reason behind the influx of refugees was sharing of the border with Afghanistan and the second major reason was cultural and historical nexus with it.
During the early 1970s, the Afghanis migrated to Pakistan willingly mainly for seeking jobs and they were welcomed by their Pakhtoon brothers. In 1979 when it became a battleground for the war between the two superpowers of that time: Capitalist America and the Communist USSR, the influx of refugees into Pakistani land was forced.
The Afghan land never saw normalcy of affairs and to date, there are around 1.5 million documented Afghan refugees in the country. These refugees always felt alienated in Pakistan and were never given the nationalities.
Afghan families that never went back to their homeland have their families and homes in Pakistan but most of them comprise the economically deprived strata of Pakistan. They call Pakistan their homeland; the same homeland that is reticent to give them recognition.
Read more: Has the state abandoned Pakistani refugees in Afghanistan?
This feeling of alienation, marginalisation and deprivation has halted Pakistan’s development. Involvement of them in anti-State activities and insurgencies is a bare truth of the fact.
Importance of remittances
Pakistan is among the top ten emigration countries in the world. Currently, around 10 million Pakistanis are living abroad, 22 per cent of them are living in Saudi Arabia and 16 per cent are living in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Overseas Pakistanis have a negative as well as a positive impact on their homeland. They are seen as people of huge monetary value by their families as well as by their country. They are a source of betterment in the lives of their families living back and surviving on the money they send in for them.
The country gets foreign earned money inside the country in the form of remittances. These remittances are an important contributor to keep the country’s economy moving. Moreover, the Pakistani Diaspora spread all around the world helps portray a positive image of Pakistan in the world.
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In the age of globalisation where talent sees no boundary, these Pakistanis are excelling in their fields and making their country proud of them. In this way, they portray a good picture of their homeland. (Era of soft image politics, diplomatic wins)
The unfortunate brain-drain
There is a bleak side to the emigration for Pakistan as well. Efficient human resource leaves Pakistan for better career opportunities abroad. In this way, other countries reap the fruits of Pakistani talent. This phenomenon is called Brain Drain and Pakistan has one of the highest rates of Brain Drain in the world.
It slows down the social as well as the economic development process of the country. However, it is a natural phenomenon when a human being will not find attractive opportunities in his country, he will prefer going to a country where his hard work is acknowledged and he is paid for the amount of hard work he puts into his job.
The same is the case with business. Pakistan has largely failed to facilitate the business community in the country. Therefore, in recent years the country has seen people shifting their businesses abroad.
Read more: Brain drain: an Achilles’ Heel for the Global South?
What should Pakistan do?
In a nutshell, it can be said that the unresolved issues of migration and emigration have largely been Achilles’ heel for the development of Pakistan. It is in dire need of policies to resolve these issues for a better future of the country.
This country has very limited resources; thus, it is incapable to bear the refugees in future. Either it should work on sending the Afghan as well as Syrian refugees back to their motherlands or it should introduce effective policies to integrate them into the country for economic growth of the country.
The more integrated they are, the less alienated they will feel. It can turn them into an efficient human resource for the country. The country also needs to look into the issue of Brain Drain.
Emigration is an acceptable phenomenon in the globalised world; however, leaving one’s country due to lack of opportunities in the homeland is what halts the development of the motherland. The State needs to look into the matter of migration seriously for the socio-economic development of Pakistan.
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Ammara Kalsoom is doing MS in Peace, Conflict and Development from National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad. She can be reached at email@example.com.The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.