overseas
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Shanzay Asim |

Overseas Pakistanis form a sizeable chunk of our population and contribute significantly to the economy through remittances. In fact, foreign remittances are the major funds used to pay off the trade deficit. People living abroad send money back to their families, and also invest in the country.

Many of these overseas Pakistani moved away because of greener pastures in other countries, but they do wish to develop their homeland. In addition, with recent events leading to instability in their host countries, many overseas Pakistanis wish to have secure assets in Pakistan.

Trump and Islamophobia

With the election of Donald Trump in 2016, it was made very clear that the USA would no longer be the land of dreams for immigrants and overseas workers. Overseas Pakistanis realized that their positions in American society were not as secure as they were before. Muslims were portrayed as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers and this was highly problematic. Rising cases of violence against Muslims in the USA shook the Muslim community, of which Pakistanis formed a large chunk. There has also been extreme uncertainty due to the proposed travel bans by President Trump. Hence, investment and buying homes in Pakistan seemed like a good plan to fall back on. It is quite strange to see that there are no statistics for the amount of overseas Pakistanis moving back, despite this being an important aspect of the socio-economic landscape.

Read more: Blame Injustice, Not Islam

Brexit and the falling stars of the EU

The Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia have always had a high demand for labor from South Asian countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. Families use their life savings to send one person to countries like Saudi Arabia in hope of an improved lifestyle in the future. However, these laborers are victims of infringement of basic civil rights. Unscrupulous employers exploit them and do not give them wages on time

A large chunk of overseas Pakistanis is located in the UK. Most of these Pakistanis migrated there in the 60s and 70s when there was a high demand for labor in Britain. These people send back large amounts of money to their families in Pakistan and also invest in land here. However, last year, the world was taken aback by the announcement of the impending Brexit. This lead to the fall of the Pound Sterling and hence remittances from overseas Pakistanis in the UK decreased. In addition, terror attacks in the UK and other European countries led to anti-Muslim sentiment, especially as some perpetrators turned out to be of Pakistani origin. This was a worrying development for overseas Pakistanis who now wished to have a backup plan of moving to Pakistan. However, many overseas Pakistanis worry that their investment might not be safe, due to unfortunate incidents of fraud and land-grabbing happening to them.

Read more: Gulf crisis and new alliances: Where does Pakistan stand?

Gulf countries no longer a destination

The Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia have always had a high demand for labor from South Asian countries like Pakistan and Bangladesh. Families use their life savings to send one person to countries like Saudi Arabia in hope of an improved lifestyle in the future. However, these laborers are victims of infringement of basic civil rights. Unscrupulous employers exploit them and do not give them wages on time.

In addition, in recent years, workers have started being repatriated due to security concerns in Saudi Arabia. This means that a large number of expatriates are moving back to Pakistan and need to be accommodated by the country. People currently still living in these countries with plans to move back seek to build houses in Pakistan. The prevalence of housing societies for overseas Pakistanis shows that there is quite a high demand for property by overseas Pakistanis. 30% of the traffic the portal enjoys comes from overseas Pakistanis.

Read more: Question of overseas voting back in the supreme court of Pakistan

Facilitate our compatriots

Overseas Pakistanis are currently not being counted in the census and this is a setback as they need to be ensured that they have a say in their homeland. The voting system for overseas Pakistanis also needs to be scrutinized so that the maximum number of them can vote and feel that their mother country is up for including them in its decision-making.

The need of the hour is to facilitate overseas Pakistanis in their interests in the country and enable them to safely invest here. Currently, there are high taxes on such transactions, which might be a bit discouraging for these people. Thus, many resorts to the hundi system to transfer money. This prevents their capital from being injected into the official economy and improving the financial state of Pakistan. Foreign remittances make up 7% of our GDP and contribute greatly to our trade deficit payments, so the authorities need to make the process smoother and more transparent.

Overseas Pakistanis are currently not being counted in the census and this is a setback as they need to be ensured that they have a say in their homeland. The voting system for overseas Pakistanis also needs to be scrutinized so that the maximum number of them can vote and feel that their mother country is up for including them in its decision-making.

A major requirement is the correct statistical analysis regarding overseas Pakistanis, their transactions, and the number of expatriates moving back to Pakistan. These figures need to be taken into account when formulating policies for the betterment of all of Pakistan’s citizens, whether they live here or abroad.

It is imperative that secure avenues should be provided to overseas Pakistanis to safely invest in their motherland without any fraudulent parties ruining their plans. Overseas Pakistanis are an important demographic that is currently underutilized in our country. They should be reassured that they have a safe refuge in their homeland and avail economic opportunities here. Their contributions to our economy should be appreciated and facilitated so that the country as a whole prospers.

Shanzay Asim is a Psychology Graduate. She takes an avid interest in fiction and social issues. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

Shanzay Asim is a Psychology Graduate. She takes an avid interest in fiction and social issues.

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