ISLAMABAD: The overseas Pakistanis with around $20 billion remittances to their credit making them the country’s second-largest source of foreign finances, being only a couple of billions less than the foreign exchange earned in exports.
According to a local media report, these Pakistanis have dominated the local politics by fielding a close family member into the contest or through a fortune of money.
An example quoted by the media outlet is that the elections from the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) legislative assembly, almost all constituencies in Mirpur, Bhimber and Kotli districts were actually contested from the UK. Furthermore, Pakistanis directly or indirectly are playing a role as they are funding for the elections from abroad; as is the case in contagious areas adjoining these districts of AJK, Attock, Rawalpindi, Gujar Khan, Kalar Siyadan, Chakwal, Jehlum, Kharian, Mandi Bahauddin, Gujrat, Sialkot, and Gujranwala.
According to studies quoted in the report, ‘limited landholdings, rain-dependent agriculture and limited economic opportunities in northern Punjab were major factors in the trend of immigration from the area which particularly started from Mirpur in the late 1950s and 60s’.
‘In his 1970s regime, Zulifkar Ali Bhutto facilitated common man in getting their passports easily and a large number of Pakistanis started serving the labour market of the Middle East while towards the 1980s large-scale illegal migrants moved to Europe mostly from districts of east and south of Jehlum’.
With an increasing number of Pakistanis settling abroad and their remittances back home, this new socio-economic situation generated a new middle class in these areas, independent of the state of Pakistan’s own economy. Similarly, the July 25 general elections will also witness several contenders running for the local legislatures while having strong foreign connections.
For National Assembly’s constituency NA-58 Gujjar Khan, former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) is challenged by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s Chaudhry Azeem. Azeem is a close relative of Anwar Pervaiz, owner of the UK-based Bestway group.
Known political families of Lala Musa also have strong linkages abroad. Moreover, foreign wealth can also be found playing a vital role in NA-71 Gujrat, where an independent candidate Malik Hanif Awan is contesting for the seat. His family has businesses in the Netherlands.
In NA-85 Mandi Bahauddin, PTI has fielded Imtiaz Ahmed Chaudhry, who along with his brother, former PML-N MNA Ijaz Ahmed Chaudhry owns businesses in Kuwait.
A sizable population from Mardan, Nowshera, Charsadda, Bannu and Swat districts of K-P works in Gulf countries, Malaysia and Indonesia and their remittances play an important role in local economy and politics.