Engaging the Diaspora | Pakistan Today

Engaging the Diaspora

  • Opportunity Corridor

Farrukh, a Pakistani native, runs his own business in Berlin. As I sat at a street-side café near Oberbaum Bridge with him talking about business culture in Europe, I shot a question at him: What stops him from doing business in the country of origin, Pakistan? Promptly, unlike any surprise, he hinted at the unease of doing business in Pakistan.

The World Bank recently ranked Pakistan amongst lowest scoring countries on the DOB Index. From registration for starting a business to multi-layered taxes and extortions, the country doesn’t offer any appeal to expatriates to invest in the home country. The fears of fraudulent activities and dubious economic transactions discourage the overseas Pakistanis to invest in their home country, which, given assurances, could have been an even larger source of direct investments without donor conditions attached.

The incumbent government has a high time to utilise the opportunity to not only secure the vote bank of overseas Pakistanis but also the confidence of human capital settled abroad through optimally resolving their issues and giving them a flat pitch to invest and earn stakes.

According to estimates, about 9 million people of Pakistani origin are now scattered across the globe – almost 5 per cent of Pakistan’s total population. One in ten households currently has a family member who has settled abroad or works overseas. Unfortunately, subsequent governments have never been able to engage with the Pakistani community around the world.

Every new government brings a new hope among millions of expatriates but none fails to disappoint them. Consequently, our crippling economy remains deprived of the huge funds that can be injected by the overseas community to push the economy to run the track.

Assuring economic transparency and averting frauds will boost the comfort and confidence of investors leading to higher totaling of investment.

A number of factors are responsible for the mounting trust deficit between Pakistan and the 6th largest diaspora in the world.

This time around, however, the situation is uniquely different. PTI’s overwhelming victory in the recent election has put Imran Khan, the diaspora’s favourite, at the helm of the affairs of the country. The largest of the challenges in governing the country lie on the shoulders of the finance minister, Asad Umar.

PTI’s tirades against corruption enjoy much appeal among educated, well-heeled Pakistanis living in different corners of the world. In Khan, these Pakistanis see hope. They believe that the cricketer-turned-politician of Mianwali’s Niazi clan can sail the sinking ship to the shores. Throughout his 22 years struggle, Khan has always considered the dollar-earning diaspora as the country’s financial lifeline and relied upon them for his earlier projects including health and education.

Thus, charismatic PM’s goodwill will play a cardinal role in abridging gap between overseas residents and the incumbent leaders.

The much awaited decision of granting online voting rights by the Election Commission to the overseas community in the upcoming bi-elections is a good step forward but a lot needs to be done. In order to engage with the diaspora, a new pool of decision makers should follow in the footsteps of the largest recipient of remittances in the world: India.

India has already emerged as a leader in this field, with one of the most comprehensive state level diaspora engaging policies.

If Kaptaan banks on overseas Pakistanis for dams and loans and considers the diaspora as “Golden Sparrow”, then he must be reminded that Golden Sparrow demands Golden Nest!     

Firstly, special attention should be devoted to revamp the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis which serves as a one-stop agency for any kind of matters relating to overseas Pakistanis and is meant to be a focal point for the expatriate population. Ironically, neither Overseas nor Foreign Ministry’s current website shows any data regarding Pakistani diaspora abroad – a reflection of lack of seriousness of the authorities.

The vocal Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s mature press conferences have garnered much praise but he has uttered no words regarding the neglected asset of Pakistan.

Secondly, the government needs to create business opportunities to attract Foreign Direct Investments especially from the expatriate population. Assuring economic transparency and averting frauds will boost the comfort and confidence of investors leading to higher totaling of investment.

Moreover, the rude behavior of staffs at the Pakistani airports discourages the overseas Pakistanis, who are now accustomed to a welcoming attitude of immigration officers at foreign airports. Complaints against arrogant attitude of airport staff are made every other day.

Lastly, a lot depends on PM’s direct contact with Pakistanis in foreign lands. Prime Minister Modi’s direct contact with mighty Indian diaspora across the globe has paid dividends, and so can be done by Pakistan’s premier.

Imran’s interaction with the Pakistani community should be the top agenda on his foreign tours. If Kaptaan banks on overseas Pakistanis for dams and loans and considers the diaspora as “Golden Sparrow”, then he must be reminded that Golden Sparrow demands Golden Nest!



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