Last year, as elections were coming close, it was quite clear that PTI has a clear edge over its counter parts when it comes to Overseas Pakistan. Charismatic personality of Imran Khan coupled with his achievements at international level made him a source of inspiration for many. Overseas Pakistanis were very passionate about PTI’s election campaign and the immense support PTI garnered was evident from social media. Even though PTI was weak as compared to other political parties regarding organization on ground, they had a huge fan base overseas and it helped PTI a lot to have a very strong foot print on social media. There were videos of Overseas Pakistanis committing themselves to return and serve the country once PTI gets into ruling. Atmosphere was so electric that a video message from a dual national doctor went viral where he made same promises.
Then, it happened, PTI got the power and Khan jumped in the driving seat of national wagon. As he addressed the people for the first time as Prime Minister, I was expecting a call from him to Overseas Pakistanis to return to their homeland and serve the country. However, what came out is the cry for funds and desperate appeal to contribute financially. Message, in a nut shell, was quite simple and straightforward; don’t return but send us money.
Frankly, I have no issues with this approach for a very short time and that too, for a specific reason. However, what’s disappointing is the absence of long-term plan to use talented Pakistanis for the growth of country. Six months in govt. and what PTI is throwing to us for celebration is that skilled workers of Pakistan will serve the markets in Qatar. Yes, exporting skilled labor and genius minds can bring you foreign exchange but does it benefit country when it comes to self-sustainability and growth? No.
I am not saying that there should be a ban on Pakistani workers to go abroad and earn their bread. It’s more to do with the vision and policy. Whenever I see a Pakistani star making waves in West for one reason or the other, let it be sports or science, the question comes up that why our fellow citizens can’t achieve such success inside the country? The muhib-e-watan (patriotic) lot will always put it on the individuals rather than highlighting the lack of facilities and opportunities but the matter of fact is, it’s the shortcoming of state apparatus and inadequacy of its institutions that people find a lot more chances to punch above their weight once they move abroad.
Brain Drain is not a newly coined term and I believe that Imran Khan knows what it means and how damaging it is for the country. Yet, it’s surprising to see that his govt. is coming up with policies that are supporting this phenomenon. It’s like selling your future for few dollars and if you interview the skilled people, right from diploma holders to engineers, and scientists to doctors, most of them are willing to have an opportunity abroad. Sad thing is, govt. is not putting in any effort to provide them opportunities at home so they can play their role towards the goal of self-reliance as a country.
This policy of ‘exporting people’ has put us in a situation where we are totally dependent upon demand abroad. Ever changing dynamics of different countries make things tougher for us and people have to live deplorable and sometimes, inhuman conditions just to make both ends meet. For example, recent family tax in Saudi Arabia has forced many workers to send their families back home because they can’t afford it anymore. As the work culture, technology and other regulations are totally different in other countries, Overseas Pakistanis find themselves misfit when they try to plan their return to Pakistan. Expertise they have developed over the years is of no use in their homeland and because state doesn’t look at it as a serious issue, the situation keeps stagnant or turn to worse.
To make situation worse is the complete ignorance of government about the investment made by Overseas Pakistanis. Most of the time, the only thing they plan to invest is real estate which is resulting in unrealistic and artificial growth of price. The assumption that once people go abroad and send money back home, it will result in economic progress, but this assumption has been proved wrong quite consistently; not because that Overseas Pakistanis don’t want to invest but because of mercuric situation of country, non-seriousness about implementation of law and the fear of investors that the money will go to drain.
These days, in Karachi, a bachelor’s degree holder with 9-to-5 job can’t even think of owning a piece of land; let alone having his own home. Real estate schemes are working as a bluff where people put their fortunes at a risk and pray that the scheme doesn’t end up as a scam. I am not blaming Overseas Pakistanis for this situation but are they part of the problem; yes, they are. However, the bigger problem lies with the government as they are responsible to come up with policies that can plug Brain Drain. Skilled workers with sharp minds get fair chances and live with their families rather than working for decades away from their loved ones.
Dear founders of Naya Pakistan, please focus on export of goods; not people.