Hope for overseas Pakistanis - Daily Qudrat Global

Hope for overseas Pakistanis

Pakistan is a country forged out of movements of people. Millions migrated during the partition, making it the largest migration in modern history. That migration has continued with 9 million Pakistanis travelling overseas due to lack of local access to resources, a desire for economic prosperity, to find or engage in paid work or further their education and better their standard of living. Overseas Pakistanis are proud of their heritage and carry their ancestry across the globe with pride, becoming ambassadors of Pakistan in their countries of residence. We give Pakistan an economic lifeline with our remittances. A staggering $2billion per month on an average plays its part in being a catalyst for growth and investments. It is one of the primary sources of foreign exchange reserves with an annual subscription of more than $25bn. Despite a wide gap in the dollar rates in open and banking markets, Pakistanis have continued remitting back home and have widely entrusted the country's banks and other legal avenues for transfer of funds. The State Bank of Pakistan has stated that Pakistan has fared relatively better than other regional countries on foreign remittances. When the call for help comes, whether it is for building a new school, a new hospital or new road, we answer the call, even though we most probably will never use the facilities ourselves. Special Assistant to Prime Minister Syed Zulfikar Bukhari has begun implementing a reformative agenda to ensure concerns pertaining to overseas Pakistanis are at the forefront of the government agenda. Some of them are the abolition of the National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistan for expatriates living abroad, who wish to travel to Pakistan; replacing the archaic complaints system with digitisation of departmental affairs. The minister also pledges to introduce a one-day processing of the complaints related to overseas Pakistanis. The ministry’s digital 24/7 complainant cell ‘Call Sarzameen’ in its office was established to quickly address the forwarded complaints of expatriates pertaining to the ministry. In addition, Naya Pakistan Calling will provide a gateway to the professional Pakistani diaspora living abroad to share their skills and knowledge for national development. The ministry will also introduce measures for increased use of banking channels by removing red tapes and create a conducive environment to overseas foreign investors for the development and prosperity of the country. The Chief Justice of Pakistan congratulated overseas Pakistanis, noting that it was the first time that expat Pakistanis will be voting in a local election. However, we also want the entitlement for dual nationals to be able to take part in Pakistan’s political process without giving up our nationality. If we are given the democratic right to vote then we should also be given the democratic right to stand as candidates. We want our grievances to be resolved by setting up a fast-track tribunal to hear facts and see evidence, and cases to be resolved within 6-12 months with the dates of hearings to fit around overseas victim’s comfort and availability. Moreover, land mafias, sometimes backed by politicians and protected by the police, have for far too long controlled our assets and denied us justice. Officials who are found to be complicit in corruption should be held accountable and punished. Tax breaks for investors and free zones for overseas investors with subsidized customs and excise duty for different periods depending on levels of investment and or innovation should also be introduced. World Bank has confirmed that these create jobs and as a result stimulate the local economy. To increase travel between the two countries the government should invest and improve Pakistan’s national carrier PIA to and stimulate tourism. Consulates and embassies of Pakistan should facilitate expats by providing quality public services and customer care. The reformative agenda introduced by Zulfikar Bukhari demonstrates that the prime minister has made a perfect choice for this post. Unlike many others who have held this position before, Bukhari understands the needs and aspirations of overseas Pakistanis. He left a very successful property business in London to take up a post with no government salary, no government car and no government accommodation with the desire only to serve his country just like all overseas Pakistanis desire to do in a country free of corruption and nepotism. He has the confidence of overseas Pakistanis, British parliamentarians, and his agenda for change should be encouraged and supported. I cannot understand why someone who is responsible for the welfare of overseas Pakistanis was prevented from travelling overseas to meet the very people he serves. He needed to hear our concerns and listen to our stories first-hand and not be confined by bureaucracy and petty political games. Much has been done and much is in the pipeline, but as demonstrated with the right person, we can finally see that the politics of hope is overcoming the politics of despair. The writer is former Councillor and Member of UK Prime Minister’s Ethnic Minority Task Force and Congress of Regional Authorities on Council of Europe, Strasbourg Note: The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Geo News or the Jang Group.

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