The government needs to realise the potential of overseas Pakistanis, appreciate their contributions and protect their workers’ rights if it hopes to keep connected with Pakistani diaspora in future.
These thoughts were expressed by participants of a two-day international conference that began here on Wednesday. The conference on “Potentials and Prospects of Pakistani Diaspora” is being held by the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI) in collaboration with Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF).
Dr Noorul Haq, the acting president of IPRI, said the Pakistani diaspora’s importance is evident from their strong presence of seven million across the world and the $13 billion they send home as remittances every year.
These remittances contribute to around 5% of Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product.
However, he said, the potential and contributions of the Pakistani diaspora are underappreciated.
The first session of the conference dealt with the perceptions and potential of the Pakistani diaspora.
Dr Marta Bolognani, a research associate at the UK’s Sussex University, presented her paper on the life of second and third generation Pakistanis in the UK.
She said the later generations had only a symbolic relationship with the country they once called home. “Most British Pakistanis now prefer to call themselves British Muslims,” she said. “The collective identity [of being Pakistani] is nearly fading.”
However, 50% of the British Pakistanis still marry Pakistanis, she said, adding that the state can still capitalise on such emotional ties.
Another panellist, Saira Rehman, said cousin marriages are still common among Mirpuris in the UK, but the marriage and family trends are slowly changing due to the identity gap between future generations of British and Pakistani Mirpuris.
In the second session, Dr Sabiha Syed, ED of Migration Research Group, said most Pakistani migrant workers are stuck in “dirty, dangerous and degrading jobs”, with little or no workers’ rights.
She said there is an “unholy alliance” between countries of settlement and countries of origin, which ignore the rights of migrants, especially undocumented workers. This “common hypocrisy” must end, she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 15th, 2012.