Remittances from Britain to Mirpur, Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s biggest district, have fallen from once every month to every second or third month. The State Bank of Pakistan has recorded a 10 per cent decrease in remittances since Britain conducted a referendum on Brexit in June 2016. This is far cry from the time when expatriates annually remitted as much as $200 million to Mirpur. The drop in cash inflows has already begun to affect the lives of Mirpur residents who often depend on relatives based in Britain and elsewhere for their economic livelihood. A majority of the million–plus population of Pakistani expatriates in Britain are drawn from Mirpur alone.
Part of the problem has been created by the uncertainty surrounding Britain’s impending exit from the European Union if and when that happens. Fears of what the future could bring have made second and third-generation emigrants much more circumspect of how they handle their savings. Life also has become harder for Pakistani expatriates as well as their relatives in Mirpur and elsewhere since the value of the British pound is lower than it used to be and inflation is biting harder than usual. This has fuelled an overall increase in the cost of living which, together with post-Brexit anxieties, has left expatriates and their Mirpur relatives doubly worried.
The economic situation in Mirpur has not vastly improved either. Another disturbing trend is the fast eroding ties between Mirpur and their UK-based relatives. Several sociologists had predicted that would eventually happen in view of the disaffection felt by expatriates towards Pakistan and its deteriorating political and economic situation. If Pakistan wants to restore the kinship between relatives in Britain and those in Mirpur, it must strive to improve in every sphere of activity. Stability holds the key.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2017.
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