Brain drain: 2.7m Pakistanis have exited country in last 5 years

Published: December 23, 2013
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The reasons may be varied, but Pakistan will lose out on human resource if the brain drain trend continues. DESIGN: JAMAL KHURSHID

The reasons may be varied, but Pakistan will lose out on human resource if the brain drain trend continues. DESIGN: JAMAL KHURSHID

ISLAMABAD: A total of 2,765,789 citizens, including 31,607 from Balochistan, have proceeded abroad for employment opportunities over the last five years, state the latest figures released by the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development.

According to the figures from January 2008 to September 2013, the selection of the workers was prerogative of the foreign employers which is based on the criteria “right person for the right job”.

In an earlier report, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis had stated that 5,873,539 Pakistanis have emigrated from 1981 to 2012, out of which a staggering 41,498 professional and technical workers left in 2012 alone.

The reasons may be varied, but Pakistan will lose out on human resource if the brain drain trend continues.

The trend becomes more evident as the amount of remittances overseas Pakistanis send to their families residing in Pakistan keeps growing each year.

Expatriate and overseas Pakistanis sent home a record $13.920 billion in the previous fiscal year (July 2012-June 2013), according to data released by the State Bank of Pakistan. The figures show a growth of 5.56% or $733.64 million compared with $13.187 billion a year earlier.

The top six destinations are Saudi Arabia, UAE, USA, UK, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman) and EU countries, with Saudi Arabia topping the list because of the $4.105 billion Pakistanis sent back home from there between July 2012-June 2013.

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Reader Comments (58)

  • talha
    Dec 23, 2013 - 1:38PM

    this might be drain drain not a brain drain because creative thinking can work for progression at any place but working class can go and do job for only money.

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  • Crazy Canuck
    Dec 23, 2013 - 2:05PM

    @talha: Yeah OK – as if Pakistan provides such a wonderful environment for creative freethinking minds to flourish. I’m not sure what Pakistan you’re talking about. The one where they tend to restrict or ban any media that promotes freethinking or dissent or the one where classes are distinctly labeled and all possible hurdles are placed for you making it difficult to move up and improve your quality of life. If you know any better then please share with us all.

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  • Pakistani
    Dec 23, 2013 - 2:16PM

    Yes its more comfortable and rewarding living abroad. Jinnah could have stayed comfortable in London also.

    Nearly all countries have gone through the stage Pakistan is going through. Will our generation make the sacrifice or not?

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  • Mujtaba
    Dec 23, 2013 - 2:16PM

    Yeah.. I did..
    Obviously a big loss for Pakistan… :P

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  • Ali S
    Dec 23, 2013 - 2:45PM

    @talha:

    Wrong. Labour class people don’t go abroad through the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis – most of them are smuggled through as illegal immigrants or refugees. The vast majority of people who go abroad through the ministry are skilled or technical workers – so yes, it’s a major brain drain.

    Yes, it’s sad that a qualified engineer in Pakistan has to drive a cab in USA because he can’t get his degree equalized (you need to pass the USA’s certification exams to do so), but that’s still a loss of a skilled worker for Pakistan.

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  • Red Dawn
    Dec 23, 2013 - 2:49PM

    @Mujtaba:
    Good job dude… You seem happy too ;-)

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  • Naveed Alam Khattak
    Dec 23, 2013 - 2:57PM

    No one wants to leave his homeland unless he is forced by something. Most of the Pakistanins especially Pashtoons in Middle East are working abroad away from their families. Its very hard, both for the individual & his family.

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  • Obvious Lee
    Dec 23, 2013 - 3:02PM

    Does this number include the strategic assets who have emigrated to Syria?

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  • Imran
    Dec 23, 2013 - 3:05PM

    recently left to Australia. I was getting over 120K PKR here as Software Engineer. I was paying about 8K tax. what i was getting? Loadshedding? Fuel shortage? water shortage? I still spent 5 year and rejected early offers. I tried to start business twice and every one asking for bribe.

    But now, I am earning over 8000 AUD after tax, and i have every facility, no bribe . you can decide what is better…

    No one wants to leave , unless you kick’em out.

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  • Imran
    Dec 23, 2013 - 3:10PM

    recently left to Australia. I was getting over 120K PKR here as Software Engineer. I was paying about 8K tax. what i was getting? Loadshedding? Fuel shortage? water shortage? I still spent 5 year and rejected early offer. I tried to start business twice and every one asking for bribe , i even lodged official complaint.

    But now, I am earning over 8000 AUD after tax, and i have every facility, no bribe . you can decide what is better…

    No one wants to leave , unless you kick’em out.

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  • Last Word
    Dec 23, 2013 - 3:15PM

    If a referendum is held in Pakistan, fifty percent and even more Pakistanis would vote to leave the country due to safety and economic concerns.

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  • abid
    Dec 23, 2013 - 3:16PM

    Govt are sleeping & ppl of pakistan are not taking it seriously. The one who thinks seriously he is out of the country unfortunately. Please elect the persons who can do better for the country.

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  • Mursleen
    Dec 23, 2013 - 3:37PM

    Brain drain but we have plenty more in Pakistan. see the positive side of it. How much foreign revenue is coming to Pakistan. in current situation Pakistan is indeed need of foreign revenue. These people could stayed in Pakistan and only recirculated the revenue.

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  • fraz
    Dec 23, 2013 - 3:44PM

    Everyting is fine, but home land is homeland,paksitan is pakistan

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  • Pakistani
    Dec 23, 2013 - 3:47PM

    I had a chance to settle in Australia but I couldnt care less. I have to care for my parents and family rather then live comfortably abroad where the worries of the world are which mobile phone set to buy? Which Xbox game is new?

    One realizes the value of Pakistan and culture here when one starts having children. And that is where the trail of compromises starts to begin. Right from naming the child in a way so the Gora can pronounce it….

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  • Dec 23, 2013 - 3:57PM

    as per data of Pakistani diaspora( Wikipedia) 1.5 million Pakistanis are in Saudi Arabia and 1.2 million are in UAE . Saudi Arabia has recently checked the immigration papers of almost all the migrants including Pakistani and every one who do not have the valid papers have been deported. they mostly comprise of labor power and not the brain power So it is the labor which drained. Even if there is some brain drain let it be because it is better to have a brain drain than to remain a brain in drain.

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  • hatim
    Dec 23, 2013 - 4:04PM

    @Imran
    You weren’t kicked out. You had a choice. Please don’t justify your emigration by blaming us.Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Dec 23, 2013 - 4:10PM

    This can be taken positively also…..more than 13 billion USD is coming to Pak every year just b/c of these overseas Pakistanis..these are the most important resource for the country..it is not a brain drain..it is actually helping Pakistan as revenue is being generated for the country and definitely those who left the country have made a space for some other person….think positively please

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  • Engineer
    Dec 23, 2013 - 4:18PM

    Although a brain drain is a bit alarming situation for Pakistan…but condition is still under very much control as there are thousands of engineers and doctors currently working in Pakistan and thousands more passing out every year to serve their beloved homeland….there is no shortage of technical persons in Pak..i hope that in next few years we will see the reverse brain drain…

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  • karachiite
    Dec 23, 2013 - 4:33PM

    Im probably one of those people who would vote to leave if i could. i just want to live a life where i dont have to worry every single day weather my parents will make it back home safely from work or not. they’re doctors and they’re shia. and well , everyone knows what happens to doctors here. i really don’t even care about the money as long as we have that piece of mind that were all just safe.

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  • Aamir Khan
    Dec 23, 2013 - 4:36PM

    Guys,

    I left Pakistan 1985 and lived in several countries and currently in KSA. I would love to come home but like one of you said, no security, no light, no water will it attract someone like me most probably NO but many Pakistani’s including I will give it a chance if opportunity arises.

    There are people who studied abroad and lived but went back and are still in Pakistan but they learned to live with the issues. Pakistani abroad can still go back if provided opportunity and right incentive package. But first the government needs to provide security and a plan to make things better in short terms.

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  • Sarmad
    Dec 23, 2013 - 4:56PM

    @everyone who wants to leave this country…please go out as soon as possible for free media/for load shedding free country/for riot free country/for saving your lives!

    There is nothing like free media in the world if you dont know…than go and see what NSA has been doing…my friends in UK are even afraid of searching on google the terms

    Even in California, in the peak of summers, there is loadshedding going on…yes and they do pay tax!

    In US, you may not know when a pshyco comes out and starts spraying bullets from his gun

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  • JB
    Dec 23, 2013 - 5:02PM

    I recently moved to the UAE. I am a chartered accountant and could have gotten a really nice job in Pakistan. And five years ago, I would have never moved out. But I had started becoming depressed in my own country. Load shedding. Lack of security. Inflation. And this constant political hypocrisy we see EVERYDAY on TV. It was just too much. It was affecting me. It was affecting my family. Yes, Pakistan is Pakistan. But we see how much our Government has done for its people. I had to move out for my family. For my own sanity.

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  • Humayun
    Dec 23, 2013 - 5:02PM

    Good piece but missing on few quick pertinent point

    (i) How does ministry of overseas Pakistanis facilitate – my experience with them has been pretty bad and non-cooperative

    (ii) What is the proportion of professionals in the total head count of overseas Pakistanis

    (iii) to call it ‘Brain Drain’ is one way to look at it which conveniently ignores the softer aspects. I would prefer to also weigh in the foreign currency, experience earned and transmitted back to the home country / family. To me it sounds more like progression unless there really are comparable opportunities back home.

    On a side note, the article also suggests that growth in expatriating the human being is more than the export growth recorded by the country.

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  • Humayun
    Dec 23, 2013 - 5:04PM

    Is the number 2.7 million net of those Pakistanis who might have retired / returned for any reason ?

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  • MS
    Dec 23, 2013 - 5:19PM

    I left when I was 15, im 35 now, and I think I will return to pak when im 55 with some financial and physical securities.

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  • Syed
    Dec 23, 2013 - 5:25PM

    Democracy is the best revenge , with Whom “eagerly searching for the answer…

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  • jssidhoo
    Dec 23, 2013 - 6:22PM

    It is the professional talent that should be a matter of concern , that the labor is going abroad is good as they would not find a job in Pakistan and the $s they send home are good for their families and the economy .The entrepreneurial talent going abroad is a matter concern as they are the ones capable of setting up a business and creating jobs .Recommend

  • Rafique
    Dec 23, 2013 - 6:40PM

    I left Pakistan, Alhamdulillah thankful to Almighty Allah that I live a good life in London. My mother’s family have recently seen many deaths, including the barbaric murder of a woman and her son in their own homes and the death of a man from diabeties whose left behind a wife and three young children in Pak.Her brothers r going to bring here to UK now because she has nothing left there. I plan to return to Pakistan for some charity reasons but unfortunately I never plan to live there permanently, rather I always will have my home in London and Dubai. This is all because of lack of law and order in all provinces, terrorism, security, load shedding, extortionism, street mugging and the list is endless. I pray for the Pakistanis in Pakistan that things get better soon, in Sh Allah.

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  • Raheel
    Dec 23, 2013 - 6:48PM

    @Syed – dead easy…from Pakistan :)

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  • Imran
    Dec 23, 2013 - 7:31PM

    @hatim
    I have no immigration :), and dude try to start a business here without bribing. wana bet? Justification? i could have left in 2009 when i had better option in USA.

    Load shedding/Corruption/Tax evasion , are you justifying this? :) . I don’t live in world of book , be Practical and face the reality :)

    Cheers.

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  • UB40
    Dec 23, 2013 - 8:03PM

    “Brain drain is better than brain in a drain”. A comment by a senior member of the establishment in the 90’s. What is the point of holding back those who have potential and can capitalise on opportunities elsewhere. We should be happy and celebrate those who have the courage and the skills to be accepted in a very competitive world out there. Once Pakistan sorts itself out, it may enjoy the reverse brain drain that India and China are experiencing. My only plea to those who have manage to better themselves via immigration is to help others as well even if it is as simple as to give advice or just lend a patient hearing of their issues.

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  • Adnan
    Dec 23, 2013 - 8:12PM

    One simply does not kick out parents (Pakistan) if they fight and not the greatest but nevertheless loving

    In the end, we owe it.

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  • Hafiz
    Dec 23, 2013 - 8:51PM

    This is good for Pakistan. Overseas Pakistanis send home remittances, which helps the economy. They also act as ambassadors of Pakistan in foreign countries. Pakistan’s population is so large that it can absorb the shock of a million Pakistanis leaving each year.

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  • Seema
    Dec 23, 2013 - 8:57PM

    The “brain drain” has little negative impact on Pakistan. For every Pakistani who emigrates from Pakistan, 10 are born or graduate to replace him/her. Brain drain is a non-issue in the context of Pakistan with a high birth rate, large workforce. Brain drain is an issue for countries with small populations.

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  • Fateh Mohammed
    Dec 23, 2013 - 11:03PM

    Pakistani diaspora is good for the country , the country does not need so many people with the birth rate as high as it has even if the emigrating people are highly skilled . Pakistan needs foreign exchange and not the unemployed people and then those who left the country they of course are better off and so are their progeny . Immigrants children go to better schools or study and graduate from world class universities and acquire world class experience and stay with their compatriots . In nutshell they experience paradigmatic change though it may also involve some heart aches as well , we have to put up with this trade off . These comments are mostly appropriate for highly skilled well educated and particularly those who emigrate / emigrated to US , Canada , Australia and European Union countries .

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  • shah
    Dec 23, 2013 - 11:13PM

    Visit any airport in Pakistan, flights out of the country are full while flight bringing people to Pakistan are mostly empty. Brain drain is a major problem for Pakistan, its best and brightest leave the country and put their talent and work into US/EU/Middle East/Australia.

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  • Hatim
    Dec 23, 2013 - 11:38PM

    @Imran
    I am not judging your decision to leave or stay but that doesn’t change the fact that you had a choice. Pakistan did not force you out. You chose to leave.

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  • saeed
    Dec 24, 2013 - 12:37AM

    @Last Word:

    Wrong. I can bet 99 percent will opt out. Remaining 1% are elite who will have huge income sources in Pakistan.

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  • Muslim Leaguer
    Dec 24, 2013 - 12:59AM

    In an interview on BBC tv in 2010, then Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was asked that why because of your policies so many Pakistanis are leaving the country?
    Gilani’s (stupid) response was: “Who is stopping them from leaving?”
    Now that the corrupt government of PPP, thrusted upon us through notorious NRO, is history and economic indicators are showing improvement with much reduced loadshedding, re-start of manufacturing in Pakistan and achievement of GSP Plus status the trend is expected to show stability.
    The Stock Market Index, being barometer of the economy touching new heights, is a testimony to these facts.
    Long Live Pakistan!

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  • 1984
    Dec 24, 2013 - 1:37AM

    @Sarmad:
    Even in California, in the peak of summers, there is loadshedding going on…yes and they do pay tax!

    I’ve been living in USA for 2.5 years and lived in Cupertino for 8 months and this is the first time I’m hearing about Loadshedding in California…..

    Please dont parrot whatever u madrassa teacher tells u…..

    ET can be accessed from anywhere in the globe,ur lies can be easily exposed

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  • Sajjad
    Dec 24, 2013 - 1:40AM

    It’s not only working class that’s leaving Pakistan for jobs abroad… Many professionals are also leaving the country… Me one of them… I am postgraduate from one of the top ranking universities… I worked and knocked about just beacuase of the reasons known to very body there… During my time in Gulf, Singapore n Bangkok I met the best brains from Pakistan… Pick up a kist of top ten companies in Gulf, as an example, and you will see Pakistani professionals with leading roles there… Ask them and they will tell you their feelings about Pakistan, they love their country and would prefer to work there if it is ensured that merit will prevail over all references. If you ask me I would love to work in Pakistan… It’s not all about money that professionals are leaving Pakistan. It’s that distrust in the system that nobody feels secured. It’s not easier to leave those parents who cherished you in their arms, those friends who made a portion of our life, those streets where we grew up playing hide and seek… Parting from Pakistan hurts in many ways that people people destriyi g our potential will never understand…

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  • SHB
    Dec 24, 2013 - 2:43AM

    @MS:
    Nice plan. I had same kind of plan. When I turned 55, I gave my self another extension for ten yrs. Recently I turned 65 and did the same thing. Another extension till age 75. I hope you do better than me. Good luck.

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  • Observer
    Dec 24, 2013 - 4:50AM

    @Pakistani:

    “Nearly all countries have gone through the stage Pakistan is going through. Will our generation make the sacrifice or not?”

    No country has gone through increased progression of extremism, hatred, bigotry, terrorism and obscurantism that Pakistan has been made to go through by its Establishment. As for making sacrifice, you are making sacrifice now. Remember, “we will eat grass to get the Islamic bomb” and other geopolitical confrontational slogans that Pakistan adopted?

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  • Fara
    Dec 24, 2013 - 5:42AM

    @talha:
    ” because creative thinking can work for progression at any place”
    I have a Ph.D. in Nanoelectronics. You tell me how I can possibly utilize my expertise in Pakistan?! I cannot for lack of any research infrastructure/ research culture at the academic level. You need infrastructure, you need facilities, you need money to be pumped into the system, and you need industry to go hand in hand with academia. Sorry to burst your bubble, but Pakistan is far , far off when it comes to creative output both industrially and academically. (and please don’t tell me about Arifa Karim! The Water Kit guy will be more apt.)

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  • Fara
    Dec 24, 2013 - 5:51AM

    @talha:
    ” because creative thinking can work for progression at any place”
    I have a Ph.D. in Nanoelectronics. You tell me how I can possibly utilize my expertise in Pakistan?! I cannot for lack of any research infrastructure/ research culture at the academic level. You need infrastructure, you need facilities, you need money to be pumped into the system, and you need industry to go hand in hand with academia. Sorry to burst your bubble, but Pakistan is far , far off when it comes to creative output both industrially and academically. (and please don’t tell me about Arifa Karim! The Water Kit guy will be more apt.)Recommend

  • Pakistani
    Dec 24, 2013 - 9:40AM

    Request to all overseas Pakistanis……please invest in your mother land….this is the place where you were brought up….completed your studies…and because of this country you are earning huge salaries….please invest in Pakistan..

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  • Dec 24, 2013 - 10:36AM

    @1984:

    Don’t you understand Doublethink? There has been load-shedding in California, there has always been loading in California.Recommend

  • powvow
    Dec 24, 2013 - 1:33PM

    Since when did and exodus of taxi-drivers qualify for brain-drain?

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  • aesculapius238
    Dec 24, 2013 - 4:54PM

    Yes, I am one of those who left too.

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  • AK47
    Dec 24, 2013 - 5:29PM

    @Last Word:
    More then 50%

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  • AK47
    Dec 24, 2013 - 5:31PM

    @Sarmad:
    Don’t compare Pakistan with US and UK. Its a disgrace to these countries.

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  • AK47
    Dec 24, 2013 - 5:37PM

    @Pakistani:
    Why should overseas Pakistanis invest in Pakistan when local politicians are keeping their bank accounts abroad?

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  • Stranger
    Dec 24, 2013 - 6:18PM

    O Yeah ! Whats wrong in this so called ‘brain drain’ I say . People go abroad , accumulate their hard earned money and earn foreign exchange for their mother nation. Its very obvious that the situation back home is not that conducive else they would not have left . So do something about providing good salaries / promotions / training other facilities for the ‘brainy ‘ ones . Stop lamenting .

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  • Oats
    Dec 24, 2013 - 8:18PM

    @Last Word: If you had a referendum in any developing country – not just Pakistan, the majority would leave to a developed country if given the chance; The number one source of immigrants to North America is China and India. Let’s face it, in today’s world, people want to move where there are better opportunities – thaty’s life and nothing will change that.

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  • KaroBari
    Dec 25, 2013 - 12:59PM

    @Pakistani:

    You have to be joking! Let’s say I go through all the bribing and other red-tape, and manage to successfully set up a business, I will still have to deal with load-shedding, inflation, and most importantly- lack of security. Who would be stupid enough to take all these risks with their hard earned money!

    Many posters here seem to put full blame on the government for the sorry state of affairs in the country, but IMO the religious leaders are 50%+ to blame! As long as people support them, or even pay attention to anything they (religious leaders) say, situation in Pakistan canNOT improve!

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  • optimist
    Dec 30, 2013 - 1:39AM

    Most of the people who leave Pakistan are not really brains….. They are good for petty jobs which they are doing here and there. We save 200/300 US dollars a month which become 20 to 30 thousand rupees for our families.
    .
    I have lived in England for the last 20 years and I can assure you that I am not really a brain that Pakistan would miss. Basically, we ran away from negativity in the society (where everyone was telling us that things are better abroad and that Pakistan has no future).
    .
    When we came here we realised that Pakistan wasn’t that bad. But it was too late now. Like losers, Pakistanis abroad are hiding here as everyone back home thinks that they must have millions by now!
    .
    Western countries are the best place to hide for losers!
    .
    I don’t mean everyone but 99% of Pakistanis living abroad are doing menial jobs.

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  • optimist
    Dec 30, 2013 - 5:48PM

    Only last year ET was reporting that brain drain is being reversed and American and British Pakistanis are coming back to find jobs at home

    http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/12953/changing-tides-pakistans-brain-drain-in-reverse/

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