Dr. Tahseen Mahmood Aslam looks at a contentious issue of Roles of Pakistani Diaspora in Pakistan
The beginning of the 1970s witnessed large-scale migration of Roles of Pakistani Diaspora in Pakistan towards many countries of North America, Europe and the Middle East. Gradually, the Pakistani Diasporas in the countries they settled in assumed a credible position and they started making their voice felt in Pakistan. Since the last two decades any governmental change in Pakistan evoked tremendous interest amongst Pakistani Diaspora around the world. Most of the times, the impression about the change in government was overwhelmingly positive and such diasporas increased their role in Pakistan. In this context, the advent of PTI added a significant dimension to the Pakistani diasporas and many of their members were given substantial roles to play during the tenure of the PTI government.
The crux of the matter is that people of Pakistani-origin numbering almost 3 million have settled mainly in North America, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and the United Kingdom. Pakistan has been quite dependent on the remittances they send through banking channels as this financial assistance helps finance Pakistan’s economy. Pakistani Diaspora has been quite successful in whatever pursuit it dedicated itself to. Many of its members achieved considerable financial prosperity and people like Sir Anwar Pervez of famous British cash-and-carry chain Bestway preferred to diversify their investment and chose Pakistan for it and installed a cement factory and bought controlling shares in United Bank Limited. Many others tried to follow suit but found working conditions in Pakistan not conducive and backed off. Instead, they preferred to invest in real estate assets and refrained from fully participating in trade and industry.
Pakistani entrepreneurs working abroad find the economic climate in Pakistan very daunting and find it difficult to operate here. The main block is stulting web of cumbersome regulations designed by Pakistani bureaucracy that aims to get its cut out of any entrepreneurial activity undertaken in the land. Pakistan is ranked 147 in the index of 190 countries designed to gauge the Ease of Doing Business. The economic policies are highly inconsistent and are designed and ditched whimsically. Successive governments have not paid much attention to improve the regulatory conditions hampering pursuance of proper entrepreneurial activity.
The difficulty is compounded when it is realised that corrupt practices are not short-term but a consistent problem as official agencies keep on demanding more gratification and resort to extraordinary measures if they are not obliged. The situation becomes untenable as the aggressive attitude of myriad agencies in milking business is often treated with impunity and no action is taken against the marauders.
Pakistani business climate also suffers from very poor dispute resolution and overseas Pakistanis face tremendous difficulties as they lack the kind of influential base the locals possess. Many such investors returned penniless after their investment was disputed by their countrymen and they were not provided any assistance by dispute resolving mechanism. They found it difficult even to obtain justice from courts of law and were left with no option but to return to their foreign places of abode.
Business practices in Pakistan are very opaque and tremendous lack of transparency is observed in tendering and related processes. No tender process is free of favouritism and underhand deals that overseas Pakistanis learn to their frustration. Even the best bids are not accepted and there is no process to check excesses perpetrated in this aspect. Even high-level government tendering process is found internationally suspect and devoid of a fair appraising mechanism.
Overseas Pakistanis find to their chagrin that most of the labour force they employ is poorly trained and Pakistani social indicators are so weak that the country stands at number 136 in the country rankings pertaining to Human Development Index. The edifice of hope with which overseas Pakistani begins his business in Pakistan evaporates when he experiences the substandard output delivered by his workforce. The problem is endemic as there is hardly any effort visible in providing modern-day training to the workforce that is condemned to keep on following the beaten track.
Despite the adversities, Pakistan offers tremendous opportunities to its overseas citizens to invest. Pakistan faces acute shortage of skilled manpower and amongst a horde of unemployed there are hundreds of thousands of vacancies lying vacant due lack of skilled manpower. Overseas Pakistanis can fill this gap by setting up new institutions of learning for imparting vocational training and technical and science education ranging from universities, colleges, post-high school institutes to post-primary and secondary school apprentice workshops.
Some overseas Pakistanis are already helping health facilities in Pakistan but their contribution could earn them healthy dividends if they could help develop competent institutions in Peshawar, Quetta, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Bahawalpur, Multan, Sialkot and Faisalabad. Overseas Pakistanis can provide intellectual leadership in designing, organising, collaborating in practical-oriented scientific research and applying the results of this research to enhance agriculture and industrial productivity in Pakistan.
Pakistan needs honest brokers between the foreign firms and the host country firms because they had the intimate knowledge of the multinational firms’ requirements and the understanding, contacts and knowledge of the capabilities of the firms in their countries of origin. The large reservoir of Pakistanis working in the multinationals can establish fruitful liaison in Pakistan with well-established firms in Pakistan who can cater to their outsourcing needs according to international standards.
Overseas Pakistanis can very well help in forming joint ventures between American and European countries to develop Pakistan’s textile industry by providing design, technology and marketing, services while the actual production is carried out in the low-cost factories of Pakistan and the final output is shipped to Europe or North America. Such cooperation may provide renewed life to almost extinct textile industry in the developing world and will not only create jobs in Pakistan but will also provide technical advancement to Pakistani skilled workforce.
The area of advanced education is very lucrative in Pakistan and overseas Pakistanis are well placed to take its advantage. The market for talented young Pakistanis for getting education in Science, Engineering and technology at the top elite universities in North America, Australia and Europe is very productive and yields long-term results for the country. Who could be more aware than overseas Pakistanis that investment in human development is never wasted. Pakistani expatriates can discreetly influence public policy in their countries of settlement. Some Pakistanis are already active in this field and it is advisable if more come into it. Lobbying is a legal profession and pays rich dividends both for individuals and the country.
The vast field of providing medical facilities in Pakistan is an ideal field for overseas Pakistani investors. Highly professional health services can attract patients from the Middle East for surgical procedures and other quality services at costs which are a fraction of those charged in developed countries. Such facilities are required to be developed according to high standards prevalent in the development world that overseas Pakistanis are very familiar with. Pakistani financial institutions have reached that stage where they can provide finance to such enterprises.
Pakistan lacks world class accountancy know-how and it is a badly needed field in the country. Overseas Pakistanis interested in this field can take advantage of removing such shortage by establishing such institutions and teaching in them. It is a very fulfilling job and may provide incentive to like-minded Pakistanis to come into it. Pakistan has not been explored properly and the world is largely unaware of its beauty and scenic value. Tourism carries in its wake tremendous potential of development and overseas Pakistanis are quite accustomed to touring in the western world as holidaying is a cultural norm there. TW