Pakistan is a country that depends heavily on the remittances sent by its diaspora, which are estimated to be around $29.4 billion in 2021. These remittances not only support the families of the overseas Pakistanis, but also contribute to the national economy, foreign exchange reserves, and development projects. Overseas Pakistanis are therefore state assets and should be respected and valued by all political parties and stakeholders.
The majority of these remittances came from the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which together contributed $12.5 billion or 42.5 per cent of the total inflows. Other major sources of remittances were the United Kingdom, the United States, Kuwait, and Malaysia.
Overseas Pakistanis are not only a source of financial support for their families and communities back home, but also a valuable asset for the country’s development and diplomacy. They represent the diversity and potential of Pakistan in various fields and sectors, such as education, health, science, technology, arts, culture, sports, and media. They also contribute to the promotion of Pakistan’s image and interests abroad, as well as to the strengthening of its relations with other countries.
Overseas Pakistanis are often faced with challenges and grievances that affect their well-being and loyalty to their homeland. These include issues such as visa restrictions, labor rights violations, discrimination, security threats, lack of consular services, and political disenfranchisement. Moreover, some overseas Pakistanis may be influenced by the propaganda and agendas of certain groups or individuals who seek to undermine the stability and progress of Pakistan for their own vested interests.
However, some overseas Pakistanis may have developed a strong affiliation or loyalty to a particular politician or a political party, based on their personal preferences, ideologies, or expectations. This may lead them to overlook the larger interests of the country and its people, and to act in ways that may harm or undermine the national unity and stability. For example, some overseas Pakistanis may reduce or stop sending remittances to Pakistan if they are unhappy with the current government or its policies. This would have a negative impact on the economy and the welfare of millions of Pakistanis who depend on these remittances.
Therefore, it is important for overseas Pakistanis to realize that their love for their country should not be contingent upon some particular politician or a political party at the helm of the affairs. They should not fall for the propaganda of those who work for their myopic gains and try to create divisions among the Pakistani diaspora. They should not let their political differences affect their patriotic sentiments and their sense of responsibility towards their homeland. They should remember that they are first and foremost Pakistanis, and that they have a vital role to play in the progress and prosperity of Pakistan.
It is not the time to do politics but to stand with your country. Pakistan is facing many challenges and threats from within and without, and it needs the support and solidarity of all its citizens, especially those who live abroad and have access to resources, skills, and opportunities that can benefit Pakistan. Overseas Pakistanis should use their influence and networks to promote a positive image of Pakistan in the world, to attract foreign investment and tourism, to facilitate trade and commerce, to enhance cultural and educational exchange, and to foster goodwill and friendship among nations.
Overseas Pakistanis should also participate in the democratic process of Pakistan by exercising their right to vote and by holding their elected representatives accountable. They should also engage with the government and civil society organizations to voice their concerns and suggestions on various issues affecting them and their country. They should also support the initiatives and policies that aim to facilitate and incentivize the use of formal channels for sending remittances, such as the Pakistan Remittance Initiative (PRI) , which offers faster, cheaper, convenient, and efficient services for overseas Pakistanis.
Overseas Pakistanis are an asset for Pakistan, but they can also be a liability if they act irresponsibly or selfishly. They should not forget their roots and their obligations towards their motherland. They should not let their political affiliations cloud their judgment or compromise their patriotism. They should not belong to a particular party, but to Pakistan.
Overseas Pakistanis are an integral part of Pakistan’s identity and destiny. They have a vital role to play in its development and prosperity. They should be proud of their achievements and contributions abroad, but also remain connected and committed to their roots and culture at home. They should be ambassadors of peace and harmony in their host countries, but also defenders of Pakistan’s sovereignty and dignity in the world. They should be loyal to their country above all else.
Afia Atiq Malik is an Islamabad-based independent researcher and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Wyoming.