They say, “Economy decides the fate of states.” Not sure of it though it is sure they must be some economists. It is observed when everything is changing in the modern world, the factors affecting the economy of a state are also changing. The citizens of state living abroad help the state have a strong and stable economy. The money they send can build the entire state. India in general and South India, especially Kerala, have been built on the money sent by the south Indians residing in the Gulf Muslim states since ages. These Indians also enjoy multiple fringe and direct benefits in their country. They have especial hospitals, suitable pension plans, affordable loans with the lowest interest rates and the list goes on. Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Philippines are other most prominent countries who enjoy the blessings of overseas nationals.
Pakistan is no exception as it enjoys a good number of 9 million overseas Pakistanis around the globe. Around 2.2 million Pakistanis reside in Europe and more than 4 million in the Persian Gulf. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Pakistan has the 6th largest diaspora in the world. These Pakistanis contribute billions every year in the form of remittances they send to Pakistan. As recently as in June, Dawn states, “Remittances exceed $2 billion for 12th straight month with highest inflows from Saudi Arabia and UAE.”
“On a cumulative basis, remittances surged to $26.7 billion during July-May this fiscal year, higher by 29.4 per cent over the same period last year,” the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said. “Remittances during the first 11 months of the outgoing fiscal year have already crossed the full FY20 level by $3.6 billion,” says the SBP.
Now coming to the core issue and that is, what do these overseas Pakistanis get in return? There are many issues that need the immediate attention. But at the moment, they are facing the worst kind of humiliation by the opposition parties in Pakistan. The Supreme Court of Pakistan gave a verdict, telling the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to give the overseas Pakistanis the right to vote. According to media reports, “The Supreme Court has directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure that overseas Pakistanis exercise their right to vote in the upcoming by-polls in the country as a pilot project.”
The National Assembly of Pakistan recently passed the Election Act Amendment Bill, 2020 containing dozens of amended clauses for bringing electoral reforms including the voting right for overseas Pakistanis, the Pakistani media reported.
Now, why do these political parties object to this amendment? Are overseas Pakistanis sub Pakistanis or half Pakistanis? Or they have no right to participate in the core political activities in Pakistan? When they are participating in politics around the world and even serving legislative units in different countries, why can’t they be eligible to vote for their representatives in Pakistan? Are they not patriotic or they are less capable?
These political parties, though they negate the democratic process as they are owned by families, are afraid of their future. There are solid reasons for this fear. Many overseas Pakistanis came to Pakistan to cast their vote for the first time in the 2018 General Elections. As a result, the mainstream political parties, which have been ruling the country for the last, let’s say couple of decades, were ousted from power. These parties are, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) owned by Bhuttos and Zardaris since 1970 and the Pakistan Muslim League owned by Sharifs since early 80s. In 2018, they were defeated by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and this was their worst nightmare as they were not ready to give even buttons of the Prime Minister’s sherwani to Imran Khan. So it is easy to understand why they can’t digest this reality written by their own hands and even they themselves chose the wall.
There is another threat for these old mainstream political parties. They are now opposing this bill because the PTI might bring in overseas Pakistanis as the party leadership said it would introduce new faces to break the shackles of the family-owned political parties. There are reports that PTI might pick new faces instead of electables this time.
It is technically very simple, if we have good intentions to understand and resolve it amicably. It is highly discriminating and unreasonable that overseas Pakistanis can vote if they are in Pakistan at the time of elections but cannot vote if they are abroad for certain reasons. Come on, grow up, this is not politics for the country.
Contest, deliver and present yourself for accountability in the elections and come to power if people bring you. Democracy doesn’t mean tricks to trick the country; it means ways- and better ones to serve your people. Overseas Pakistanis are already in a dire situation nonetheless they never disappoint their fundamental love – Pakistan.
Overseas Pakistanis living abroad for a longer period of time are found to be experienced professionals, business owners, educationists, scientists and industrialists of international repute and there is also a huge labour class.
They are the real heroes of Pakistan. They have proven their worth as the best in the field and best Pakistanis as well. You can’t pay them, this right to vote could be a small gesture of thanks from this side. Furthermore, having bigger canvas of life and deeper discernment, these overseas Pakistanis can change the fate of the rising Pakistan. Attached profoundly and emotionally with Pakistan, they always intend to serve their homeland. These overseas Pakistanis are an excellent resource for Pakistan in almost every field. The issue is a test of opposition’s credibility and sensibility and it seems they are not only losing their ground; they are losing it badly.
Somehow, overseas Pakistanis are overwhelmed with joy as the PTI government is working to give them the right to vote. It is a well-known verse by Noon Meem Rashid, for opposition parties;
جو ابھی نہیں آئی، اس گھڑی سے ڈرتے ہو
!اس گھڑی کی آمد کی آگہی سے ڈرتے ہو
تم ابھی سے ڈرتے ہو؟
The writer is an educationist and teaches at a public sector university in Oman.