Bursting the ex-patriate bubble

Published: August 22, 2010

Life abroad is a natural choice for many of the students who goabroad for further education

Over the past week having endured the endless hate rants against President Zardari followed by an even more nauseatingly futile rant on the plight of the country’s poor and marginalised by the Pakistani diaspora, I was inspired if not irked into embarking on a bit of a rant myself.

At the outset let me clarify, that this is not piece in defence of the President nor a piece attacking those amongst us who constitute the intellectual cream of the nation and are now residing in greener pastures abroad; sipping their Starbucks, flaunting their Gucci’s and uploading pictures of all their latest misadventures on Facebook along with their bleeding heart status updates on, ‘how their hearts are still firmly embedded in Pakistan’, ‘how each bomb blast in Lahore still rocks their soul’ and ‘how they absolutely loathe the Bilawals, the Zardaris and the Sharifs’.

No this piece is not just about this, but beyond.

If any amongst you are currently residing in Lahore and frequently attend political talks, seminars, book readings you might have noticed a trend; the increasing absence of young academics and professionals. It is almost like that whole generation of university graduates and highly skilled professionals in their 20s and 30s have gone missing.

The runaway vanguard generation

Well, can you blame them? You go to Carnegie Mellon and study management information systems (MIS), you go to University of Chicago and study financial economics or you go to Warwick and study Globalisation and Development, only to return to Pakistan and realise that far from the need of a MIS, our firms are still grappling with the issue of load shedding, our security markets are really just betting grounds for a bunch of rich cronies or  and no matter what Mickey Mouse degree you did on development it only qualifies you to write useless reports for an NGO. Add to this the everyday hassle of load shedding, suicide bombings, lack of recreational opportunities and the constant social pressure to ‘settle down’ and you cannot blame our best and brightest for indefinitely prolonging their stay abroad.

Unfortunately, as this brain drain ensues and now at a faster pace than ever, the country is robbed of its most precious commodity; its vanguard party. A very loose interpretation of the communist terminology that will send many a Marxist Leninists scoffing, but bear with me. The gist of it is that it is that group of individuals that are at the helm of any mass action, movement, or revolution.

What denotes them this power or potential to be the instigators of change is not daddy’s bank account or seat in the Parliament but something far more meaningful – the vision for change and the capability to execute it. They comprise the less than five per cent of Pakistan that graduates from the best colleges and universities. They possess highly specialised skills, an expansive knowledge base, experience of working in foreign institutions and consequently a relatively higher degree of progressive mindedness. They possess idealism and creative potential unique to people within their age bracket and socio-economic circumstance. Having spent their formative years in Pakistan and given their families are based here, they have a high level of rootedness in the country and a personal interest in its development. Presumably, having had access to opportunities around 95 per cent of the population was deprived of deeply obligates them to give back to those left behind.

Out of sight but not out of mind

Maybe a part of us empathises with the need of the vanguard to settle abroad and in the time of crisis, we even appreciate their token gestures of donating their dollars, pounds, or when they celebrate hysterically the once- a-decade victory of our cricket team or hold placards outside some UN building impassionedly sloganeering to raise awareness over Aafia Siddiqi or against drone attacks in Pakistan – but is this nearly enough?  Over the past decades of military coups, democratic failures, war and economic crisis – is this the ultimate role the most promising and privileged amongst us have defined for themselves?

The widening chasm of inequality in Pakistan, institutional failure at all levels and systemic corruption is symptomatic of a larger issue. Those who rule this country have no real stakes in it, the rest are stuck in it and the small minority that has the means and vision to bring a ‘change we can believe in’ have been successively abandoning it for the past few decades. The recent floods provide us a befitting microcosm of this.

Movers and shakers who whine and complain

Ever since we grasped the scale of the devastation everybody was bemoaning the lack of organisation and management of the relief efforts. I can assure you that once the relief effort taper down, most of our expatriate intellectual cream, through their blogs and Facebook profiles will join in the cacophony of criticism on how the government has now botched up the job of rehabilitating the 14 million displaced. As sick as I am of the stories of the corruption and institutional failures of the government, what I genuinely cannot endure, is how the same talent that is engaged in ground breaking research at prestigious universities abroad, creating new technologies at Microsoft or Google or slogging away 16 hours daily at Citigroup; when it comes to Pakistan, are suddenly reduced to a sorry bunch of whiners, whose useless bashings of Zardari and the ruling elite are reminiscent of two aunties complaining about the domestic help.

Well, whine all you want about the state of affairs in Pakistan, but as you sit cosy abroad, remember; what your people affected by the floods need, more than any President, Minister or U.N official are doctors to vaccinate them against the inevitable spread of infectious diseases, engineers and ICT experts to design websites and map the affected areas in order to coordinate relief efforts, economists and development practitioners to design intelligent strategies for effective relief and rehabilitation. Most importantly, we need our vanguard to galvanise the masses and lobby to our Parliamentarians, that they should not forget who their real constituency is. Surely if the most progressive, gifted and privileged amongst us are sitting abroad, having unashamedly reneged on all their obligations to Pakistan, they should not be too shocked if our President and the ruling elite demonstrate the same level of conscientiousness when it come to their duties to their people.


Farheen Hussain

A development activist based in Lahore. She is also training to become a documentary filmmaker.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Jahan

    Biting. And for its most part – true. And I say that as an expatriate! EEK!Recommend

  • http://ykhan.wordpress.com Yasser

    i noticed you are bit harsh on people living abroad as if they are not Pakistani and most importantly as if they were ranting the same thing when Musharraf was the Chief Executive during his complete tenure including Earthquake 2005. i am sorry but you need to get your facts right and yes another PPP apologist. Thank youRecommend

  • Saad Farooq

    I sitting in Lahore do not find anything offensive here, may be the expat community may have found the bite in it. To sum up.. a good article.Recommend

  • abid

    sad but trueRecommend

  • Omair

    Yeah but there are those who have come back willing to serve their nation instead get robbed or worse get shot (either loved ones or themselves) and it happens sure the number of expats taking the easy way out do tend to stay away from such situations but truly most of them do miss their country where they are ??respected as pakistanis and have the same fate as any at the hands of the political brigands and or other notorious elements, and all those due to their inherent upbringing, constantly send back foreign exchg which is conveniently possesed by banks or politicians as Ponsi “mulkh bachao” schemes, so they do their bit, albeit they do not become “canon fodder” at the hands of their own countrymen as frequently as the ones in the country. I do realize where this little talk is going and I do agree with you but I guess we do need these expats…Recommend

  • parvez

    Very well written and so true.
    63 years down we are a country but not a nation. Nation building requires ‘giants’ to lead but upto now we have had only ‘pygmies’ with no concept of what is required.Recommend

  • Farheen Hussain

    @ Yasser: I am harsh on the people sitting abroad, precisely because their Pakistani and sitting abroad. Still you are entitled to your opinion

    Thanks everyone for liking it :)Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Jahanzaib-Haque/149352001744540?ref=ts Jahanzaib Haque

    Well put, well written.


  • sara tahir butt

    @Yasser, I am a Carnegie Mellon MIS graduate living in the USA and wasn’t offended for a minute (despite being obviously referenced in this article). She makes some very valid arguments, how do we expect to progress as a nation if all the brightest and talented abandon the country in search of greener pastures elsewhere? and why do we ex patriots insist on taking every opportunity to bash our former country, when our absence is probably the biggest factor contributing to the country’s problems.Recommend

  • Sara

    Completely agree with you Farheen, our country needs the people not their money. and this Recommend

  • Ahmed Javed

    I’m not sure what the point of the writer is, other than the self admitted need to “rant” and that too apparently in defense of Mr. Zardari … The writer dismisses the expatriates as elites based on they have received while her own info fits right in to that very educationally privileged class. Our (and that includes the expatriates as well) struggle is against these beneficiaries of the system who use their education to propagate the system for their own luxuries. Intellectual pygmies who would not even bother reading the life line provided by these very expatriates to Pakistan – a record $8.9 billion in the fiscal year 2010! You can’t expect these self declared messiahs to bite the hand that feeds. Here is a parting poke to burst your “holier than thou” bubble. As a physician “training” abroad I know that the very lot here are a majority of those who studied in the cheapest of schools and colleges and then went to a medical school whose fees were less than a $100 per year. So next time you want daddy to get an annual physical you may not want to look for a foreign trained physician who returned to serve the country. Peace ;) Recommend

  • Khan

    btw, were there any rants during Musharaf’s excellent effort during the 2005 earthquake when people from all over the world including expat Pakistanis flew in to help the victims? I think not. Its just this peoplist govt is the most inefficient and corrupt in the history of Pakistan. It has brought Pakistan to its knees in 2 years.Recommend

  • saher

    SO true…we need people in field not donations. Recommend

  • Umer Bhatti

    great article. mirrors my own views on “expatriatism”, formed from travelling, training and living abroad.

    and the reader above me hits the nail on the head: it is the absence of our brilliant minds that incapacitates us.uRecommend

  • Salman

    If you got out of the country, be assured that God is pleased with you. Out of the country, you can help yourself AND your home country, with even more charity than you could have arranged if living in the country.

    And charity is all you can “give” to our people.

    The article manages to strike guilt in expatriates, but its nothing more than a teenager’s aspirations of “doing something for the country” .. you grow up to know better.

    Lets hope no one falls for it.

    To the writer:
    You are right about everything “needed” by the inhabitants of this country. But you are wrong about thinking that all that is also “wanted” (by the power-holders of the country).
    What you are suggesting really is that each one of us professionals think as if we OWN this land we were born in. If such a miracle happens, each doctor, engineer, lawyer, teacher, mother, father, child will work like you expect.
    But the reality is that we are ruled over by groups far more powerful than us, and this land BELONGS to them. And not only the land, but all those “poor” people you are concerned about belong to them too.

    It would be extremely STUPID of any professional to think of this country as their own, and give it their time and energy for its own sake.

    Give charity, at the most help INDIVIDUALS if you are so inclined. But make sure you don’t step into the territory of “empowering” someone/some part of the people. You will annoy their rightful owners at your own peril.

    Or if you want to really help, start at taking the country back.Recommend

  • aejaz

    She makes oversimplified generalisations. Quite a bit of the talent she talks about has at various times come back, become disillusioned (or been wholly prevented from bringing any effective positive change) and then returned abroad after banging their heads against the walls created to maintain the status quo. Just take the example of Professor Abidi, who was tasked with creating the LUMS school of science and engineering. After trying hard for many years, he also ended up returning to the states. He managed to get the school up and running off the ground but after his experience with the authorities and the power politics within the institution, he doesn’t seem to have high expectations for its future even though he has high hopes:

  • Ghausia

    Bitingly honest. And thank God, not another shameless Zardari supporter, I’m sick of those on ET. Well done Farheen, I loved it.Recommend

  • http://million4change.com Dr Tahir Naeem Khan

    One of the most unwanted trend ‘ex-pat’ bashing surfaces from time to time but this is not the time to do so. Whereas the intellectuals should concentrate on the pathetic Governance in Pakistan which finds its President holidaying abroad when millions of people were and are still struggling to survive. There are serious concerns about the corrupt Govt., to pocket money and channel it to Swiss banks. I have been approached by foreigners to sent their money through personal friends and aid workers in Pakistan and not to pass it to Govt. In such an atmosphere of mistrust Ms Hussain has nothing else but to fire on ex-pats. She is perhaps too young to understand that people living abroad are not just economic migrants but they have horrendous stories to tell why they were forced out of their own own Country.Recommend

  • Naveen Shakir

    Great article! I think the problem is that there really aren’t any incentives to come back for most people, and they end up just donating their money because they can’t figure out how else to “give back” to their country. I’m just hoping that the young expat professionals can contribute by offering some of their solutions to the larger infrastructural and societal problems, and people living in Pakistan or abroad can also help implement them. We have to become a little more solutions and action-oriented. Thanks for a good read!Recommend

  • Sana

    If you have any potential, you gotta plant yourself where the soil is fertile. It’s a basic rule of survival. People are not going abroad just so they can sip their Starbucks and get an elitist trump card. That you need in order to be heard at all in Pakistan anyway, mind you. Nobody would be reading this blog if you didn’t have that trump card yourself. There’s a glass ceiling in Pakistan, that if you want to cross and raise yourself to a level where you can effect change, you must study and work abroad and earn your access pass. Anyway, coming back to my point, the Pakistanis at home, have more opportunities to rise up and develop their potential as the cream has been skimmed off leaving more room at the top and the Pakistanis abroad get the chance to live to fight another day.Recommend

  • Sana

    Furthermore, don’t forget, that Pakistanis abroad are advocating for Pakistan every single day. When people are gathering together and torching the Quran in the streets because they are angry at mosques getting built, it is Pakistani abroad who through their personal character, their conduct and their tireless efforts are trying to salvage the dignity of Muslims and protect the name of Pakistan from slander every single day. The Pakistanis in Pakistan however are the ones who are constantly whining and complaining. They could really be doing more, so those abroad don’t constantly have to defend them.Recommend

  • http://ykhan.wordpress.com Yasser

    @Farheen @Sara

    You both might be right in your opinion. But the way i look at it is the person sitting abroad is a bigger asset for country in term of yearly investment when he comes back for vacation, helping in foreign reserves through money transfer and serving as ambassadors for their country with out being on the payroll of the govt, that’s how Musharraf govt cashed Overseas Pakistanis(off course before lawyers movement), There was a sense of belief for law and order, Retail Sector investment, seeing Karachi city achieving more and more development as compared to last 55 years. And by the way if you analyze properly abroad living are not the only cream. There is a huge talent existing which is being wasted by the democracy who possess only the tag of democracy as compared to his predecessor.
    Sorry i am not a Musharraf apologist but facts are facts and it is also a fact the whole Flood relief movement couldn’t be kick started due to a joy ride of “PRESIDENT” cum “SYMBOL OF STATE” who was busy in France making visits to Expo center etc.Recommend

  • Farheen

    @ Dr. Tahir, Salman, Ahmed and Aejaz
    Thanks for reading and sharing your views. Your major criticism of me is that I do not appreciate how disastrous repatriation has been for many people. Well I do, I know the miseries people have to face and the sacrifices they need to make. But the same politicians, fraudulent financial system and institutional failures you are complaining abt and citing as your reason to escape from the country is what the rest of Pakistan is stuck with. What is your solution to all of these problems? Watching from a distance? Praying for a miracle? Imran Khan?History is testimony; be it India, Malaysia, Latin America. That change comes through the middle classes. that class that is educated and has stakes in the country . They unionise, they lobby, they fight, they hold their governments accountable, they teach at their universities, they serve at their hospitals, they never lose that organic connection with their homeland. Charity and social work will only get you so far. Pakistan gets 2 billion USD annually in development aid and we are falling on the Human development Index. So money alone is not the solution. Perhaps what I should’ve also mentioned were the inspiring examples of all those who returned and are now applying their talents and abilities towards rectifying this country. they have opened up non profit organisations, teaching at public sector universities, getting involved in policymaking, creating awareness throught media and journalism. In their own small way they are cultivating a culture and building an infrastructure for change. I hope you all understand the spirit behind my article and do not take this as an attack on your good will and committment to Pakistan.

    To everyone else, thanks for liking it :)Recommend

  • http://www.sonyarehman.wordpress.com Sonya Rehman

    Fantastic piece.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    I was one of those expats who came back and taught for four years. I did face the type of hurdles mentioned in the varous comments; from being killed on the street any day due to bombings that took place every now and then, to my home being robbed due to a lack of security. It was a daily struggle. Institutional hurdles were also present. The type of hurdles that sent one of my expat-return-colleagues back to where he came from. He said he just couldnt take it anymore. I stayed and learned to work with and around these hurdles. I learned one important thing during my stay that you almost never get heard by those at the top but one day you do. I got my chance after 3 years and I did make myself heard. It did help to make changes especially in people’s attitudes. Changing attitudes is not easy when it comes to Pakistanis as we are an emotional bunch. I recently left again for another round of expatriatism for the sake of higher studies, not to escape. My point is to show that there are those who are expatriates, they come back and serve thier country and make positive changes. Farheen’s intentions are not to be questioned. I felt she meant well. I think what she wants to say is that what we are doing as expats is great and appreciable but we being who we are, a greater responsibility rests on our shoulders… I think she is right.Recommend

  • Azar

    If you have the audacity to consider expats “unashamedly” walking away from their obligations, then please allow me to use some vocabulary too. Your article is nothing but myopic and emotional drivel written by a naive and delusional problem solver.

    Galvanize masses? Lobby parliamentarians? Do you even understand what politics in Pakistan is? I would expect such short and sweet prescriptions from a French traveller crossing Pakistan with a backpack.

    Honestly, many people in Pakistan and those Pakistanis living outside of Pakistan are doing quite a bit in their own right. Not
    everyone has to visit flood sites, engage in digital cartography, inject vaccines or draft economic policies. The BEST thing to do right now is to mobilze as much funds as possible and channel them to trusted organizations working on the ground in Pakistan. There are specialists to deal with logistics of this magnitude and complexity. Support those who know how to help!

    Truth is, world-class talent should not be squandered. Top students of sciences/finance/media etc. should ideally leave the country so that they can harness their potential up to a global level of excellence, work hard and pull together capital of their own as individuals. But you’d rather have them lose their glitter in an economic setting which is just not cutting-edge! Having the right potential to help matters more than having the presence but not enough potential. Not all, but many do come back/visit/remotely engage to pay back their motherland.

    Just take the most basic example. Pakistan would be facing a BIG hole in its current account if it was not being supported via remittances. Do you even realize how many households are provided for by expat Pakistanis using “foreign” jobs? I’d say send a million more brains out to earn/support Pakistan one way or the other.

    We are a large and demographically young population. Our urban schools/universities will easily fill the gap of those leaving for “greener pastures”. If you doubt this, then are you telling me the class of 2009 is less intelligent than class of 2006? The talent is abundant.

    India is a prime example of this. They have an army of expat laborforce, professionals, and intellectuals who have ploughed back huge capital of every form from every corner of the world into India. Just that, they all saw a conducive environment to head back home.

    Pakistan is and will always be home. It is a tough choice to live abroad, but a prudent one. If Pakistan is not progressing, let Pakistanis progress. This way, we can reduce the inevitable damage from lost decades and generation, to only lost decades. That situation will, still, not be as hopeless.

    Last, but not the least, it is these unashamed expats working/teaching from banks to universities who are always engaged in debates with their colleagues across the world that beyond the sub-Saharan portrayal of Pakistan by international media, we are a capable nation worthy of respect. Otherwise, do you know what the face of us 170 million Pakistanis is around the world? Yes, it’s your beloved Zardari.Recommend

  • Hamad

    Agreed with Azar! We already have a laborforce of 50mn in Pakistan; not to mention that 50% of the entire population is under 20 years which means the laborforce will continue to explode. Trust me, given the economic environemnt, bringing back the million or so expats to Pakistan will only add to hunger and unemployment. But yeah take aways USD9bn from remittance pool and there’s nothing left to support our external deficits and BoP – will your intellectual expats be then able to stop PKR from going to 150/USD or inflation back to 20%+?Recommend

  • http://www.sonyarehman.wordpress.com Sonya Rehman

    This post is in response to Mr. Azar, who has taken great pains to bash the writer who’s really only offering her viewpoint.

    See, this is the trouble with us Pakistanis – we’re ever-ready to bash each other, we’re always on the alert and on the defensive!

    Learn to take constructive criticism and learn to deal with someone giving their opinion.

    But stating that; “Your article is nothing but myopic and emotional drivel written by a naive and delusional problem solver,” is thoroughly offensive. Well done – what a great way to offer your two cents by starting out your post with that glorious, insightful, verbal dump. Shabaash.

    Now, coming to your rather tediously long post – if you’re offended by the writer’s generalization of every Pakistani expat sitting on his/her arse and whining about the state of affairs back home via social networking websites or otherwise, it is true to an extent.

    While I agree with the fact that there are a large number of Pakistanis abroad who are doing whatever they can in their own spheres of life to help the country vis-a-vis (recently) the recent floods, etc, what really cannot be tolerated is those who have jumped ship for good, and who only descend on home turf after a few odd years to ‘reconnect’ with their culture and their people and then have the AUDACITY to moan about how the country’s “going to the dogs” and how Pakistan really is, “a failed state.”

    The audacity of it all.

    “If Pakistan is not progressing, let Pakistanis progress.”

    Who’s belittling their decision to leave the country for greener pastures in the first place? If Pakistanis abroad are progressing, who’s putting them down? But yes, if they consider it justifiable to engage in lounge-talk about how bad things are back home without DOING anything – then they can spin on it!

    That is when I WILL judge them. I will not judge them for anything BUT their lack of pro-activity and their holier-than-thou attitudes/snobbery regarding Pakistan.

    I will judge them for their cowardice and their lack of empathy, and the shedding of their association with Pakistan like second skin.

    In conclusion, please try and understand someone else’s opinion and take on matters before slamming them in public. Real classy, sir.Recommend

  • Farheen

    Azhar you’ve brought up a lot of points and I’ll answer them all:
    1. I NEVER projected the expats in the horrible light you suggest. My point was precisely to establish that our most valuable human capital is engaged abroad and the passive role they have defined for themselves is NOT ENOUGH. They have specialised skills and progressiveness that many who did not get the privilege of their education do not. They have proven genius and talent, if this collective was active in Pakistan than the hapless power enjoyed by the incompetents and cronies of the government could be questioned.

    2.You mock my references to street power and lobbying. I don’t know which privileged, civilised society you are based in currently, but I know from experience that street power and holding your elected representatives accountable are what make the democratic culture. I can’t think of one racial slur, wage cut or bail out the British public didn’t protest against hysterically while I was based there. Did it always pan out; no. But they knew their rights and they also knew rights are not served to you on a platter. You have to mobilise and demand them. Their best and brightest (not only but many) were there, unionising, mobilising and raising awareness, in a way the blue collar class cannot do.

    3.You have so arrogantly stated that ‘world class talent should not be squandered’??? If that is your attitude, that investing yourself in Pakistan is wasting yourself then so be it. Just don’t then have the audacity to complain about its institutional failures and lack of opportunities.

    4.I agree that remittances just last year alone were 7.8 billion USD, they have been phenomenally high in the Zia and then Musharraf era. Apart from consumption where did they go? Did it bail out the country from poverty? Did it increase our industrial capacity? Did it increase our agricultural output? No they were all expended in useless consumption and creating real estate bubbles. That is EXACTLY my point, when you send the money you also need the will and the brains to invest them strategically.

    5.Lastly I will never trivialise the role expats are playing in lobbying for Pakistan’s cause abroad. But as Hillary Clinton retorted when Talat Hussain questioned her about the Kerry Lugar bill and its conditionalities, “Pakistan doesn’t need to take the aid the US is giving”. Indeed, this was a befitting slap on our face. We should stop whining to the world to treat us right or understand us. The root cause of the problem is sitting in our parliament, our assemblies, our GHQs, the ISI head quarters. What good will your face saving efforts to the world do, when the perpetrators of all crimes in Pakistan are never held accountable.Recommend

  • Azar

    @Sonya: Maybe you’re comfortable being called unashamed, and judged? I’m not. As for “constructive criticism”, ha ha… This article was termed a rant by the author herself. Too bad, the rant from beginning till the end, was just plain condescending, alienating, didactical and repulsive. And don’t confuse foreigners of Pakistani origin (second generation Pakis) and expats. Expats don’t deserve this piece of ignorant rant. And they have the right to speak up in the same tone they were condemned. And now that I have responded to the literary bodyguard of the author, I’ll proceed to respond to the author.

    @Farheen: Grateful for your academic humility in response to my comment. May I please answer you, point-by-point.

    1) I hear you. It’s not like I missed this point in the first read. Farheen, how should I explain it. Think of it this way. Technology begets technology, knowledge begets knowledge, innovation begets innovation. And we have already missed the train. Either we Pakistanis jump on bogie #50 to get to bogie #100, or we don’t get there at all. Don’t expect Pakistanis to make the sprint from bogie #10 and succeed. To further elaborate – when you ask talent to come back to Pakistan, even if they were willing to work for zero salary for Pakistan, where are you going to get the labs from? The colleagues from Germany and China? Can you fabricate a chip on nano-scale in Paksitan when the child to develop Pakistan’s laser fabricator is yet to be born? So let these brains learn the arts in developed countries so that when the time is right, they will inshAllah pull Pakistan 30 years ahead in 10 years time.

    2) All I can say is, you are sincere and patriotic to the extent of being naive. In a pre-dominantly fuedal society, where under the sham of democracy, uneducated needy people are duped to vote. May be gradually and slowly? My rational and realistic mind is unable to fathom a course of events until the current ruling class dies and their children use the family power for the good. Otherwise, you and I, we’re like mosquitoes. Speak too much, and we’ll be killed, shut, threatended or banished.

    3) Refer to point#1. Pakistan is not yet ready to absord world-class talent. Harsh fact! Maybe in some fields. But in most innovative fields like medicine, bio-tech, most sciences, even computer science – its better the talent grooms itself elsewhere to come back more prepared, more capable, more senior. If the transitive years are spent in Pakistan, you’re own level of development will put a ceiling to how far you can steer Pakistan. Why do you think Dubai and Singapore needed to open immigration gates to stride ahead, and India didn’t? India had enough non-resident Indians in every field, who came back when the time was right.

    4) It is an undisputed fact that macroeconomy benefits in MANY ways from foreign inflows. You can’t discount the positive impact by the consumption argument. It’s simply flawed. You do not expect household remittances to start up industry do you? Of course, it is going to go into consumption, stock market and real estate. Whichever way you look at it, foreign capital leaves country better off.

    5) You want to hold ISI, GHQ, and Parliament accountable. I just love your optimism!!! Allah karay people of Pakistan one day pull it off. Maybe they will, not with the current generation of leaders alive.Recommend

  • Sher Afgun Khan

    After reading through the article and all the comments on it, I would like to appreciate Farheen for her effort and her faith in this country. I would like to appreciate expatriates for their representation of Pakistan in the best way possible, but you have to accept that Farheen has raised a very valid point in her article. The young, be it expats, expats who have repatraited and the one’s serving this country have to come together in this hour of need. We have to become the harbingers of change for this nation. The first of the Quaid’s three principles is UNITY, and it is the only thing we are lacking today. In the end hats off to Farheen once more. Recommend

  • Zeeshan Idrees

    Call me a cold-hearted economist, but states cannot run with principles of ethics but instead on principles of fiscal survival. The relationship between a state and it’s people is BUSINESS. The citizen pays the state in form of taxes and the state is a services contractor that provides services. It’s that simple. Look at tax rates in the West.

    Given that only 1.6% of Pakistanis are registered tax payers, why should the 3 million Pakistanis who pay taxes, take the burden of the remaining 177 million (majority of them being illiterate) – who make 10 to 15 babies per family like animals with no idea how to feed and educate them.

    Why should I pay tax to Pakistani government if I don’t get any road repair, police, electricity? Why should I pay for those 177 million? Wo meray maamay kay puttar lagay hain?

    What Pakistan needs is DANDA, and shit loads of condoms and compulsary education. And yes, a few decades of waiting. Recommend

  • Omar Gardezi

    the tax situation is horrible. last year I paid more than 2 million rupees in income tax and in return, my mobile was snatched twice in broad daylight. no police action. there is no electricity in my house and mqm activists burn tires and fire in the streets. the roads are so bad, my car has to go for service every week because of the roads. there is no water, the mullah in the mosque in the adjacent street screams anti-american slogans 4 hours a day. i’m very disappointed with the pakistani government and i’m leaving the country in six months. and I’m sure millions are doing the same. Recommend

  • Afnan Ahmed

    Well, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But, the Finance Minister on the floor of the house, while presenting the budget, has said that without the contributios of the expats, there will be no budget.

    So I wholly disagree with the article and term it as another drawing room discusiion far away from the ground facts. Recommend

  • hakeem

    Am not sure i think majority of first generation pakistanis abroad do taxi driving filling fuel or cleaning dishes sort of petty jobs nd few who are worth to be called brain doesnt matter alot because brain is something that we have plenty without enough demand backhome.Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/fayzan2 Fayzan Khan

    Put together very well indeed, but im afraid it ignores ground reality.Given the current circumstances in which these people have no hand in the first place, only a fool would want to invest in a place where there money is at stake and for that matter, the future of their families. Im very patriotic and i want Pakistan to be a place where people can feel secure but unfortunately its not. Your article shows true frustration which i can understand but in defence of the expatriats, give me one reason why one would want stay back in pakistan?Recommend

  • http://ingeniousminds.blogspot.com Abdullah Mahmood

    Great piece of thought Farheen. I really am glad we still seem to have a few intellects that still have hope and optimisim in the self-subsistence formulas.

    And well yes….there are a few extremist not just holding the flag of religion in the wrong direction but in every aspect. These have been the ones portraying a very narrow depiction of our existence.

    If there’s something I learnt in life, it’s removing the bricks from the middle of the road if they obstruct your way, you don’t necessarily need to destroy them, perhaps setting them aside would help but some has to do it!

    I’m not a real fan of politics or anyone who is linked with it, but I would defnitely like to be one to add my contribution for that change. But then again…where to go….how to help with it and finding the like mided is truly a difficult task.

    I see other undergrad students and certain individuals around me who try to be vocal of what they want to achieve or how they could help. But they sound no more like than a future politician with a great cover and actually trying to hit their way to fame and name and no more….

    The relationship between a state and it’s people is BUSINESS. (Zeeshan Idrees)

    This is all I may see till the light inside me fades and dies out !!Recommend

  • Zeeshan Idrees

    @Abdullah Mahmood: Oh, did I make you cry? Please get over it. I give you cold hard rational facts. The new world is that of increasing number of expatriate workers, naturalized immigrants and global citizens (go to GCC countries, Canada, US, UK). Look at growth rates of expatriates in the world. (The Luminites fall in this category too) And for us, the government of any specific country is a services provider and the relationship is pure business. Keep the ideologies for the suckers, mullahs and emotionally unstable. I have lived and worked in 5 countries other than Pakistan, and they have done a damn good job in satisfying my civic needs in return for the taxes I’ve paid. I appreciate the “light inside you” but it will not fix the roads, or provide households with electricity. Fiscal expenditures will. Any “feelings of being Pakistani” can easily be gratified by eating Nihari, Siri Paye or Halwa Puri in downtown London/Dubai/New York/wherever you are. Importing a desi wife from Pakistan (read: free cleaner/dishwasher/cook) is also on the menu.

    Sarcasm aside, you don’t have to stay in Pakistan to be a Pakistani. “If Pakistan is not progressing, let Pakistanis progress.”
    I’m not wasting any more time making my point.

    If Farheen wants to live in Pakistan, let her. If somebody wants to save the seals in the North Pole, let them. If somebody wants to build a well in Africa, let them. If somebody wants to marry into an Australian citizenship, let them. As long as it makes them happy.Recommend

  • Hassaan

    @Zeeshan Idrees Like everyone else here, your opinion is valid in its own right for virtue of it being an opinion. But your arguments, as confident as they seem, (on the verge of obnoxiously cocky, mind you) are based around the flawed assumption that life is all about “making yourself happy.” An extremely self-centered, and inherently – shall we say – “evil” way of thinking. The last thing this world needs is more people thinking that their happiness is all that matters in life. We need idealism. We need hope. Morality and Justice aren’t “practical” concepts – they arise from ideals. Would you suggest the world would be better off without people thinking more about morality and justice? Regardless, your comments about this qaum needing “danda” and compulsory education do ring true to a certain extent. However, having the opinion that its prudent to “wait” and see if things sort themselves out is the stuff of cowards.Recommend

  • Dr. Muhammad

    If Pakistanis want to live abroad, then renounce Pakistani citizenship forever, and please stop forcing/insisting your kids to marry and import Pakistani spouses, to maintain Pakistani ethnic and cultural “Ghettos” in UK/USA/Canada. My doctor aunty in Texas, insists that her pure bred Pakistani kids never socialize with any American children, no having boy/girlfriends and no dating. This is doing nothing but making any typical Pakistani child abroad into a schizophrenic, unable to connect with Western culture, but unable to return to his/her country of origin, because of all the problems back in Pakistan.
    I am a Pakistani doctor in Bahrain, and am moving to Australia for my surgical training. I may have relationships with Australian women, if I want to live there forever, and let my future kids decide who or what they want to be, or not to be, by themselves, for themselves.
    It’s simply ridiculous to live abroad in the West, and yet insist that you and your kids will always be Muslim, never American, British or Australian etc first.
    And stop spreading Islam in the West! Any typical Pakistani will never allow a New York Jew or Christian Belt Christian to evangelize in Pakistan, so please, keep your religion i.e Islam to yourself. USA/UK/Canada will cease to be USA/UK/Canada if Arab tribal laws in the form of Shariah is adopted as the law in western countries.
    I will never import any Pakistani wife, and expect her and any kids to live in western places, yet follow a culture being practiced thousands of miles away.
    My opinions are not exactly connected with the gist of this article, but the “connection” that Pakistani expats harp about, will surely die, as parents/grandparents die in Pakistan, so no reason to visit after their deaths, and after Pakistani expats die abroad, their children and future generation will go on to be western first, and will have no connection whatsoever to Pakistan in the future.
    I am ready to face criticisms already, so fire away!Recommend

  • Zeeshan Idrees

    @Hassaan: It’s a valid assumption, meray bhai. The world is based on making yourself happy. Even when you give charity, you give it because of your selfish motives since YOU want to make YOURSELF feel good about it and that you made a difference in the world. Admit it. It’s an emotion that you’d pay any money that you can dispose. Successful people redeem their guilt by giving large sums of money all the time. Self-interest drives economies, competition, innovation, patents, inventions, copyright laws, and even philanthropy – the pillars of any civilization. Read a bit outside your pervasive politically-correct literature. Apologies for being a “evil” killjoy and taking the cherry out of your cake.

    @Dr. Mohammad: I agree with you 100%. When you are a guest at a relative’s place, you follow their house rules. Similar analogy goes when a Pakistani goes to live in another country. We should spread our DNA around the world. Cross-bred kids are smarter.Recommend

  • http://ingeniousminds.blogspot.com Abdullah Mahmood

    @ Zeeshan Idrees
    Chupay….I was kinda agreeing with your views!!
    But never mind, your attitude certainly reflects you are not one of those priviledged minds which could do anything but sit at the morning newspaper all his life and whine, “tch tch tch…hamarey mulk ka kya hoga?”Recommend

  • Zeeshan Idrees

    sorry yaar. read it fast. too fast. fury takes over.Recommend

  • ambreen hussain

    @ Zeeshan Idrees and Azar
    Hats off to Farheen for writing such an excellent piece.The fact that she is an expatriate herself makes her article all the more credible.After reading through it I felt that our country has some hope because if people like her who have lived abroad themselves,witnessed the luxuries of western civil society and still return home then they definitely know what they’re talking about.I totally agree with her when she talks about the brain drain that Pakistan is facing and that remittances alone do not eradicate poverty.
    As for people like Zeeshan who himself proclaimed that,”The world is based on making yourself happy” or Azar who believes that,”If Pakistan is not progressing, let Pakistanis progress” is the most shameful and self centered statement I’ve ever come across. I suggest the two of you keep sitting pretty where ever you are because Pakistan will be better off without you.
    Good job Farheen,your article has substance……….God knows we need visionaries like you.Recommend

  • Zeeshan Idrees

    @Ambreen: LMAO.
    Ahem, with all due respect, Ma’am, I’m sorry but at least you should have changed your name to Benazir Bhutto or Mother Teresa or Paris Hilton while writing this. I just found out that:
    1. You are Farheen’s sister. You are SUPPOSED to defend her even if you don’t agree with her.
    2. You left Pakistan long time back yourself and you have been living in the States and paying taxes to the US government. Hmmmm… last time I checked, there is a word for it. Expatriate.


  • ambreen hussain


    Yes I’ve been living in the US for several years only because my husband had to complete his residency and fellowship training and now that we are done I’m coming back at the end of this year.Alhamdullilah I’ve lived a wonderful life here in America but now my husband and I believe that its about time we went back to help our fellow country men.What are you doing about that?Recommend

  • ambreen hussain

    @ Zeeshan
    Yes I am Farheen’s sister and no I am not “SUPPOSED” to defend her. It just so happens that I believe in the same ideology of “Bhasha kum aur kaam ziyada”.Recommend

  • Dr Muhammad

    Mr Zeeshan, why are you trying to go into personal attack mode? Pakistani society needs high quality, honest and professional people like you and me in the police, bureaucracy, health services, and government etc. If you want to stay abroad forever, and away from your leadership responsibilities, then do so, no one is forcing you or anyone to love Pakistan or return home.
    As for me, I am a hypocrite. I love and care for Pakistan, and want to return and do Pakistan politics, with no family politics like the Bhuttos or Sharifs. Unfortunately, Pakistan is not a country for me to get my daily dose of western women and dry Martinis. So I am in a terrible fix and quandary.Recommend

  • Azar

    @ Author’s sister
    I hadn’t checked back for a few days. And this debate here seems to have lost scope.

    Sister, to sum up for you where it all began. Your sister adopted a tone, which not just me, a number of other commentators of this article have also criticised. This was one. Secondly, I differed with her sweeping demonization of highly skilled expatriates with reason and rationale, but I’m afraid you must have missed it completely because reason and rationale require an open, objective mind not suffering from chronic self-righteousness. You were quick to read the line where I mentioned letting Pakistanis progress, but you obviously missed the idea behind it (in the very next sentence) – which was, containing the loss/damage for Pakistani nation as a whole. But…. sigh … Nevermind!

    Fine, keep your spirits high, give your best shot to the country when you RETURN to Pakistan. I’m happy you guys think that way. Good luck! Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    It’s not really that bad that we are all hypocrites. We have outlived the ideology of the country.
    As Dr. Muhammad said, for many of us, everything that is fun and interesting is either forbidden, illegal or frowned upon in Pakistan.
    We want to live our life to the fullest and that doesn’t happen. So we venture out.
    Some of us want to gratify our desire to discover new places, new people. Some of us want to improve our economic condition. Some of us are sick and tired of the mullahs and pervasive religious graffiti. Some of us are just fed up with government’s failure to fulfill its duties and provide for basic civic needs.
    Four of my pakistani passports are filled up with airport stamps and I’m on my fifth. And I can tell you, the world is too interesting for me to miss out on. All I can hope to do for the country is to give back when i am able to. And surely, I’d set up a couple of giant condom factories.
    The concept of states and countries will be a thing of the past several generations in the future and we will hopefully become global citizens, with 1 currency and 1 piece of legislation. We are just moving in that current. It’s OK.Recommend

  • http://million4change.com Dr Tahir Naeem Khan

    @Azar..well written and convincing arguments which have not been answered. Whilst one sentence was open to misinterpretation but you have clarified it now. Also “unashamedly” used by Farheen was certainly a word not fit for the purpose.

    @Farheen and Ambreen… I am open to all sort of discussion and happily listen to all opinion. It seems you do not have the insight. To make you understand specific examples are needed. I lived in Pakistan for about 40 years and I know my Country very well.

    Singapore when established its ‘Institute of Molecular Biology’ costing a few billion dollars got an ex-pat ( A Singaporean professor working in Canada) to establish and run this massive project because of his expertise. This is what Azar and others say , use us where we are required. To clarify further, I am a highly trained doctor and wanted to work for free to set up for the first time breast and cervical cancer screening program in Pakistan. I even went to the extent of getting a big ‘Sifarish’ (for the sake of cancer patients) to meet the Federal Secretary and DG health. I gave them the blue print of the program but till today they have not replied me despite several emails. I have now left it to another opportunity when I might succeed. There are many other true stories to tell but I am sure the message is conveyed. Imran Khan’s efforts would be much facilitated if our Country runs a cancer screening program to prevent and detect cancer early.
    What I believe, this is not the time to bash ex-pats and such articles divert us from main issue faced by Pakistan. I will suggest rather request to Farheen and Azar, can you concentrate on two things only 1) fight against corruption and bad Governance and 2) education especially primary education where the character of the children is built. These are most important issues and whether you are an ex-pat or living in the Country we can all work towards it. Please write extensively in newspaper and use blogs like mine and many others to spread good for the Country. Every article should contain a solution to a problem and not a futile criticism.Recommend

  • Azar

    No Ahmed no, stop this rubbish, stop sipping your coffee, and come to Pakistan to galvanize the masses.

    On a serious note, you have raised the best point of this debate. It’s quite easy for rich dad’s children to call for social work – whilst they forget, some unashamed people build their own lives from scratch.

    Good luck to you in your endeavours.Recommend

  • Meekal Ahmed

    I am an ex-pat but not by choice.

    I agree — having spent time with them — they are a bunch of old women carping about the domestic help. They constantly run Pakistan down and have nothing good to say. Never.

    However, their hypocracy is plain to see when, for example, they get themselves a cushy job in Pakistan with all the trappings of power. They behave ten times worse than those they berated. Recommend

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    salam miss saher i want to help can u do it???Recommend

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  • Majid Urrehman

    I went abroad but then I came back. I would like to work and prosper Pakistan. Interestingly I did not find a job but rather created one position. This is my advise to all those expats who want to come back that rather than finding a job, they might need to create one.Recommend