Returning to Pakistan

Published: July 11, 2010

I know things are bad, but this utter hopelessness is not going to do us any good.

If you’re a Pakistani student studying abroad (US, UK, Europe, Canada, Australia wherever) pursuing whatever degree, people will automatically assume you’re staying there for good.

And by people here I’m referring to our fellow countrymen.

When you meet them at a gathering or a get-together, such topics are often the subject of discussion. Telling them that you have plans of returning home will earn you looks of utter bewilderment, as if you’ve said something embarrassing. You go back to Pakistan to visit family and friends, and everyone invariably asks you how you are doing abroad, so you tell them you’re getting by OK – which is almost always followed by something along the lines of “Good! Get a job/green card, and do not come back!”

I know things are bad, but this utter hopelessness is not going to do us any good.

If we abandon our own country, when it needs us the most, what right do we have to call ourselves proud Pakistanis when we couldn’t even bother to spend the prime of our lives living in it and working for its betterment? My mind tells me it’s a foolish obsession that makes no sense, given the instability prevalent over there, but then my heart says: No matter what the outcome, at least I would have done the right thing.

The battle between my heart and my mind rages on.


Raza Abbas

A full-time PhD Student in the computer sciences at a school in the US. He blogs at Waking Life.

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

  • Ghausia

    I’m getting out of this cesspool of filth and misery ASAP/ I refuse to raise my future kids in this place, they, I deserve better. Let the country rot, I’m not putting my life on hold for a bunch of corrupt, lazy slackers.Recommend

  • Asim Kaleem

    Very true Abbas! ….. This is the same problem like when one returns than people will think that he did a mistake ……. but to some extent I think its true ………. when you spent around 2 or more years in a country where every thing is normal and nothing goes beyond limits ……. than he always prefer to spend future where he finds better life and standard ……. for an average person …. Recommend

  • Syed Abdul Wahab Gilani

    You are right to the part “If we abandon our own country, when it needs us the most, what right do we have to call ourselves proud Pakistanis when we couldn’t even bother to spend the prime of our lives living in it and working for its betterment?”

    @Ghausia:The problem is we never think of the sacrifices of 0.6mln (Approx) people, who were martyred during partition. The problem is we forgot the returning part, to this piece of land after learning and earning of it.

    We know every possible way of expropriating it.

    I agree with these lazy slackers we do not have a minute chance of progress but I believe neither I’m included in bunch of lazy slackers nor I hope Ghausia be.

    What I and Gahusia the proactive and the patriots did to change a single bit? Perhaps nothing close to the sacrifices of 0.6mln people. Who left their homes and witnessed their loved ones killed, raped and incinerated.

    The problem lies in the I, my, me and myself. We need to stop thinking I, my, me and myself way. Then we will see change. The real change. Otherwise what is the 2nd option?? Flee?? to be the 3rd class national of another country.

    Humiliating at least for me.

    Food for thought: This (PAKISTAN) is our motherland what would be the other……. the proud fatherland… huh.. Perhaps we need to seriously mull over it.

    Sorry if I was bit harsh.


  • Patriotic Girl

    Great thought Raza….do it!! Your country needs you. At least give it a shot….we are a resilient nation and we need “R2Ps” (Returnees to Pakistan) who add value to this country.Recommend

  • Wasiq

    Spot on! I’ve had the exact same reaction by people when i came back ‘sacreligously’ without pursuing a plan of permanent residency or at least working in the UK..its like losing the war before breaking into battle..cowardly approachRecommend

  • Ammad

    Yeah go there with an intention to bring with yourself for this country.Recommend

  • Mahreen

    Well you would be in a better position to help your country if you had obtained work experience where ever you were studying and then returned. That is more useful than graduates who return with fancy-pants degrees and expect better salaries just because they were lucky enough to be able to pay the astronomical sums necessary to study abroad (I can say that being a foreign grad myself). Hope your decision was because of patriotism and not recessionary markets abroad leading to fewer jobs. I know so many people who cant find work and then justify it by expressing patriotism to return homeRecommend

  • Mahreen

    It is so much better to be honest. But now that you are here do not expect privileged treatment just on dint of your foreign degree. And expect to spend an extremely long time to recover even your tution fees. Experienced professionals. who have worked in developed markets, is what this country needs. NotRecommend

  • Nargis Nurullah

    When good fellas like you come back to Pakistan when they are going to school abroad or maybe even do a work internship how come they work ethic abroad is different from the one when they come back? It looks like they succumb to the laziness, corruption, sexism and uncreative thinking that seems to fester Pakistani society.
    Pakistanis abroad seem to prosper in various fields but if the location is changed these same people will fail!
    Pakistanis need a short of a huge morale boost and it looks like it ain’t happening any time soon,Recommend

  • Ali


    I did the same 4 years ago and regret it bitterly! Your return here would result in utter frustration for being under-employed in a messed up system with petty politics.

    My advice, secure your future there, atleast get a passport and then return as this will keep your options open. Unless you have a big shot family business to fall upon.

    Its amazing how you become a part of the system so quickly here!

    Best of luck!Recommend

  • Ali

    and personally, I think you have more rights living abroad than you do in Pakistan! so this 3rd rate citizen rant abroad is quite over rated. Having lived abroad for more than 10 years, I never once experienced harrassment! Recommend

  • Syed Salman Ali

    The respect of power is more then the respect of knowledge, due to this our country has a huge number of brain drain. Recommend

  • Bemisal

    At a time like this when our country is at its lowest bottom,when men are killing their wives and kids because they don’t have money to feed them- people like you(Ghausia) are to blame who grow up here, are nurtured in this homeland, enjoy all the elite perks, go abroad and then five years later talk with such spite about Pakistan and Pakistani people as if it was never yours.
    I am sorry if this country is a cesspool of filth and misery, but it is so because of people like you who never bothered to clean it up but just leeched on its fruits.
    Pakistan might just be better off without people like you. There are many more who wish to come back and serve the people of this nation. We do not need your foreign stamps.
    Thank you.Recommend

  • Syed Abdul Wahab Gilani

    @Bemisal: AgreeRecommend


    Well to be very frank if we talk about the truth/fact; anyone who’ll return from abroad to rescue our drowning country when he/she’ll face no value for his/her knowledge expertise even illiterate and the officials having fake degrees affront to them they’ll find themselves in the line of suicider’s cursing themselves along with all your family and friends then all the so called patriotism will be vanish.
    Its very easy to write millions of pages to create hype regarding Patriotism but its in vain really when we don’t know the cause/aim of our establishment…?
    Sorry to say but even we are not a nation so far…!!
    We are a bunch of individuals who alive to quarrel and ruin the peace of others guiding by our Respected Mullas/Molvis..!!!Recommend

  • Colgaze

    there are many who love their motherland want to go back home once done with the education and all. before coming back home it should never be a blind emotional decision although what spark this decision has flurry of emotions i.e. patriotism…..
    but you see you can’t feed your family educate your child, afford better medical condition by merely being patriotic. majority of people leaving Pakistan are leaving for better economic opportunities…for safe and prosper future and it’s not a bad thing to wish for, that’s what our forefathers did at time of partition .

    a decade ago…people use to leave Pakistan with mind set of never coming back…and things improved pretty well in last regime in … for example we had all the money flowing in real estate sector of Pakistan from foreign lands and now the things pretty much where they were 10 years ago…Recommend

  • Shumaila

    Seriously speaking, I don’t think it makes a paisa’s (penny’s? cent’s?) worth of a difference whether people like you go, stay or return.

    If you’re here and as bitterly dissatisfied with being here as Ghausia and Ali above are, then there’s no point. You don’t love the country, you’re not working for it, you’re better off not here.

    This country doesn’t need pseudo-dedication. People staying here are enough concerned with their own wellbeing to keep conditions fine. If you want to help out, well and good. Recommend

  • Ghausia

    @Bemisal First off, I don’t mind what you said at all because it is absolutely true. However, I wasn’t always so bitter and angry; less than two years ago, I had dreams of making a change for the better. But the thing is, how on earth do you change a place where people are corrupt from top to bottom? What are you doing to make a change? We can either sell our souls to the devil and become like our corrupt politicians, or we can simply sacrifice our lives working tirelessly to make a difference, and yet never succeed. We have so many NGOs tirelessly working to get kids off the streets, to stop child prostitution, to protect women, to stop VAW, but every time they stop one heinous act, five others are committed, my God, how can we possibly do anything to make a difference? Secondly, the issues I want to address, the ways in which I want to make a difference, all those things are taboo here, which is why my efforts are better off in a foreign land. Plus, I’m sick of religious fundamentalists. The minute Pakistan becomes a secular state, I’m going to come rushing back and spend my entire life trying to change something for the better, but until then, I can’t tolerate the fundies and their propaganda anymore.Recommend

  • Raza

    Thanks everyone for their comments.

    I realize that it was something of a short post that did not clarify everything. So let me elaborate on some things left unaddressed in this post:

    I am still studying, and won’t graduate for another three years. At that point, there are a number of options that will be available to me, and rest assured I will not blindly move back because “I want to” without a solid plan. My stay in the US has been extremely rewarding, and I will use that in the best way possible whether it is creating a US-based startup or some collaboration with a US company. But the end result will be the same, whatever I do will be connected to Pakistan. That is all I wanted to convey. I know how corrupt the system is there, I’ve lived there 24 years! But if people like me and you (who have been fortunate enough to get a good education), if we do not take the initiative and work past these hurdles, then who will?Recommend

  • Naeem Akhtar

    Though the author made a valid point yet I am extremely sad to read the comments of readers. We just have to groups of People 1. Who were to weak to fight the system and ran away / want to run away. Others who are here fighting but unfortunately without Direction.

    I would like to propose a third way. Go away, go out go abroad, sell yourself whatever way you can, Earn as much as you can but while being there just remember that you are an Ambassador of Pakistan. Just don’t do anything which may result in people saying see Pakistanis are just like that. Sell your body your Brain but not your soul.

    To the people who are in Pakistan, please remember if you want to stand in front of a storm to stop it Please don’t it will throw you away shattered and bitter. Rather flow with the system, become a part of it and then bring the change in your gatherings, your friends, your families, your offices, your cities and then country. Please don;t try bringing in changes from the top. It never worked. Never.

    If you want to bring the change, just make sure you are strong enough to bring the change. Otherwise not only you but many others looking at you will get disappointed. Recommend


    @ naeem n shumaila Agreed with You…!
    Thnx Raza for being a source of brain storming n arguing for a gud cause…!
    Let’s change ourselves first then do a bit for r homeland…!
    Evry country has many flaws but v the youth can rectify or try to rectify a bit…!
    Let’s hope pray n do somthing for the betterment…!Recommend

  • jingoist

    Sorry Naeem, But I would agree with the author and the few readers here!

    We start blaiming this country, rulers, politicians, religious scholars, system and what not…. YET we do not want to contribute any efforts for resolving such issues.

    Let me just highlight one of the few things that we come across every other day….

    If any traffic personnel ask us to give bribery instead of getting chalan submission hassel… we are ready to do that! (aren’t we equally contributing to this curruption???)

    We get our tasks done by giving bribery in every other government offices?

    we break the traffic rules(yet claim this system to be problematic)?

    we throw trash on the roads (yet claim it to be an unhygenic/uncleaned place)

    we (as voters) are totally responsible for the elected MNAs/MPAs… those who think they didn’t vote for any one (as no one is capable enough) are equally responsible as you contributed the lazy slackers for not giving vote against them!

    No one of us is willing to apply for government jobs, cuz we have more interest in getting incentives rather than being a catalyst to rectify this whole system.

    these were just a few points I guess!! We aren’t ready to accept our mistakes nor we want to contribute to the land for which our ancestors sacrificed their lives!

    Wake up! Please stop blaiming others…Recommend

  • Bemisal Iqbal

    @Ghausia: If you had such dreams, why did you give them up so soon? Everytime we get bout of our rich bubbles, we WILL see hurdles. We will see misery, poverty, corruption, lies, hypocrisy etc but we need to have the strength to carry on. Pakistan needs strong willed people right now. So what if you can’t fight all the wars that you intend to fight or bring difference in all the spheres that you mentioned. Changing one life is more than enough for you to give a boost to your motivation. Change never occurs suddenly or encompasses all, it happens over time. Start with taboo issues, I know for one, I will be standing right next to you if your intention is right. Don’t worry about the critique and propaganda, its part of the game. It should just be motivating you even more to work for what you believe in.
    Pakistan needs each one of us right now, ladies and gentlemen. Doing what we do as ambassadors of the country is not enough anymore, we need to make that extra effort, come out of our bubbles and make substantial efforts if we really love this country as much as we claim to. Recommend

  • Naeem Akhtar

    @jingoist… I think you took me wrongly. I am not blaming others, infact I am also saying we should stop blaming others and correct ourselves first. BUT I think we can not change ourselves in one day rather we should flow with the system, and get powers and then change system. Don;t Corrupt Yourself and Don’t Waste yourself.

    (by flowing with the system means Do CSS , start Business or do whatever you like, in the path even if you have to bear some bad things i.e. giving money to some clerk or things like that you have to do it but once you achieve your destination once you are powerful enough stop doing these things and stop others whom you can easily stop) I know this is kind of wrong approach but this is nice and workable as far as I have tried.Recommend

  • Muhammad Usman Ghani

    Though my boss thinks that he will soon will be leaving Pakistan, as his “patriotism” even dont sees any chance here, I will quote one of my friends,
    “Let the fear face the tiger”

    Fleeing is not the option. Maybe Raza’s fight within, if he won, will be called madness,, but its madness we need!

    Now, Pakistan needs us more than ever.Recommend

  • Aun

    Reading your post reminded me of something. Last year my dad had some money he wanted to invest and he bought some shares Karachi knowing the instability of the country. I asked him why would he risk a loss and not invest money abroad. This was his reply

    ‘beta ager har koi aise sochne lag pare ga to hamare mulk ka kia bane ga?’

    i had no response.

    This is a time when our country needs us the most. We can’t abandon it like you said. We have to come back and help our country. Recommend