A week with expatriates

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Muhammad Saad Khattak

FOR a long time I had been planning to visit our expatriate community in UK and Dubai to see for myself their feelings for the country and about the recent change of guards in Islamabad. The visit had been exceptionally tough for me as I was running from pillar to post to interact with maximum community members from diverse backgrounds i.e political, business, social and ordinary people. Each category had its own story to tell but they had it in abundance and all optimistic for a rising Pakistan. I began my interaction from our Khattak Community based in Birmingham, Aylesbury and Slough. To sensitise and mobilize them about the plight of our community back home, I tried to seek their support for Khushal Khattak Trust registered for the social uplift of our people to begin with and then gradually expanding to rest of the country. It is undoubtedly true that our expatriate community have always been forthcoming to support our governments and our communities both in collective and individual capacities at critical times of our history. Their recent response to the Prime Minister‘s call for raising funds for dams bears testimony to this fact. As the saying goes that ‘time is money‘ and when I asked my people to listen to the factual position of our people back in our roots, they froze their personal and business commitments and attended to my message, heart and soul.
Raj Wali Khan, Mr Razaaq, Abid Zaman, Zahid Khattak, Yousaf Khattak, Mushtaq Khattak, Mr. Nurzad Gul and Mr. Neknam Khattak are only few names to mention. These and many more active members of the community fully appreciated the spirit behind instituting the Trust and pledged their wholehearted support. Taking a lead, the community also initiated a process for registering a trust by the name “Hearts for Humanity” in UK and subsequently affiliate the same with Khushal Khattak Trust for creating greater impact across Pakistan. In Dubai and Abu Dhabi Mr. Imran Khattak and Mr. Haider Zaman proved to be a great source of strength and support for organizing the community in support of our trust.
In the next phase I chose to interact with Pakistani and Kashmiri business community over dinner. The dinner was hosted by Mr. Abid Zaman Khattak and attended by Mr. Chaudhry Shah Nawaz, Mr. Chaudhry Khadim Hussain, Mr. Qazi Moeen, Mr. Asif Khan, Mr. Nazeer Awan, Mr. Raja Muhammad Ishtiaq, Mr. Faheem Kayani.Mr. Ikram Gul, Mr. Haji Muhammad Rasheed and Mr. Ayub Khan. With the new government taking charge in Islamabad I could visibly see great exuberance, spirit and motivation among most community members to take part in business activities back home and contribute towards our national economy and well-being of our people. During the visit I also interacted with few British Pakistani political figures who are contributing to Pakistan‘s image in their own ways. Mr. Shafiq Shah, a young politician who had been Lord Mayor of Birmingham conducted us through a very educative visit of Birmingham City office where the Lord Mayor and his entire local council members work for the uplift of city and community. We also came across Mr. Waheed Rasib, a Kashmiri origin British Pakistani who is a sitting elected member of Wallsal town. Mr. Waheed Rasib very candidly shared his views on how best we can unite and energize our communities for greater impact and how can the government of Pakistan help in that cause. In Aylesbury I had detailed interaction with four time Lord Mayor Mr. Raj wali Khattak who contributed in a meaningful way towards community awareness, gender equality and social uplift of the community both in UK and back home.
Finally to capitalize on the optimistic environment and positive signals that I witnessed, I suggest following to the government; One, without wasting time, meaningful changes need to become visible within our embassies and consulates through posting most professional and responsive officials. This will be the most luring message to obtain the confidence of our expatriate community. Second, FBR, FIA, NAB and all other related institutions need to align its policies relating to expatriates in a positive stride so that most are encouraged to return and invest in our country rather than projecting themselves as witch hunters out on a spree to lure and trap. The Prime Minister has to personally overlook this as it will have major impact on the decision making of our expatriates returning or otherwise and doing business with in our country. Three, our expatriate community need to learn a lot from the expatriate Hindu and Sikh communities in order to unite, mobilize and educate our youth for higher responsibilities in host countries. In this regard our embassies and consulates can play a very critical role for which they need to get explicit directions from Islamabad. Four, due to war on terror most of the countries have very stringent regulations on money transfers by expatriates to countries of their origin negatively impacting their full participation in the social uplift of their people back home both in individual and collective capacities. There is a dire need for the new government to review these processes and take up the issues with host countries to facilities entities interested in supplementing government’s efforts for social uplift. The expatriate Pakistanis have always been an asset. Never before in our history were they so charged to participate in our overall economic uplift. They have the money and they look for a conducive, and secure environment. The ball is squarely in your court, Mr Prime Minister!!
— The writer, a retired Maj Gen, is DG Pakistan Institute for Conflict & Security Studies, an independent think-tank based in Islamabad.

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