POLITICS & POLICY

 

PROFILE AQIB ELAHI MEHBOOB
COLUMN FOR THE RECORD
POLITICS & POLICY REVERSE EXODUS OF PAKISTANIS
SOCIETY HOW POOR ARE THE POOR?

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REVERSE EXODUS OF PAKISTANIS

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It is feared to result in massive reverse migration to the country, involuntary in particular and voluntary in general.

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By SYED M. ASLAM
Feb 03 - 09, 2003
 
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The inclusion of Pakistan in the list of 20 countries and the drive launched by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) making it mandatory for all males of Pakistani origin over the age of 16 years to register is feared to have a grave human and economic consequences. It is feared to result in massive reverse migration to the country, involuntary in particular and voluntary in general.

Pick up any newspaper, or view one of the many private satellite channels, and the chances are you would come across horrific stories detailing the plights of Pakistanis living in the US. A recent story highlighted the plight of a Pakistani couple, a legal resident in New York, who went to Canada for a brief visit was not allowed to get back into the US by the immigration authorities. Despite their best efforts the couple was not allowed to get back into the US and ultimately flew back to Pakistan from where they asked the children to sell their belongings and join the parents here in Pakistan. Dreadful? Read another story.

Recently a Pakistani businessman, an exporter of leather garments, who appeared on a talk of private satellite news network told another ghastly tale. He was a member of a delegation which visited the US on a promotional trip which was attended by the commercial attache´ of the Pakistani embassy in Washington. He was questioned by the FBI for 4 long hours and was forced to change his flight plan. He was followed constantly by a couple of cars. "I was extremely scared and even after I reported to the police that I was being followed the chase continued unabetted." Many more are appearing in the national press almost on a routine basis.

There are many who like to downplay the situation by saying that the drive would only affect the Pakistanis who have been staying in the US illegally. The cases highlighted above, however, prove beyond doubt that the issue is far more complicated than it is made to appear by many. The Pakistani organizations in the US have themselves strongly criticized the registration and have announced to battle it legally. Many Human Rights organisations in the US are supporting these moves.

The drive is feared to result in reverse migration which would have immense economic impact in a country already reeling from high unemployment rate. The major human dimension of the problem would be the relocation of Pakistanis who would be deported for staying in the US illegally. The question is: How many illegal Pakistanis are there in the US?

No one seems to know about the exect number of Pakistanis living in the US illegally. There is wild fluctuations in number running anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 depending on what you are reading. However, one thing is certain, the number is huge enough to make elaborate plans to absorb the wave of reverse migration, the bulk of which will be involuntary but a portion of which will also be voluntary.

Pakistanis form the single biggest group affected by the INS registration drive. What has angered Pakistanis even more is the fact that the country played the role of frontline state in the US-led war against terrorism. The country put itself on line by aligning with the US and providing strategic support that could not had been provided by anyone else not matter how willing it had been. The country had to face immense external as well as internal threats for siding with the US and even the best attempts by Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri had failed to convince the US administration to exempt the country from registration.

 

 

The rehabilitation of the returning Pakistanis would be an economic and social dilemma requiring not only funds but also immense energies and time. In addition, it would also result in reduction in flow of foreign remittances from the US, which contribute a small share to the overall remittances. However, small as it is, the country would be deprived on foreign remittances from that part of the world and instead would have to absorb a sizeable number of returning expatriates. The human dimensions of the problem is even more complex.

Most of the Pakistanis living in the US illegally were working as low paid help. Most of them had been living under the constant threat of being caught and deported and had been able to save small sums of money. It would thus not be hard to assume that the majority of these returning Pakistanis would not be bringing much funds to the country to start even a half-decent business. It would also be fair to assume that most of them would have to find a gainful employment to help them financially re-adjust in a society they had left years ago. Absorbing such a large number of people is feared to worsen an already bad unemployment situation.

The registration drive is also feared to harm the textile exports to the US primarily due to concerns of Pakistani businessman to visit the US amidst rigorous, and at times humiliating, immigration checks. The absence of physical contact between the Pakistani exporters and their trade partners in the US, the top trading partner of the country, is feared to hit the exports.