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
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
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.