The decision of empowering the overseas Pakistanis to be part of the electoral process is widely hailed not only by the Pakistanis spread all over the globe but also by the people back home who wanted to see the country progress and prosper.
Though belated the decision has established the broken link or strengthened the weakening link of all those who are living in Europe, America or any other country for decades and have little or no interest what is going on back home.
The move has given them an ownership to the expatriates who would now say with honour at least to their off springs, who were born and bread in foreign land, about the concern shown by their motherland toward them and in a way the step would help knit the next generation of overseas Pakistanis in the national fabric which otherwise is drifting away like a loose kite in the air with little or no emotional attachment with the country their forefathers hailed from.
Though the matter would still be on papers and modalities for this intricate issue need to be worked out for which the Government of Pakistan have to put in serious efforts, so that the jubilation of the overseas Pakistanis must not turn into frustration which would have disastrous fallout as the Pakistanis living abroad, especially in Europe have a long list of complaints against the successive governments.
Political observers are of the view that the decision would not only help woo back the Pakistanis into the national mainstream but would also help give boost to the national economy which was in tatters right now due to the poor law and order situation, which had blocked the ways of the foreign investment here.
But at the same time the government must deal with the issue with extra care as any lapse or delay in implementing the plan of engaging the expatriate Pakistanis in electoral process would disappoint and disenchant them from the Pakistani leadership, which had a long history of ignoring these expatriate Pakistanis.
According to the statistics given by the Secretary Election Commissionof Pakistan Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan the total number of Overseas Pakistanis is 6.7 million, but only 3.7 million of them holding national identity cards for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) would be eligible to vote.
He said there were 1.7 million Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia and 1.2 million each in the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates. The other countries with large concentration of Pakistanis include United States (0.9 million), Canada (0.3 million), Oman (0.2 million), Kuwait (150,000), Greece (90,000), Germany (78,000), France and Scotland (60,000 each), Denmark (30,000) and Australia (27,000), he further informed.
The role in the national politics is the longstanding demand of the overseas Pakistanis and they had always pressed for this demand since past several decades’ at all available forums.
Unfortunately the mainstream political parties in Pakistan had fully exploited this weakness of the Overseas Pakistan and almost all these parties had established their foreign chapters and announced the party representatives from among the expatriate Pakistanis, but non of these parties over the past couple of decades, when the demand of electoral role by these overseas Pakistanis grew intense, had done anything concrete in this regard despite it was conspicuously made part of their parties manifestos to carve out role in the electoral exercise in Pakistan.
The mainstream political parties just used these expatriates for fundraising and kept them on promises, which were never materialized adding to the frustration of the expatriates and eventually pushing them away.
Disappointed by the mainstream political parties the overseas Pakistanis had established a number of their own bodies and forums to further their demands but until recently all their efforts had failed to move the successive political as well as dictatorial regimes in the country over the past several decades.
Despite the general apathy and indifference of the rulers toward overseas Pakistani had come to the rescue of their countrymen be it the 2005 massive earthquake or the 2010 devastating floods which had displaced millions of people across the country. I had the opportunity to work with honest and tireless overseas friends during the time of earthquake and floods in Pakistan. All of them looking forward to their motherland become sovereign and prosperous. But also wondering why a land possessing everything imaginable on earth is lagging so far behind.
Similarly the remittances coming from these overseas Pakistanis in shape of foreign currency is the major sources of beefing up the country’s foreign currency exchange.
A few years back I had met Aga Akram (late) who came from Denmark and was heading an All World Overseas Pakistanis Forum. He claimed that the forum is the representative body of overseas Pakistanis settled in UK, European and Scandinavian countries. He came up with a series of demands as well as plans to bring about economic revolution in Pakistan but despite his serious and relentless efforts he had failed to meet the people at helms of affairs. But till his last breath he had never given up and continued his efforts to get some concessions and facilities for overseas Pakistanis to attract them to invest in their native country, which ultimately bring economic revolution.
There are many like Aga Akram, who though settled abroad since early decades, but their hearts used to throb for the country and they wanted to progress, peace and prosperity back home. But unfortunately the inept policy makers and the lack of will at top level came in their way and their hopes and dreams used to shatter, weakening their bond with the motherland.
Now the fresh promise from government of Pakistan to engage the overseas Pakistanis in the electoral process and to even grant them representations in the National and provincial legislatures, a wave of jubilation has spread across the Pakistanis living abroad and hoped that their long struggle of getting the right to franchise would finally translate into reality.
Now it would up to the people at the helms of affairs to expedite the whole exercise of bringing the overseas Pakistanis in some sort of mechanism and also to evolve some criteria for those who intend to contest the elections on the seats to be allocated for the overseas Pakistanis in national and provincial legislatures, as delay in materialization of the plan would generate frustration among them, especially the next generation, which has no emotional or sentimental attachment with the motherland, as it would be easier for them to break away their weak bond with the motherland to our disadvantage.