Tuesday, February 02, 2010, Safar 17, 1431 A.H   ISSN 1563-9479
 Group Chairman: Mir Javed Rahman Founded by: Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman Editor-in-Chief: Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman 
    News on Sunday
    Health Body & Mind
    Investor's J.
    Viewers' Forum
    Today's Cartoon
    Business & Finance Review
    MAG Fashion
   Opinion Archive
   Fashion Archive
   Magazine Archive
   Style Archive

   Currency Rates
   KSE Index
   Bullion Rates
   Prize Bonds

Opinion Archive
The News International Pakistan

 The expats versus the locals
Part I

By Ayesha Ijaz Khan
Last week, one of my readers, a doctor who has lived in America for the last 45 years, wrote, among other things, that Pakistan is a ?river of sewage?. He said that he was using these words because there are few honest people in Pakistan. Years ago, another doctor from America, my mother?s friend, in fact, had said: ?Pakistan should be folded up and dropped into the Arabian Sea.? It had boiled my mother?s blood, just as my reader?s words boiled mine. Though I am not well-acquainted with my reader, I know that my mother?s friend is one of the most generous and charitable women I have met (with the bulk of her charity going to Pakistan), but such harsh words?

Such harsh words, we are told, are because Pakistan is a corrupt country. But I wonder if there is more to it than meets the eye. I wonder if such harsh words are a justification for decisions taken to live abroad. As a result of living in four different countries (namely Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the US and the UK), I have come to the conclusion that every country has its strengths and weaknesses. And if we are to be honest, we cannot let personal decisions, whether taken on the basis of economics or simply lack of choice, influence our assessment of which nation is ?good? and which is ?bad?.

I remember when I lived in Saudi Arabia as a child, many of my father?s friends talked about how corrupt the prospects for employment were in Pakistan. They were convinced that it was impossible to land a good job in Pakistan without the fabled sifarish (nepotism). My father always argued with them, even though he had left Pakistan disillusioned by the prospects available to him then, but he hated bad-mouthing Pakistan, perhaps because it was his intention to move back one day (as he did).

It may also be relevant to note that some stories of nepotism in Pakistan may be exaggerated. As soon as I had graduated from law school and passed the New York bar exam, I moved back to Pakistan and found employment at a law firm without currying any favours. What is even more interesting, however, is that when I began working, a sifarish was made for a law graduate who happened to be the son of a high-ranking government official. The governmental institution which this gentleman in question ran was a client of the law firm?s and, thus, the partners had little choice but to agree to offer his son employment. However, within three months, the sifarishi left because none of the partners trusted his work. So stories about how sifarish is endemic in Pakistan are not always true.

Just like the expatriates in Saudi Arabia, Pakistanis living in the US and UK cannot bash the country without taking into consideration the histories of the nations they are living in as well as their current shortcomings. It is true, that America gives its citizens the best shot at upward mobility and in spite of stories one hears about the ghettos, it has a good public school system. A large percentage of the student body at America?s best colleges and universities comes from its public school system, who then go on to important positions in both the private and public sectors. This is not the case in Europe, where old-school ideas about aristocracy and nobility still inculcate hidden biases and advantages for students who have had the privilege of attending elite schools. Barack Obama is a testament to America?s commitment to upward mobility, something that Europe will take a long time to deliver.

Nevertheless, America is not very good to those who are left behind, or those who are not clever enough to ?make it?. After more than 200 years of existence, several of those as a superpower, America has not been able to provide healthcare to its poorest. Europe is far better in this regard. The National Health Service in Britain has its share of long waits and arguably competence levels that do not match those who provide healthcare privately, yet where the NHS excels is access.

Consider the example of Khadim, who was an illegal immigrant. He used to work as a driver in Jhelum, but he decided that he could not bring up a family on Rs5,000 a month. so he somehow to get a six-month visit visa to the UK. Khadim never returned after his visa expired. He spoke no English, but managed to get a job at a central London laundry owned by a fellow Pakistani. He collected and delivered laundry, including mine. Khadim was a grandfather, but he worked six days a week, 10 hours a day and earned well below the minimum wage. I helped him out on several occasions, as I am sure other clients also did, but I still don?t know how he managed to live on that money in London. He shared accommodation with several other Pakistanis and sent the bulk of his money home to his family. Khadim had one bad habit though: he smoked. In spite of my lectures, he continued to smoke.

One day, the smoke finally got to him and Khadim needed a quadruple bypass. If he hadn?t died, he would have certainly been deported from Saudi Arabia, and suffice it to say that if in the United States, Khadim may have been a prime candidate for Guantanamo Bay. But in Britain, there are enough desi doctors in Walthamstow. Thus, Khadim not only got the operation for free, he also stayed in the hospital for three weeks without having to pay anything.

Khadim?s story is not entirely atypical. If anything, he is a bit of an anomaly because the vast majority of Pakistani workers like him would find it very difficult to get a visa of any sort for either the UK or US. Thus, workers like Khadim will end up in the Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia, that give them a shot at altering the future of their families ? something that the UK and US may not be willing to allow. And at great cost to themselves, including the distance as well as suffering maltreatment by employers, Khadim?s counterparts in Saudi Arabia contribute most integrally to Pakistan?s economy. They marry off sisters, build homes for their parents and purchase luxury items like air-conditioners for their siblings. Most of all, unlike many of the more affluent Pakistanis in the US and UK (not to mention the locals transferring money abroad), the Khadims of our world send all their money back home.

(To be concluded)

The writer is a London-based lawyer turned political analyst. ww.ayeshaijazkhan.com

Back     |    Send this story to Friend    |     Print Version
The News Home  |  Jang Group Online  |  Jang Multimedia  |  Jang Searchable  |  Ad Tariff / Enquiry |  Editor Internet  |  Webmaster