Tuesday, February 02, 2010, Safar 17, 1431 A.H   ISSN 1563-9479
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Opinion Archive
The News International Pakistan

 Expats vs locals
Part II

By Ayesha Ijaz Khan
Workers? remittances have been crucial to Pakistan?s economy. So has the commercial activity that is spurred by overseas money, not just from the working classes but also the more educated and affluent expatriates, not to mention the large amounts of charity that wealthy non-residents pour into Pakistan. So if some local Pakistani makes the expatriate a scapegoat, he/she needs to think again. Just as the sweeping indictments of corruption from the expatriates are wrong, so are the locals who claim that Pakistanis who live abroad ?no longer qualify as Pakistani? as was said to me on one trip back home.

On the other hand, just because someone is living in Pakistan does not mean that he/she is contributing to Pakistan more than an expatriate is. I have heard such odd arguments from some local Pakistanis, who claim that just because they live there, work there and spend there, they are helping Pakistan. Not true. The fact is that if one wasn?t working that job, somebody else would be and doing all these things, none of which constitute anything spectacular.

But there are, of course, those local Pakistanis who impress me greatly. Apart from the obvious philanthropists like Bilquis and Abdul Sattar Edhi and their armies of volunteers and donors, there are the activists. Participating in the lawyers? movement, I learned of junior lawyers who did not have enough savings but still took a principled stand and did not appear before the courts for two years. For some of them, this meant lifestyle changes like pulling their children out of good private schools. Talk about making a huge sacrifice!

There are those who have fought for provincial rights, women?s rights, minority rights and for environmental rights, often at some cost to themselves. And there are the silent heroes like the bureaucrats who are put on special duty (OSD) because they refuse to allow nepotism and corruption. We never hear of them, unless we know them personally. Their sacrifices for Pakistan were not celebrated, although this is changing with the advent of the media.

What can one say about the media, really? It is one of the best things that happened to Pakistan (warts and all). Nor did it happen overnight. It was a painstaking process with so many journalists sacrificing so much over the years. Not just silently, but openly. Bearing tear gas, lathi charge, and threats all and sundry. And sure, there are the ?bad apple? journalists as well. The media needs to do better research, be less sensational and attain overall maturity in terms of defining our national interests, but its contribution to society is without question.

It is an evolutionary process. There is a lot going on in Pakistan locally, but the expatriates are not going to see the results for a while. And when they judge, they must also bear in mind the fact that Pakistanis are the most honest when it comes to history. How many countries talk openly about the skeletons in their closet? Does the American media speak out openly about what happened to the native American population? Does it speak about the fact that Japan had nearly surrendered at the end of the Second World War but President Truman ordered two atomic bomb attacks on not just Hiroshima but also Nagasaki simply to run a test? Does the British media talk about how its colonial past has affected several generations of Asians? Does it acknowledge the problems it deliberately left behind, like Kashmir? Does the Saudi media ever highlight corruption scandals of high-level government functionaries? Does it so much as mention bribes or kickbacks taken even when such reports are repeatedly the subject of international press?

The Pakistani media, on the other hand, speaks openly about not just current domestic issues but also historical ones. It acknowledges freely that Pakistan was in the wrong and, thus, Bangladesh was created. It questions the faulty policy of ?strategic depth?. It condemns past military take-overs. It has yet to address substantively the issue of separation of religion and state. Yet, I have little doubt that this too will be done in due course, because it is not the Pakistani way to sweep issues under the carpet.

We are a nation that is willing to give (the expatriates) and sacrifice (the locals) but among us are also a handful of parasites. Their power is diminishing by the day, so let?s not allow a few bad apples to colour our vision of what the country is all about.


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

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