Recent events have seen an emphasis on the importance of overseas Pakistanis, with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government having announced on Friday the conceptualization of a state-of-the art residential scheme for nine million of them.
Highlighting the $30 billion in remittances as evidence of overseas Pakistanis having faith in PM Khan, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib said that those abroad were a great asset to Pakistan. Overseas Pakistanis would be able to purchase apartments through their Roshan Digital Accounts, he said.
Listening to the government speaking laurels of those abroad is all well and good till prime-time television plays a gut-wrenching clip of the residents of Nasla Tower in Karachi, who were stripped off their lifelong earnings in the illegally constructed building that was demolished last year in November. In an on-site interview ahead of the demolition, journalist Meher Bokhari interviewed a devastated resident of the tower, who revealed that he worked abroad most of his life and had brought his savings to Pakistan to invest in the apartment and re-home himself in his country. While Nasla Tower’s fate rested in the court’s hands who ordered the demolition, the government apparatuses, no matter from which government, were responsible for the illegal construction to begin with. One can’t help but wonder what that man lived through, let alone begin to imagine the woes of the millions who suffer homelessness in the country. According to some researchers, Pakistan has close to 20 million unhoused people and by all accounts, PM Khan’s focus on overseas Pakistanis comes across as turning a blind eye to those within.
In another instance, PM Khan said that overseas Pakistanis should be treated as VIPS – a notion that was just the tipping point that prompted several thoughts on the matter. PM Khan’s fascination with overseas Pakistanis is like milking a cow that doesn’t even belong to the fields of Pakistan. It speaks of a hypocrisy inherent in both the premier and the people by extension.
As an overseas Pakistani for seven years myself, I have come to closely observe the diaspora politics as a hollow phenomenon that lacks substance and is vastly removed from ‘ground realities’ – a run of the mill term that holds more weight than we give it credit for. On one hand, the PM lambasts the West for all its ‘immoralities’ for he knows the west, the best. On the other, he deems those who leave for those foreign lands, VIPs.
The people who follow PM Khan’s line of thinking are an even more peculiar brand of human. A recent tweet by designer Khadijah Shah encapsulated the enigma that we overseas Pakistanis are perfectly. She detailed her encounter with one, saying they had full faith in PM Khan, but at the same time the country wasn’t for them. With the utterance of just a few words, the person seemingly distanced themselves from other Pakistanis scrambling to survive, deeming the country ravaged by inflation and poverty, fit for a select few with PM Khan at the helm to steer them out of it.
Then there was the viral video in which a die-hard PM Khan fan spoke laurels of Khan with unparalleled passion. She said that PM Khan was the only hope of the country and that they were living with such difficulty in the UK due to high prices etc. Without diving into the logic fail that was her argument, the woman, whose breadwinners probably earn in the most valued currency of the sterling pound, is symbolic of the cult like following that the premier has amassed abroad. A cult that is troubling to say the least.
It appears that overseas Pakistanis fail to see above and below their social class. Because if the woman saw what was below her social standing, she would see destitution brought about by an objectionable IMF policy that has spiralled people into devastation. If she saw what her was above, she would see an exorbitantly nauseating hoarding of wealth, which has virtually obliterated the country’s middle class.
Of course expressing sentiments is the right of anyone, but when sentiments cloud judgement and faulty judgements are codified in legislation like the allowance for overseas Pakistanis to vote, there is a grave problem. The diaspora by and large is disconnected with Pakistan, they are fascinated with the idea of the motherland they left behind for a better life. The concept of Pakistan isn’t just singing national songs while draped in Pakistan’s flag – it is a larger, messier reality that crushes millions in Pakistan daily. And PM Khan, in his enticing words and actions, is successfully building an army to cloud that very reality.