IT’S wedding season in Mirpur and love has only a little to do with it. The town in Pakistan-administered Kashmir best known for its migrant population in the UK is racing against the clock to beat a deadline for changes in British immigration laws. As reported in this paper, people rushed to book places in crash courses in English while immigration consultants in the town also saw brisk business in the run-up to the July 6 deadline, after which the new laws were to take effect. Needless to say, those in the wedding industry were also quite busy, as couples tied the knot in droves. The reason for these speedy weddings and associated frenzied activity is that as per the new rules, the minimum income ceiling has been raised for Britons wishing to bring foreign spouses to the UK, while foreign nationals wishing to marry British partners will also be required to pass an English proficiency test. The rush to secure a coveted British visa has also reportedly caused delays at the British High Commission in Islamabad.
The hasty weddings show how globalised the world has become, when changes in British laws can have such an impact thousands of miles away in Mirpur, which has seen many locals settled in Britain return to invest and marry in their ancestral hometown. This particular development also illustrates the strength of global networks and how people use these for upward mobility. While people in developing countries such as Pakistan have always sought greener pastures in the First World, the current dismal economic and law and order situation in this country has only strengthened people’s urge to flee. Unfortunately, the sad fact is that many Pakistanis will grab the first opportunity to settle abroad should it become available, both through legal means and otherwise. That is a sobering thought.