A LOT is said about non-resident Pakistanis to whom, we have been told by successive governments, we should all be grateful as they have been helping the country by remitting billions of dollars that are badly needed for our growth, prosperity and even survival.

The governments over the years have given various incentives to the overseas Pakistanis, including exemption from income tax and visa, non-resident Pakistani cards, special immigration desks at airports, higher import and duty allowances, etc., to keep them happy so that they may keep the dollars flowing.

During the early 1960s, a lot of people found jobs in the industrial world, mainly the United Kingdom. The decades of the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s saw a huge exodus to the Middle East. Then some went abroad to study or for tourism, but decided never to return. Since 2000, hundreds of thousands of businessmen have opted to move their wealth abroad, and have acquired additional nationality or residency status due to the worsening situation of our economy and society at large.

Almost everyone who goes to the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia opts to apply for nationalities under the respective laws as soon as it is allowed and in time become full-scale, loyal nationals; in effect they cease to be Pakistani nationals. Those going to the Middle East do not have this option. However, the privileges granted to both the above categories by Pakistan remain the same.

Pakistan receives approximately $29 billion per year in remittances sent by non-resident Pakistanis and much more through the parallel systems. These are sent for the upkeep of their families back home, and for some investments here and there.

This amount of $29bn is received by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) and the beneficiaries are given the money in rupees. The foreign exchange goes in the government coffers which spends it on whatever, while the rupees are circulated in the market as spending by these beneficiaries for their needs.

This means billions of tax-free rupees are being added to the economy yearly. While a major chunk is utilised to cover living expenses of the expatriate families, the rest goes into the savings and investments.

Since most of the beneficiaries of these foreign incomes are generally people who years ago were from the lower strata of society with limited investment acumen and generally not even having a bank account, the money is spent on improving the standard of living, like buying land, building houses, purchasing cars or all possible latest domestic and personal gadgets.

This has led to a huge demand for all these items, causing hyperinflation and spiralling higher prices, and there is no end to this in sight because these foreign remittances continue to fuel the economy.

While there is no denying that in the absence of opportunities by our government, these remittances have assisted millions of Pakistanis to have better lives, this has created huge problems for the rest of us who have to survive without a monthly pocket money from our well-wishers abroad.

Apart from hyperinflation, these remittances are causing socioeconomic issues, increasing the gap between the haves and the have-nots. The huge disposable income of these expats is resulting in a rat race in society.

Be it personal shopping, housing, cars, foreign travel, electronic gadgets or eating habits, these so-called non-resident Pakistanis have done more harm than good to the country. Every time something terrible happens abroad involving any of these persons, it gets flashed worldwide and the entire country is blamed. We need to define a ‘Pakistani’, and all persons holding a foreign passport, irrespective of their origin, should be termed ‘foreign nationals’ and treated the same as per law.

Any person living in Pakistan for more than 90 days a year, should be considered a resident. All remittances sent by expats to their families should be considered their income and taxed accordingly. All Pakistanis should be treated equally and no extra privileges should be given to a few.

The Pakistan Origin Card (POC) and its privileges should be withdrawn and those persons be allowed to enter Pakistan only with a valid visa. We should discourage these lords and baronesses to represent us abroad or become our spokespersons. They did not get these titles for nothing and their loyalty lies elsewhere.

Some may argue these actions will deprive Pakistan of remittances. There is no need to worry on this count. The money is being sent by the expatriates to their families and for personal investments, and not to the nation. They will continue anyway.

Zafar Aslam Karachi

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2022

Opinion

Editorial

Olympics contingent
21 Jul, 2024

Olympics contingent

FROM 10 in Tokyo the last time, it is now down to seven in Paris, and split across just three disciplines. When...
Grave concerns
21 Jul, 2024

Grave concerns

PUNJAB Chief Minister Maryam Nawaz’s open assault on the Supreme Court for ruling in favour of the PTI in the...
Civil unrest
Updated 21 Jul, 2024

Civil unrest

The government must start putting out fires instead of fanning more flames.
Royal tantrum
Updated 20 Jul, 2024

Royal tantrum

The PML-N's confrontational stance and overt refusal to respect courts orders on arguably flimsy pretexts is a dangerous sign.
Bangladesh chaos
Updated 20 Jul, 2024

Bangladesh chaos

The unfortunate events playing out in Bangladesh should serve as a warning sign for other South Asian states.
Fitch’s estimate
20 Jul, 2024

Fitch’s estimate

FITCH seems to be more optimistic about Pakistan accelerating its economic growth rate to 3.2pc during this fiscal...