Pakistan has the seventh-largest diaspora community, scattered across 140 countries. Studies claim that when diaspora populations have close bonds with their country of origin, they contribute to the economic, cultural and social development of their home countries. In the context of Pakistan, diaspora studies and diaspora philanthropy have limited research. To address this gap the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy (PCP) has published two reports relative to the diaspora population in UK and USA.

The report ‘Pakistani diaspora philanthropy in the UK: Trends and variations’ (2019) revealed that approximately 1.3 million British Pakistanis live in the UK, and the total yearly volume of philanthropic giving is around £1.25 billion.

However, the demographics of America and Britain showcase a shift from first-generation immigrants to the youth born outside Pakistan. In the context of the US, 64 per cent of Pakistani Americans have lived in the United States for over 10 years and, the American-born second-generation is approximately 200,000. These individuals have had experiences of identity, nationality, culture and technology unique from their parents. Thus, the second-generation Pakistanis perceive their identity as bicultural and have adopted hybrid identities such as ‘British-Pakistani’ and ‘American-Pakistani’.

At present, interviews conducted by PCP in 2019 showcase that the newer generations are becoming more distant from Pakistan. Explanations for this can be the difficulties in exploring their Pakistani identity, inability to understand the local language and the negative portrayal of Pakistan in the international media particularly after 9/11. Consequently, the third generation’s personal or psychological association with their home country has significantly lessened and their identity is more ‘pan-ethnic’ and ‘pan-Islamic’.

Only 59pc of 18–25-year-old Pakistani Americans give to Pakistani charities compared to 85pc of those above 51 years of age

This demographic shift may drastically alter the philanthropic donations of the diaspora community. Earlier, older Pakistanis settled abroad would send money to a family member who would spend it on the welfare of the local community or a cause the sender cared about. However, the newer generations do not have these associations and links with their ancestral community.

In the American Pakistan Foundation (APF) 2021 report, former Vice-chancellor of Lahore University of Management Sciences, Adil Najam stated: “Most people give to the poorest people in Pakistan where they can make the largest impact. The (older) diaspora has direct connections to these people so they can give directly to them rather than through organisations or institutions. However, the second generation doesn’t have these same networks. They rely more heavily on institutions.”

Statistics from the APF report showcase that only 59pc of 18–25-year-old Pakistani Americans give to Pakistani charities compared to 85pc of those above 51. Similarly, young people in the UK donate more to Muslim countries such as Syria, Rohingya, and Yemen along with Pakistan.

In 2019, only 51pc of Pakistanis in the UK claimed that the Pakistani charities were trustworthy, and they claimed that they often practice in-kind giving to mitigate the risk of funds being misused. In consequence, the youth diaspora attitudes towards Pakistan could evolve and shape giving.

Even though the newer generations of the Pakistani diaspora have established that they want to give back to the community, consolidating this connection to promote philanthropy for social causes in Pakistan is required. Therefore, it is important to recognise their source of generational disconnect, create avenues they can explore to give and learn and integrate young people into philanthropic initiatives for Pakistan.

Indeed, charity is one’s personal matter and should be directed wherever and to whomever one wishes, however, the current situation is concerning. Except for a notable few such as The Citizen Foundation and Shaukat Khanum, most non-governmental organisations in Pakistan, lack national or international reach, marketing strategies, and direct transaction options on websites.

Analysing the changing demography of overseas Pakistanis showcases that very soon, organisations will mostly be used to make philanthropic donations. Therefore, while indeed NGOs conduct credible work in their own spheres, the development sector needs to revaluate their objectives and critically analyse ways to increase their visibility and credibility. In this context, improved regulatory mechanisms to facilitate transactions, access to online giving, and an increased presence online and on social media are suggested.

Moreover, around 40pc British Pakistanis claimed if NGOs would assure them that their contributions are being put to good use, they would be more charitable. This can be achieved by improving the monitoring and evaluation of NGOs as well as showcasing success stories. In nutshell, as the Pakistani diaspora is a significant contributor to the development sector of Pakistan, addressing existing issues and building organisation capacities is crucial, particularly in lieu of the change in giving practices of the younger generation.

The writer is a programme officer — research, at the Pakistan Centre for Philanthropy

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, April 18th, 2022

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