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DIASPORAS

DIASPORAS Large movements of people have defined Pakistan in several different ways The country’s economy, its society, and its political system were affected by these movements The first of these occurred when the country gained independence in August 1947 At that time some 14 million people moved across the newly defined border with India; 8 million Muslims came into Pakistan while 6 million Hindus and Sikhs left in the opposite direction The next movement occurred when Karachi, a small port on the Arabian Sea, was selected to be the capital of the new state of Pakistan The building activity that followed Karachi’s choice brought millions of people from the northern Punjab, the Northwestern Frontier Province, and Azad Kashmir into Karachi to work on the thousands of construction sites Most of these people stayed, often turning workers’ camps into katchi bastis, or squatter settlements These continue to dot the urban landscape of Karachi Another movement of people brought some 35 to 4 million refugees from Afghanistan to escape the war in their country following the invasion by the Soviet Union in December 1979



The war against the occupation by the Soviet Union lasted for more than a decade, and even when it ended in 1989 peace did not return to Afghanistan Hundreds of thousands of refugees slipped out of the camps and settled in the large cities of Pakistan Karachi, already with a large Pushtun (Afghan) population, was a favored destination These were not the only movements of people that played an important role in Pakistan’s development There were other important demographic events including the establishment of three diasporas by people of Pakistani origin The first of these was created by the semiskilled workers from northern Punjab and Azad Kashmir These people were invited to Great Britain to help revive the industrial heartland of the country that was devastated by World War II These migrants settled in several industrial towns in the Midlands and stayed on to found communities of Pakistanis that were to play an active role in Britain in the early years of the 21st century Numbering some 1 million people, the Pakistani diaspora in Britain has per capita income of about US$20,000, considerably less than the national average The combined income of the diaspora is about US$20 billion There is high incidence of poverty among these people, high levels of unemployment, poor literacy and education, and poor assimilation into the mainstream of the British economy, society, and the political system

Some members of the community prospered in the world of business and finance One of them, Sir Anwar Pervez, was not only knighted by the government but became a major businessman and invested heavily in Pakistan, his home country In 2001, he became one of the principal shareholders of the United Bank Limited, a commercial bank privatized by the administration of President Pervez MusharrafThe British approach of “multiculturalism”-letting different groups of migrants who had come and settled in the country continue to follow their cultural practices; use their own language; play their sports; create their own theater, music, and literature; and actively practice and propagate their own religion-eventually led to the creation of poorly integrated communities The Pakistani community was the poorest and the least integrated of these groups; its youth provided recruits for the pursuit of various jihadist causes across the globe, such as the confrontation between radical Islam and the West which heated up following the terrorist attack on the United States on 11 September 2001 Three youths of Pakistani origin were among the four suicide bombers who carried out bombing attacks that killed 58 people in London’s transport system on 7 July 2005 They had visited Pakistan a year before they carried out the attacks and may have received some training in the madrassas that now dot the Pakistani landscape The second Pakistani diaspora came to be formed in the Middle East beginning in the early 1970s Twice in that decade the oil exporting countries of the Middle East raised the price of oil several fold A significant amount of the windfall income was spent on the construction of houses, office buildings, schools, hospitals and clinics, roads, and highways Millions of Pakistani workers were brought in as construction workers

As the economies of the countries in the region developed, they needed other skills as well which were also supplied largely by people of Pakistani origin By the late 1990s, this diaspora, spread over several Middle Eastern countries, also had about a million people The third Pakistani diaspora was formed over a period of a quarter century in North America From about 1975 until the terrorist attacks on the United States of 11 September 2001, young professionals from Pakistan had relatively easy access to the labor markets in Canada and United States Physicians, engineers, accountants, economists, and bankers were prominent among these migrants Trained in Pakistani universities, they came to the United States in search of jobs that were not available in the domestic market Once they were established in North America, laws concerning immigration allowed them to bring in members of their families By the end of the 1990s some 250,000 people from Pakistan were in the United States The three diasporas together have about 275 million people with a combined income of US$53 billion, equivalent to about 60 percent of Pakistan’s GDP The members of these communities interact with their homeland in several different ways

They send about US$4 billion a year as remittances to their families and friends, have begun to make investments in Pakistan, and have also entered the country’s political system

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