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Speaking at the first session of the newly formed Overseas Pakistanis Forum, Dr Farooq Sattar, Minister for Overseas Pakistanis, invited his countrymen, whom he called “the neglected asset” of their nation, to the “opportunities created by the government” in public-private partnerships for a secure investment by both partners.
“In our new and fresh look, the overseas Pakistanis, our asset, will not be equalled with the dollars and the dirhams they remit to Pakistan, but with their talent,” Dr Sattar said.
The Pakistanis have proved in the past that they can steer the country from the quicksand of their making. To do it, the nation has two models to follow, he said.
The first is the success story of a transformed Karachi, the port city of Pakistan. In terms of civic infrastructure, it is the 12th fastest growing city of the world, and it is one of the 60 global economic players in the world. This was possible through good governance, and a combination of vision and action.
“Change is possible not by selective democracy, but by involving people, and by bringing about a middle class revolution,” he said.
The second is the asset of overseas Pakistanis.
Dr Sattar said Pakistan faces an acute shortage of eight million houses, especially low-cost houses, and the government is ready to provide land to the investors in a public-private partnership. These projects would create jobs and benefit 70 industries related to house construction.
The other areas named by him included cooperative farming, micro-credit to empower women, value addition specially in cotton and precious stones industries, vocational training to capture the huge overseas human resources market, technology transfer (50 per cent of the 40 million mobile phones in Pakistan are of Nokia brand), exports-related projects, and establishment of centres of excellence in foreign countries like the UAE to train Pakistanis as well as other nationalities.
Addressing the problems faced by overseas Pakistanis, Dr Sattar said he has proposed to the Interior Ministry to set up a committee at the level of superintendents of police to deal with cases of frauds faced by overseas Pakistanis.
A bill has been drafted to give overseas Pakistanis the right to vote and to have direct representation in parliament with a minimum of four seats. The bill is in the process of being passed by the cabinet, the prime minister and the president, he said.
Community policing and neighbourhood vigilante committees have helped improve the security situation to a great extent.
“Situation back home is not very satisfactory. Uncertainty has occupied the centre-stage. This has not happened overnight. It is the result of ignorance and negligence of the past 62 years. The civilian and military governments have stumbled many a times. This is the outcome and a product of longstanding ad hocism,” Dr Sattar added.
Dubai-based Senator Abdul Nabi Bangash, who is the chairman of the housing and works committee and a member of the overseas Pakistanis committee of the Senate, assured that the problems of overseas Pakistanis will be dealt with.
He highlighted the housing problem in Pakistan and invited his countrymen to invest in the sector.
Ambassador-at-large Javed Malik, who initiated the forum under the Pakistan International Council, said the forum would help build a positive relationship between the community and the government.
He highlighted the issues concerning overseas Pakistanis in the UAE. They included establishment of quality schools, teachers’ training, healthcare facilities for low-income groups, workers’ training and familiarisation with the local culture, housing in Pakistan, expediting remittance transfer, facilities at airports, establishment of community centres for overseas Pakistanis, and encouraging women to play their role overseas.
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