One evening at dinner, an executive of Pakistani origin, part of a supranational organisation (one of the IMF, World Bank, UN trio), observed that barely a single countryman was in sight when it came to C-suite boardrooms in comparison to scores of certain immigrants.

His comments seem to be in line with the National Bureau of Economic Research’s projection that India and China are to become the world’s top economies. This is also reflected in the economic success of their immigrants.

The good

Yes, there have been success stories resulting from the Pakistani diaspora — representation in UK politics, successful businessmen or simply our immigrants earning more than the average American. Pakistani skilled professionals have made their mark in their own right.

There is also a substantial network for Pakistani professionals abroad. For example, the US houses at least 11 solid networking organizations like TCF, APPNA and ISNA. Pakistani immigrants have also forged extensive social networks, and educational circles have also paved the way for many. Some influential educational networks have been the Aga Khan University and Lahore University of Management Sciences.

But there is a lot of potential for growth and positive impact that come with the development of Pakistani skilled professional networks abroad.

Foreign remittances are a vital lifeline for Pakistan’s dwindling economy - a good 8.5 per cent of the overall GDP in 2022 according to the World Bank.

A further decline in remittances

Unfortunately, remittances from Europe, UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have experienced a decline during the first six months of the current financial year which we simply cannot afford with the current state of economic havoc in the country.

The bad and the ugly truth

The cracks in the skilled Pakistani diaspora network emerge as you explore the issue further. It starts with commonplace scenarios:

If there is a brown woman with a child who looks stranded on the road, a Pakistani will be one of the few ethnicities to stop and inquire if assistance is required. On the other hand, a Pakistani will be the last to acknowledge another at a high-end store like Harrods.

These eccentricities also play out professionally, “We are very behind other communities like the Indians or Chinese in terms of networking and hence we are not resourceful,” says Pakistani Immigrant Laila Zaheer* (name changed upon request) who currently works as a general physician in the UK.

"I have barely seen Pakistanis assisting each other in their career or any kind of professional development, especially compared to the Indian community. They do not even need to be from the same profession but they still help and support each other.”

In fact recently amidst the numerous tech layoffs in the USA, Indians have been banding together to help their peers with temporary visas to find jobs so that they can stay in the country. “They are sending encouraging messages, flagging job openings and tapping into personal networks to bring immigration lawyers, recruiters and jobseekers onto common platforms to offer solutions,” cites a recent article by the BBC.

The Pakistani professional networks do not even come close to organising this quickly or to this extent for a similar cause. “As Pakistanis we tend to be very standoffish and even if we do try to help we do not get the same help back,” claims Zaheer.

It is not because of lack of ability.

It is a combination of lack of motivation and activism that can sometimes effect how the host country can view us. A 2018 YouGov survey in the UK gave Pakistanis a net rating of -4 or in other word’s an unfavorable opinion of our contribution to the British society. Lack of volunteering and interest in the host country’s government policies also tend to exacerbate the issue.

January foreign remittances at 31-month low, clock in at $1.9bn

Finally, a dose of humility can also prove to be beneficial. You will barely see financially well off Pakistanis acknowledging low-income countrymen especially in the Middle East. This lack of social mobility is also apparent on social media where the most prominent Pakistani origin content creators only seem to mix with others from the same socioeconomic groups.

Lessons from the neighbors

The power of our neighbors’ immigrant networking has been studied extensively.

For instance, Berkeley professor AnnaLee Saxenian whose research claims that Chinese and Indian immigrant networks aided the vast clustering of high-tech entrepreneurs in the Silicon Valley. In fact, networks have been used to help immigrants psychologically. Most recently, Chinese immigrants have been advised in news outlets to turn to other members of their diaspora after a recent suicide earlier this year.

According to a Chinese National in the USA, their citizens make connections via social media like Weibo, Douyin and especially their links to WeChat. WeChat is known as the “everything” app for China and its groups facilitate information exchange about jobs and education. In 2021, Joe Biden lifted the ban on WeChat which created quite the disruption for the Chinese diaspora.

Putting politics and our antagonistic relationship with our other neighbour aside - there is a lot to learn.

Faisal Ali (name changed on request), an Indian CEO who has worked in the Middle East and Asia regions, attributes the economic success of his countrymen to strong alumni and career specialized networks as some of the factors that have been a boost. For instance, a chartered accountant will be able to obtain extensive professional and personal development through the organization’s regular meetings.

Strong role models across sectors whose stories are widely published serve as big inspiration. In addition, the risk appetite to take on roles in earlier difficult geographies like Vietnam, Nigeria etc, has often been a springboard to more senior executive roles. He recommends a shared sense of destiny rather than chasing individual goals and equipping local Pakistani institutions to groom talent for overseas.

Inflation: worst in history?

There are some similarities between us and India - family-oriented and a focus on education. But again, whereas Pakistanis may spend more on rent, Indian spend more on education.

There are numerous factors that have contributed to the economic success of skilled immigrants in India and China, notably, politics, education, maybe even the scourge of terrorism on muslim countries after 9/11. But it is also essential to tap into power of networks - especially in today's world.

Pakistan is a beautiful country and it is about time we showed the world the greatness of our people.

The article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Business Recorder or its owners

Khadija Husain

The writer is a HR professional based in the US


Comments are closed.

Hisham Feb 17, 2023 05:07pm
I think what keeps high-income Pakistanis from socializing with the lower-income folks is the dependency issue. If you try to lift someone up or give some advice, they will place all the burden of action on their well-off peer, which makes one avoid them. A successful brother, cousin etc. will avoid his/her family peer as they can see that this will become his/her obligation and they will keep looking up to him/her instead of taking the initiative from the advice. I talk about this from first hand experience. I am an IT freelancer and have answered all type of queries, call etc. from friends and families seeking to enter the business. They seek out the success, but don't want to tread the path that leads to it.
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docig Feb 17, 2023 06:52pm
Author has penned this article that emphasizes the potential for positive impact through the development of Pakistani skilled professional networks overseas. The author acknowledges the success stories of Pakistani immigrants but also highlights the need to address cracks in the network, including a lack of motivation and activism among Pakistani professionals. The author draws attention to the economic success of skilled immigrants in India and China. It suggests that local Pakistani institutions should groom talent for overseas and promote a shared sense of destiny. By tapping into the power of networks, Pakistani skilled professionals have the ability to make a positive impact both at home and abroad.
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TimeToMovveOn Feb 17, 2023 08:04pm
The point about Indian network is indeed true. We band together. Throughtout my career, I have helped many many desi friends get off the ground. I have gone away above and beyond. In return they also have gone way above and beyond to help me. Today I credit my sucess in business to my network of Indian friends who lifted me up here. I have great pakistani friends too. One thing is commmon between Pakistani muslims. Most of them are insular. They will allow their children only to hang out with strictly other muslims children. And NO, they dont integrate with America. They love to be here, but they dont want to be part of the social fabric. They stand out.
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Usman Feb 18, 2023 01:12am
Agreed. I think Pakistani professionals need to network amongst each other more than ever. It is always good to be open minded and help others regardless of nationality. From my experience in the United States, people from other origin countries make special efforts for their fellow countrymen. South Koreans and Indians help their own secure jobs and thrive. As this article states, Pakistanis are way more stand offish with each other.
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Usman Feb 18, 2023 01:13am
@TimeToMovveOn, I think the article is talking about networking within Pakistani or Indian community. Not integration.
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M.H.Naqvi Feb 18, 2023 04:17am
Pakistani's are unique.
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Az_Iz Feb 18, 2023 05:50am
Networking definitely has a place. But one other important attribute for success is saving more and spending less. No matter how much you earn, if you don’t save enough, you won’t progress.
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Az_Iz Feb 18, 2023 05:59am
Just like other Asian Americans, Pakistani Americans outperform others in education and per capita income. But they are a little behind when it comes to savings. That also makes a difference.
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HashBrown® Feb 18, 2023 08:03am
@TimeToMovveOn, "And NO, they dont integrate with America. They love to be here, but they dont want to be part of the social fabric. They stand out." This comment represents the new generation threat that Pakistani Muslims face. This comment has clearly come from a Hindustani immigrant living in the US, possibly another asylum seeker, spreading the RSS poison into a new country. Already Hindustani asylum seekers in the US are holding "bulldozer rallies" in which they show support for Hindutva terror organisations by displaying the machines used to knock down houses belonging to the people on IOK, and there are growing numbers of lawsuits filed by tech employees in the US complaining about caste discrimination by elitist Brahmins who have brought their culture with them. In fact the primary reason behind the "success" of Hindustani immigrants is that they share all their wealth, influence and privilege only among the tiny minority of themselves who hail from powerful castes.
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Bitto Feb 18, 2023 01:09pm
"Unfortunately, remittances from Europe, UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have experienced a decline during the first six months of the current financial year which we simply cannot afford with the current state of economic havoc in the country." Overseas Pakistani will remit money to help the crooks and the corrupt in power!
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Shani Feb 18, 2023 01:51pm
@Hisham, Just giving respect is simple form to return the favour. People dont know this simple formula. Mostly take favor liability and don't know how to handle it and start a cold behavior or de value the favour.
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Fazeel Siddiqui (Overseas Pakistani) Feb 18, 2023 03:00pm
Resident Pakistanis lack ability and ethics both, actually they hate Overseas Pakistanis which can be seen easily from social media platforms to business or property deals. Try putting OPs along with your name and enjoy. This type of nation can't produce leaders but just haters and beggars or Peter Pan Syndrome laborers at max.
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Fazeel Siddiqui (Overseas Pakistani) Feb 18, 2023 03:15pm
Thanks to the real rulers of Pakistan, the establishment, due to decades long policy of dispersiveness, terrorism, frauds & being procrastinate in nature no Pakistani trusts another Pakistani inside or outside Pakistan so they'll never help each other except giving some donation or kherat. Exceptions do exist.
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Dr.Salaria, Aamir Ahmed Feb 18, 2023 04:39pm
Joke of the century. Pakistanis have fantastic bands and alumni in USA.
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TimeToMovveOn Feb 18, 2023 05:49pm
@HashBrown®, Relex HashBraown. "new generation threat that Pakistani Muslims face" Wow. Too much. We dont have time here to keep threatening Pakistan muslims. We are busy with our lives, climing the ladder, to reach top posts of fortune 100. Pakistan muslims do not say that Indians are a threat to them. Ask their children of Pakistan families whom I know several. They will tell you how insular and isolated lives they are. The second generation Pakistan children are not like their families. But since their families do not go much out of their own muslim network, they extend to which they network is limited. Stop you hinduphobia first.
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TimeToMovveOn Feb 18, 2023 05:50pm
@HashBrown®, You act and seem to be a know it all. Your Hinduphobia is very visible.
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Az_Iz Feb 18, 2023 09:53pm
@TimeToMovveOn, hating Muslims in general including those from your own country, and Pakistanis in particular is ingrained among most of the hindus, if not all of them.
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Az_Iz Feb 18, 2023 09:55pm
Pakistanis are one of the most generous people. They contribute significantly to charity to help others, even though it is not a wealthy country.
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HashBrown® Feb 19, 2023 12:50am
@TimeToMovveOn, You're actually quite a funny guy. When you run out of nonsense, as a last resort you accuse me of being a Hinduphobe - reminds me a bit of how your government is currently accusing the whole world of a 'colonial agenda' just because your shocking suppression of minority freedoms is beginning to show in your press censorship. By the way, Pakistan has a vibrant and flourishing Hindu community, which is statistically growing year on year. The Holi and Diwali celebrations in Karachi are some of the most beautiful in the world, and there are Hindus among our armed forces, judiciary and civil society at large. I'm surprised your Pakistani 'friends' didn't explain that to you...but maybe you were too busy proving my point, smiling at them in public while privately trawling through Pakistani news sites like this one and posting toxic comments.
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Kashif ALI Feb 19, 2023 11:47pm
I am a born Pakistani and have lived in Gulf for 4 years working in GE and travelling extensively in MENA region (2008-11). Prior to that, I lived and Studied in France for 18 months (2000-01). The core message of Khadija's article is very explicit. Most of the Pakistani diaspora have all the negative traits attributable to this sorry state of indifferent attitude. Sense of superiority-following-life-achievements abroad (Pride), trust deficit, arrogant attitude. And with the passage of time, over many decades, it has come to a state of disconnection even between Resident Pakistanis and Non-Resident ones. Pakistanis are individualists and even if, little at all, they mingle with each other, it will be a Class-based approach. Their minds and conscience are imprisoned in the materialistic approach of getting-it-all-the-best-for-me whilst caring a damn about other compatriots.
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Dr. Kay Feb 20, 2023 11:53am
China and India have taken education sector very seriously for the past five decades, hence producing required brain power --- the intellectual capital --- the prerequisite for progress & development in the knowledge-based economy of 21st century; in contrast, Pakistani elite (Generals, Politicians, Businessmen, Waderas etc.) have kept masses illiterate & backward by destroying education at all levels --- primary, secondary and University --- they send their children for higher education in the West, but their “elite-ness” keeps them away from people belonging to middle class who network and help each other. In the USA, Pakistani physicians’ association APPNA has more than 10,000 members but they also suffer from the “elite-ness” syndrome, they do not mix with the majority of other professionals belonging to non-medical areas and people earning less than them! The root cause of Pakistan’s current economic meltdown is embedded in the “elite-ness” and “arrogance” of the corrupt ruling elite! Overseas Pakistanis can also be more effective if they can tame their “elite-ness” and learn how to work together to help each other and their homeland!
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Tamizhan Tulukkar Feb 20, 2023 10:16pm
Pakistanis have good jehadi networking in every country they run away to.
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HashBrown® Feb 21, 2023 10:58am
@Tamizhan Tulukkar, "Pakistanis have good jehadi networking in every country they run away to." You should do a search on "bulldozer rallies" to see which community is really exporting hatred. The majority of overseas Hindustanis are asylum seekers, and if that weren't bad enough you guys are bringing your backward prejudices along with you wherever you go. What a gift to the civilised world.
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