OVERSEAS PAKISTANIS are a key plank of PTI platform and crucial to turning the country around. I believe the Prime Minister needs to rethink and reboot on this file. I have tried to give the scope of work in this area below.
I was talking to Mehmood Awan, my buddy from Punjab University days. He was very
close to late Ifitkhar Feroze, and we spoke fondly about our times together and
then our discussions drifted to PTI. Mehmood Awan is one of the 7 “originals”,
I avoid using the word “founder” because there are too many claimants to that
title. This includes early joiners but why I spoil their fun! We talked about
the founding meeting and Imran Khan’s first press conference as Party head. We
prayed for our departed friend Ahsan Rashid, another “original” who was in the
forefront of PTI struggle as he was battling cancer. Sacrifices were made to
get PTI where it stands today. We have many unsung heroes. Mr. Awan, who now
lives in Florida, is headed for Pakistan in March. He is a personal friend of
the Prime Minister for nearly 3 decades. I enjoyed seeing them together,
especially when witnessing their
disagreements in the early days of PTI. Passionate and not always pleasant. I
wish Mehmood all the best. His passion and enthusiasm has not waned over half a
century since I have known him. I counselled him to manage his expectations.
When PTI grew as a Party 2011 onwards a lot of people joined. Quite a few of them
were prominent, some out of belief and their urge to change the system, but PTI
also attracted some fortune hunters, like other parties. As the process
unfolded we witnessed newer leadership emerging. It caused some tensions
between the new and older cadre. Mr. Khan’s decision to hold direct Party
elections in 2013 severely aggravated that divide. This act may have partially contributed
towards 2013 national election results. As this process was unfolding another category
of players emerged on the scene, very discreetly. The focus of today’s title “
Flamboyant vs Competent”. This lot cleverly cultivated a personal relationship
with Mr. Khan rather than go through the rigors of the political process. Amongst
them the brightest star quietly bided his time, staying in the background and finally
emerged on the national scene when he was stopped from leaving Pakistan as part
of Mr. Imran Khan’s Umra entourage. You must have guessed by now, I am writing
about Mr. Zulfiqar (Zulfi) Bokhari.
I don’t know Zulfi Bokhari and never met him, so I won’t write about him. What I
have heard is that he is a millionaire many times over, led a colourful and
flamboyant life style in London, met Mr. Khan and decided to move over to
Pakistan. I am also told he is the son in law of courageous and principled
lawyer Syed Zafar Ali Shah, my friend from Tehrik-e-Istiqlal days. Zulfi does not have too many political credentials
other than being election chair for Mr. Imran Khan’s Islamabad seat. With this
background he has been given the responsibility for Overseas Pakistanis.
Wearing my PTI hat this begs the question from my Chairman where do you find
the merit for this decision? For someone who has been struggling with his
legitimacy for past six months how do you expect him to deliver?
During and after 2018 elections there was an outpouring of unprecedented support from
Overseas Pakistanis. After the success, the level of motivation and eagerness
to participate in New Pakistan was extremely high. Overseas Pakistanis were
ready for all kinds of sacrifice and support to bring a change. PTI was
unprepared to draw from this reservoir of goodwill. Those levels are slowly
dwindling. A great opportunity is being frittered away which could be crucial
for Pakistan’s future.
Mr.Chairman let try and spell out the scope of work, in my opinion, for someone
who is entrusted with the responsibility for Overseas Pakistanis.
The importance of Remittances
Overseas remittances are the lifeline for Pakistan’s economy. State Bank statistics show
it is close to US$20 Billion. While the trend since PTI Government took over is
positive, consistent efforts are required to sustain and improve these levels.
Remittances through official channels
Various reports indicate that nearly US$10 Billion are transferred through unofficial
channels. This is a huge challenge that requires a herculean co-ordinated effort
to divert a substantial segment through official channels.
Encouragement to maintain US$ deposits
Conservative estimates indicate that combined wealth and savings of Overseas Pakistanis runs
into hundreds of Billions. Investment instruments and incentives have to be
developed to tap into this huge investment reservoir of opportunities.
Human resource mobilization
Beyond the investment potential, Overseas Pakistanis offer a wide range of expertise, experience and management potential that can help rebuild Pakistan. There is an urgent need to create a Human
Resource Data Bank to organise and harness this potential.
Encourage Investment in projects
Amongst the Overseas Pakistanis that moved a generation ago expertise and relationships
exist in key areas desperately required in Pakistan for its progress like power
generation, transmission, medical and educational fields, IT, alternate energy,
clean technology, export development. An outreach is required to mobilize this
potential for the benefit of Pakistan.
Ease of doing business
Pakistan’s image has taken a beating for nearly two decades. PPP and PML Governments paid
scant attention to this aspect as they were too busy enriching themselves. It
is improving with the induction of PTI regime. A regulatory framework needs to
be developed taking the stake holders input in areas of security, eliminating
corrupt practises, summary legal framework, one window approval process & grievances redressal forums.
Tourism is now a Provincial subject after the 18th Amendment. OP Advisor
needs to tie the knot at the Federal level. Having travelled a substantial part
of the globe, I can say with confidence that Pakistan has some spectacular
opportunities. The tourists could range from the thrill seeking Europeans or
North Americans in Northern Areas or Religious visitors to holy sites in Punjab
or nostalgic travellers to Sind of the migrants. But someone has to go out and
sell the opportunity, security the facilities.
Respect and a seat at the table for Overseas Pakistanis Never has so muchbeen owed by so many to so few. Overseas Pakistanis are between 1 to2 percent of the population yet without their remittances Pakistan would be bankrupt. Yet they are poorly treated in the country. They face a hostile
environment with everyone wanting to fleece them. Forums for property and
financial misappropriations are in their infancy. Disputes resolution through
regular courts is a nightmare. They deserve better than that Mr. Chairman and
your Advisor has to be their primary advocate.
Having highlighted the scope of work for your Overseas Advisor, I believe the person requires the wisdom of lion king, the smarts of a fox, the aggression of a bull, the agility of a deer and the determination of a bull dog. Does your Advisor Zulfi Bokhari fit the bill? Does he have the experience and the expertise required to tackle this wide spectrum of skill set? Is it Flamboyance over Competence? Can he deliver on your most valuable asset; the Overseas Pakistanis? Only the Prime Minister can answer this!