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First session of Overseas Pakistanis Forum

Overseas Pakistanis extend full support to Pakistan’s challenges

DUBAI: The first session of Overseas Pakistanis Forum, organised by Pakistan’s Ambassador at large Javed Malik and chaired by Federal Minister for overseas Pakistanis Dr Farooq Sattar concluded here on a high note with the overseas Pakistani community expressing their full support to their homeland in these challenging times.

Delegates from UAE and some middle-eastern countries also took part.

“The forum provided a platform for the overseas Pakistanis in the region to directly interact with the decision makers, and therefore we invited the federal minister for overseas Pakistanis to listen to their issues,” explained Malik who is leading this effort.

Presidents of all Pakistani associations and business councils in the UAE were represented in the forum and took part in the interaction. The forum started with a presentation by Malik in which he highlighted the issues being faced by overseas Pakistanis. He was critical of the fact that successive governments have wrongly stereotyped the role of overseas Pakistanis only as workers who can simply send remittances. This is not all that they are capable of doing, times have changed and Pakistanis living abroad have acquired positions of affluence and influence, they have gained skills, professional training and resources and many other features in the most influential and rich list of their host countries. All of them are keen to play a role in supporting their country, but there is no framework that allows them to do this.

They often feel like they are second-class citizens in their own countries. This culture needs to change, and the government must review its policy on overseas Pakistanis as a whole. He also made recommendations on how further opportunities of employment abroad can be utilised to the maximum if adequate training is provided to overseas workers before leaving the country.

Speaking about the issues of Overseas Pakistanis in Dubai, he said that as the population of Pakistanis has increased in Dubai their needs have changed and increased. The Pakistani Schools are not up to the standard and need urgent attention of the Minister and the OPF in improving their standards. Similarly, a Pakistani College and University is greatly needed. He also made the case for establishing a Pakistan Skills and Information Centre, which would operate under the auspices of the OPF to provide facilities to overseas Pakistanis residing here, the centre would also have an Overseas Pakistanis Business Club, which would allow business networking and provide investment advice to those who want to invest in Pakistan through a structured system.

He also urged the Minister to set up a working group of bankers and finance professionals to work out a fast and transparent way of sending remittances that give a sense of confidence to the expatriate workers, as this would at least double the remittance amounts. The issue of a special housing scheme for Pakistanis living in the UAE also came under discussion.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Farook Sattar said that he has taken into account the points raised and called on the community to look at the possibilities of public-private partnership opportunities whereas the government would extend its support to the initiatives raised in today’s forum. He said that he has high hopes from this forum as it provided him with the advice and the consultation towards issues being faced by the communities at present. He called the overseas Pakistanis a ray of hope for Pakistan and appreciated their role in supporting their country in these challenges. He expressed his full support to the recommendations being made on the forum by its organiser Malik and said that he will ensure that these recommendations are followed and implemented. Prominent Pakistanis based in the UAE were included in the OPF, which was largely attended by businessmen, professionals, academics, and officials of OPF and Pakistani embassies. The next session of the Forum will be in London in March 2010.

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