In a lecture in 2009, research economist Abid Ali Abid made a bold statement, noting that hardly any country has suffered more from the ‘brain drain’ than Pakistan. In 2008, All Things Pakistan cited a Gallup survey that found that 62 percent of adults surveyed “expressed the desire to migrate abroad while 38 percent said that they would prefer to settle outside permanently.” It’s an interesting debate, for sure. Below, Abdul Samad, a student at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, delves further into this topic:
The recent past has seen the emergence of a rather disturbing trend. Too often, the talented youth of Pakistan seek their fortunes in foreign lands, in their misguided belief that their country can give them anything but success. This trend, also known as brain drain, is robbing the nation of the next crop of engineers, doctors and economists. In the age of globalization and outsourcing, the West is able to attract the finest minds of the world with ease. This is partly due to the widely held belief that escaping the country is the ticket to prosperity and advancement in life. The one who escapes alive from all the violence and bloodshed has truly safeguarded his future. Visit the villages of Pakistan where poverty and unemployment have brought people to the brink of starvation. Meet the youth in such impoverished areas, and it is striking how badly they want to leave this country.
Is our country that dreadful that people will do almost anything to get a US visa? Is this why the Muslims of the subcontinent demanded a separate homeland, so that after 60 years of its creation escaping from it becomes the method of salvation in life?
The most ironic factor is that the very people who refuse to do any form of work in Pakistan end up getting jobs in restaurants and petrol pumps abroad. For them, just the fact that they get paid in dollars overrides all the relations and bonds they have left behind. Money transcends love. Money overpowers human morality, the innate goodness present in every one of us. By no means, is this a life of happiness. Not by a long shot. The soul is free where the heart is and that undoubtedly is in your homeland. Whatever one does in life, wherever one goes, it is not possible to forget the land that you were born in.
Pakistan has been defiled and tainted by the Western media, and we have come to be recognized as a country of marked people. Not a day goes by without mention of some bomb attack or a suicide bombing. Everything, at once, seems to be going horribly wrong. Ministers are killed in broad daylight; the country’s sovereignty is breached on a daily basis, starvation and suicides have risen meteorically and politicians continue to make a fool of themselves.
Amidst all this madness, it becomes easy to stop loving your country with the intensity that was seen at the time of Partition.
Let me give you my own example. I too went abroad, in the pursuit of education that I knew that even the finest institution in Pakistan could not offer. The opportunity was one that only a fool would reject. So I went. It can be said that you only come to recognize the value of your homeland when you are deprived of it. Although I was psychically distant from Pakistan, my heart was always there. Most people, after going abroad, tend to forget their origins.
Paradoxically, my appreciation only grew when I spent time studying abroad. No matter what happens, my love for my homeland and the inextricable bond with it would never diminish or fade away.
While the current plight of the country makes me sad, it bears telling that there is hope for the future. And it is this very hope that allows so many Pakistanis to wake up each day in the morning, ready to fight intolerance and extremism. If we were to work hard in our own country, and let go of the conviction that one should only work hard whilst abroad, the prospect of rapid change cannot be ruled out. This inexorable infatuation with the West needs to end, for even Pakistan can become the epitome of prosperity and development, but only if we are ready to change ourselves for the better.
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