Overseas Pakistani Syndrome

If every Pakistani was given the chance to live in any country, Pakistan would most probably be an uninhibited desolate paradise. Most of us living in Pakistan would bail, given the chance. Let’s face it; we would give up our white collar jobs to jump into the “chalo chalo waliyat chalo band wagon”. We would live happily ever after, shelving products, mopping the floors and finally owning the crown jewel kebab shop that every Pakistani child dreams of since the day he can say the word “kebab”. There are some amongst us that are more fortunate than others, and we go for ‘alaa taleem’ which essentially still means “I ain’t coming back” given the slightest chance. We would prove ourselves to be the pinnacle of what academia has to offer; the summa cam lauds, nay the creme da la creme of graduates, with the finest of grades. the same us which had to go to the HOD’s office a couple of times to get the two marks so we could pass the course, it’s the same us.  It’s just that was our parents money and this is well our hard earned cash from the part time job I got which would be beneath me if I was back home. We then graduate and find a job, we serve to the best of our abilities and more, something we’re incapable of doing back home because back there it’s our birthright to litter, to not pay taxes and to try our best to get away with as little work as possible. (And then whine about how the system is at fault)

US-PassportAs days turn to months and months to years, we settled down, get married (but only after we’ve broken up with my girlfriend in walayat and my fiancé’ back home whose nose I find faulty now) to that good looking woman who’d never marry me because, well, I was just a guy, now I’m a guy with a passport that’s not green. Before leaving you promise yourself that you’ll make all that cash and settle down back home with a comfortable life style you could never have if you worked here, but that never really happens. Time goes by, you stop converting everything into rupees and how much it would cost back home, whenever you go shopping. All the while your father’s hair turn white, his beard grows long, and his face gives in and shows the weakness that now consumes his body. Slow and shaky, he reluctantly gets used to carrying that big grocery bag home week after week. Whenever you ask your mother how her bad knee is now over skype she keeps repeating ‘khud hi theek ho jaye ga’ you tell her if you were there you’d drag her to the doctor to have it checked, but you’re not. You’re not a bad son, you always make it a point to show your parents their growing grandchildren, albeit on Skype at least every other week, you try, you really do, but things keep piling up. You have bills to pay and deadlines to meet. Then the inevitable happens you parent(s) ends up in a hospital bed. You want to go, more than anything, that’s the only thing you want to do, but then there is the school that doesn’t consider it an emergency and isn’t letting your kids go to another country without the shots, and the high paying job you just switched to have a different time off policy. You really want to go…. But you don’t.

Hey, I’m not judging you or anyone else, how could I judge anyone when, if given a chance like every other Patriot Pakistani, I would jump through hoops to get into the “Gora band wagon”. How can I or anyone else for that matter judge you, no one has the right to judge you, well not until they’ve walked two moons in your moccasins. But that wasn’t really my issue in the first place.

My issue begins when you sit in your leather recliner chair with the central heating/cooling on, in front of your burger baby kids who would have you committed to a psychiatric ward before they let you move them back to Pakistan. With your trophy wife, who would call the home office and have you jailed, before she agrees to live with your parents in this terror infested, corruption ridden uncivilized piece of land you grew up in. As you sit there, staring blankly into the idiot box watching the Pakistani news channel (or should I say entertainment central), commenting on every move Mr. Politician, whose name while living in Pakistani I don’t know, makes.

My issue is when every one of you folks lectures us on the intricacies of how the country is going to shit and no one is doing anything about it. What bothers me is how you have the audacity to lecture us from the comfort of your centrally cooled/heated drawing room. Yea sure, each and every Pakistan also discusses the same from the comfort of their drawing room, but hey! We do it without central heating/cooling! My issue with you is not the life choices you’ve made nor what your intentions were/are; my issue is every Pakistani not in Pakistan complaining about Pakistan all the frigging time. (I will concede that we do provide a tempting target given our politicians, society, mullas healthcare, education, infrastructure, security, law and justice …).

What is required is you move on, accept the fact that you will never be as Pakistani as the guy who lives here, goes through the power outages every half hour, sees the poor on the street but cannot do anything about it. For God’s sake stop confusing our weakness for indifference, we may not have been able to help the poor on the street but we do empathize with him. We may not have been able to change the system but we sure the hell are determined to try. We may not have been able to bring a sweeping revolution but we are willing to stand under the blazing sun for hours on end to vote. It’s about time you accept the fact that you gave up your right on criticizing this country when you didn’t come down here to vote.

And to all of you living in self-imposed exile let’s ask ourselves what have we done for our Country, how much tax have we paid in the last X number of years, how many schools and colleges did we open? How many people did we provide jobs? How many households did we support from the money that we earned from foreign countries? No one asks these questions, no one really cares. All that seems to matter is what the TV show guy is saying on Geo in the comfort of your modern homes. Yes there are problems with our system, yes there is corruption, yes everything might be falling to pieces, but it’s our problems. It’s the Problems of the people who live and breathe the air here, who go, day in and day out, surviving this urban circus.

You gave up your right to complain when you gave up your green passport. Not your right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness but a far more fundamental one, the right to criticize your Country and it’s time to accept it. You gave up your right when you realized that the day your kids are old enough to know that they can say no to visiting that stinky smelly country and stopped coming. You gave up your right to comment on every single speech the politician with opposing views makes when you paid that mortgage on the second home. You gave up your right when you couldn’t make it to your dad’s funeral because they would kick you out of the 6 digit paying job that you just joined. You’ve gave it up a very long time ago and it’s about time you accept it.

Come visit us meet us after a couple of years or whenever you want, we will welcome you, love you and respect you, like you deserve. We will open our homes and hearts for you. Just be courteous enough not to be involved in the matters of our home. This is our land, this is where we live every day and this is what we will fix. Everyone has a choice, you made yours, let’s accept that and move on. Let’s tune into the news and talk shows that affect our daily lives and the lives of our children, let’s talk about things that we deal with on a daily basis; because if words were food, nobody would be going hungry in Pakistan.

Disclaimer: I think it is my weakness of writing that I couldn’t convey my point properly. I am not criticizing anyone for moving out for one secondly I have no right to ask how you spend your money and how you live. Nor are all overseas Pakistani’s like that. Heck our company is funded by a man who built his fortune in the states lives in the states and has 500+ people employed in Pakistan and to top that off is funding start ups in Pakistan. There are those people and they are great they are the essence and the building blocks of our society and they are our only connection with the western world, they represent us and they do a great job at it. This article has got to do absolutely nothing with them, this has to do with the rest of us. The rest of us who would run away not because we need to because we want to, it’s for us the one’s who would not invest a single rupee in the state (whether charity or otherwise) yet would spend their lives criticizing the country. It’s for us who would never be ease at being where they are and would never have the kahunas to actually move back. Accepting is the first step my friend.


Published by

Fahim Akhter

Fahim is a product manager with over 10 years of experience currently working as product head at MONT5. He focuses on user centric centric design, especially on brand, user experience and revenue product challenges. Prior to joining MONT5, Fahim's has worn multiple hats during his career from game production to product development but the emphasis has always been on creating unparalleled user experience and to help startups to make complex products more engaging. He has worked on diversified portfolio of startups including games, apps, education and e-commerce with product reach of 10M users across the globe. Fahim is a computer science graduate from FAST Islamabad. He volunteers for education and mentors students and startups, to help them grow and drive innovation.

109 thoughts on “Overseas Pakistani Syndrome”

  1. Let me tell you a small story.. there was a guy living in a small town in interior Sindh. belonging to middle class family (comparatively to the rest of people in small town). Schooled and lived within the same city because apparently visiting cities like city of lights was pretty costly so it used to happen not very often. Bullied at his school most part because apparently his gay-ness was not that subtle and from bullying I am not talking about verbal bullying.. no no my friend. Twice he had to grab penises of his class mates to give a good rub because no one likes to take a swollen eye to home where he is considered to be one of the brave and macho boys because he was not interested into cricket. Guy turned out to be good (if not impeccable) with English language because most of his life his only escape was books.. Any book he can put his hands on or can afford.
    Anyways, long story short he finally got admission into one of technical universities in city of lights. He was happy that finally he will move to the big city where people will not know the shameful incidences. past will be just past. His family moved to the big city as well since finally there was opportunity for everyone to get out of that small town. He finished his studies and got a job in a small company which was serving international clients where he earned only 20% of what his salary should have been if he was working in those countries. The guy since was into books whatever he can get, he came to know a new side of world, which was more rational with no cute stories of a man and a woman falling from heaven to populate the planet earth. Long story short he transitioned from being religious-to-spiritual-to-agnostic-to-atheist, if we can trivialize it we can say him being gay played role since his birth religion was very clear on burning down the whole towns upon such un-natural acts.
    He never deterred in providing what his family needed financially because his under grad degree was enough to get him a job. With that he kept on saving money for his masters and got admission in one fancy business school. There smoked for the first time in his life.. drank for the first time with his new friends. and partied in a new world which was not at all like the one where he went back every night. That did not impact in any way his family and his complete moral and financial support to family.
    The perfect two lives he was living came to grounds when 2 of his best friends told his parent about him being gay (keeping the extreme goodness and religious brother-hood in their hearts). he was beaten, and was kept locked up in home for almost a week. and later was given permission to go to office and come back home under strict vigilance. this kept on happening for almost 6 months when finally he got a job offer from city of heritage and culture. This was the first time he stood up for his right of living his life. he told his family that their prayers and religious meds didn’t work very well and he was still a guy liking, atheist bad guy who is corrupted.
    He finally moved to city of culture and during that he saved up some money as well to apply for immigration for some country where he can live his life as it is. Not flaunting, not cursing anyone and completely supporting his family financially. He finally got the immigration and now he is planning to make the big move. He loves his country as much as a minority in hiding can. He spent 31 years of his life in this country. He paid the taxes. He didn’t rape any one. he didn’t steal or cheat. he rather avoided bad situation by going an extra mile because at the end of the day he cannot risk his life for being an atheist gay who doesn’t support any of current political parties because:
    1. most of them are the parties he saw being in power in his 31 years of life span more than once and he knew it all along they didn’t do anything but eat the shit out of this country.
    2. The only new party developing was by a person who spent all his life playing cricket and opening a hospital for which rest of the country paid. now maybe the statement be a little biased, probably because the protagonist didn’t like cricket as such because he got f***ked (and I am not cursing here) for the first time in his life forcefully because he lost a cricket match. or maybe he knows the history of this hot headed irrational bully cricketer who is right now supporting Taliban subliminally.

    Finally he now is ready to go out of this country for good after 31 years. The guy has full right on this country even once he leaves.. he was born here, he spent the most important years when he had the most energy to serve in this country. he is not scared to leave the big shot company he is working for right now. he perfectly knows he wont have a job once he land there and will have only money enough to survive only few months. he might end up at some gas station or as a security. but he is sure he will make his way through. and he will someday be at the same place where he is right now. Only minus the colleagues who brings the topic of his marriage every second day and snide derogatory remarks about if he is physically fit or not for marriage, or if he is Gandu (followed by a laughter). He smiles and let the situation go. you know why because he knows it will get better. Maybe somewhere he will not be insulted at least by his family and colleagues of not following their path of producing 12 babies in this babies ridden country.

    Do you want to take away his right to criticize for what’s wrong with the country just because he chose to save his life while living as normally as everyone else is. you want to take away the rights of him being citizen of this country because he is trying to get paid what he actually deserves. you want to take away rights of him who even after all that is still taking care of his family. and lastly you want to take away rights of him just because he continuously worked hard while being abused and bullied for a better future, maybe enough electricity to run all day and own a good car some day and have an air-conditioned home. why? because if you do you are as bad the first person who pushed penises in his hands, who raped the guy, who bullied him throughout his life, who punished him for being gay though it was not in his hands and make fun of him because he doesn’t see the world through your glasses of religion anymore.

    I don’t know what to say after that my friend. and by the way that guy is me. and there is no exaggeration in the above mentioned story.

    Don’t stereotype people. Don’t criticize them personally if you cannot provide them all that personally.

    (p.s. Although I was typing all this as a comment, it can easily make a good post for my blog.)

  2. I understand the plight of the Pakistani political and economic state. U guys need help! But think when use elect a new government in why do use pick the same losers thieves etc. A lot of Muslims abroad from Pakistani backgrounds are fed up funding people back home it just doesn’t end. Have u ever thought about them. Fathers /husbands’ from Pk don’t think about their own families in front of them but mainly focus on their lazy siblings needs. That is the real reason pks want to go abroad.

  3. It appears to me that you’re renouncing people who live abroad and speak about issues in Pakistan.

    While I do feel they are entitled to their opinion, I would recommend every Pakistani – abroad or not – to maintain a positive and optimistic tone about their country. Why not, after all, the issues that Pakistan faces aren’t unheard of – most countries go through these phases or some other tough phases as they join the developed world.

    My motto is to try my best and glorify the name of Islamic Republic of Pakistan – no matter where I may be or what complaints I may have about the state. The matters of my country are like the matters of my own house. While I do regretfully acknowledge the shortcomings in a serious debate (not without looking forward to a brighter future though), I never spread them among outsiders or dare ridiculing the nation for having them.

  4. Any overseas pakistani remitting money back to Pakistan for what ever reason has all the rights to criticize IRP. Additionally, the expectation from overseas pakistani to pay taxes into the IRP tax system is asinine and ignoramus statement! One citizens of IRP responsible to only pay income taxes because they should !..

  5. You started off your article with a tinge of humour, and I liked that, but as the piece continued you absolutely failed to convey your point and lost me as a reader. I understand your frustration, but you absolutely failed to empathize with the expats. I’m going to assume here that you never lived abroad and never went through phases of questioning religious dogmas and the idea of nationalism. As time progress some of us become an amalgamate of east and west, and sadly our new values are not palatable for the average Pakistanis- for in the motherland we believe in ideological clones, how dare this one deviate from the norm. Her ideas are blasphemous! She speaks about Pakistan from a place of privilege hence shouldn’t be allowed to speak. I’m sorry, I’m kinda sick of people like you telling me that I’ve lost my freedom of speech when it comes to Pakistan. You can’t snatch away my ethnic identify because I live in a house with central air conditioning. I worked really hard for the material things in my life. Thank you very much, please stop hating. FYI, I was trooper in the motherland too, but I’d have to give you this, Pakistan has horrible work ethic. So it’s not just the expatriates who have an epiphany and realize they need to move their ass in order to be somewhere in life, this notion is also drilled into the multitasking and high achieving Pakistani student. You know the kid that works in the call center, aces all her/his classes and wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her/his mouth.
    Pakistani politics may not be constantly relevant in the expatriates life, but that does not mean that they won’t have opinions anymore. As far as the voting bit goes, that’s a fail on the government’s part. Other countries let their expats vote in the country of their residence.
    Here are two cents on human psyche. People will always give you reasons for the choices they’ve made, they don’t need to, but they feel like they owe the world an explanation, perhaps this explanation would excuse them off the harsh judgement you’re about to pass on them. The protagonist in this story over compensates, for his grievances are grave. No matter how much hate the progeny carries for their father’s country of origin, you do not get to snatch away their ethnic identify. He is a different blend of Pakistani than you are, but Pakistani none the less. Stop looking for ideological clones. Stop attacking his freedom of speech. If he comes from a place of privilege, you come from a place of judgement.

  6. From Time in memory, People have left their home lands to migrate for acquiring better education,superior skills. Of course the financial benefits and better quality of life with all this are the rewards . I do not believe that thinking about a better and more prosperous future is a crime or makes some one less patriotic . the only need is to be honest and faithful in thinking . Either with your past home land or newly acquired home land .

  7. http://www.visualizing.org/full-screen/54850

    Mr. Fahim here is a link to prove you that how much big chunk of money overseas Pakistanis are sending back home.In 2011 we received 3.8 billion dollar as foreign aid and 12.3 billion dollar is received from Overseas Pakistanis. So you should know that Overseas Pakistanis are doing their job pretty well, far more better than your bickering. People like you who don’t know anything about economy and developmental tactics use such idiotic emotional articles as cheap fame. Stop bickering and start working.

  8. what an absolute load of tosh. Foreign remmitances are pretty much the difference between Pakistan going bankrupt and staying afloat. Call this a rant, nothing more. Whats sad is the fact that they take more interest in the country than the people living here do.

    Apart from writing this article i have to ask what you or anyone else has done to improve the situation in the country. Before raving about someone else, its always better to clean one’s own house.

  9. The article is bang on about the state of mind of the majority of the expat Pakistani population. However their are few terms used by author such as “alaa taleem”, “6 digit paying jobs”, “Trophy wife”, “centrally heated/air conditioned modern homes ” which are quite striking . The article fails to acknowledge the ever growing mass of people who are willing to leave their centrally heated/air conditioned modern homes, sell their properties so that they can touch base with their roots.

    The “alaa taleem” crowd which end up getting the “6 digit paying jobs” are mostly sent by their parents, not all of them come abroad by their choice, and if they ever want to come back to Pakistan after their studies are done they face tremendous retaliation from their parents….”Tumhari perhye per itne paise lagaye hain….Yahan per kya rakha hai…..Bijli hi nahi ate..blah blah blah…” I bet the author has never come across expats who inspite of making big bucks are just waiting for the day the get their foreign passport so that they can leave the country(because it has been their parents dream) and move back eastwards.
    As for “Trophy wife”, not all Pakistani men want a “Gori wife”. The majority still wants a Pakistani girl because they want their kids to know their language and cultural values. At least the “Trophy wife” does not feel ashamed in cleaning your house and scrubbing your toilet, which your Pakistani wife back at home would definitely feel degraded to do.

    I speak for myself, My husband has left his “6 digit paying job” in order to get a career change which will take us closer to our roots. We are willing to leave our “centrally heated/air conditioned homes ” for the sake of our identity, cultural and religious values. And I can assure you their are quiet a lot of people who are sailing in the same boat.

    1. Sanaa, I agree there are people like you, but what is their percentage? one in thousand (0.001%). Do they matter? I think the writer has amply discussed the predicament of majority of expats (not only Pakistanis but all Asians who go there for greener pastures).

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