It is not rare to have mixed sentiments of amazement and shame at the same time. But one has experienced a stronger feeling – disappointment – about the sudden increase in the number of educated young men who have obtained five year multiple visit visas for the United States, and are gleefully leaving the country. One would not like to ascribe this surge to a conspiracy by the anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam lobbies. Nor would one put the blame on the economic and political situation prevailing in the country. It is the deep frustration accumulated over an extended period of time over the lack of adequate employment opportunities for the educated. The emergence of unrealistically high expectations in the job market have complicated matters further. The desire to make money quickly and achieve a high position in society add to the problem. But perhaps, the worst contributor to frustration is the almost universal wish to acquire a position in the government – naturally, every young man and woman cannot get one. Then, there starts the period of doing odd jobs with periods of joblessness, planning and day-dreaming. Once all avenues have been tapped, and a person has landed some job far below his qualifications and aspirations, he begins to look for an opportunity to migrate for greener pastures abroad.
This cycle is repeated for all educated entrants to the labor force except those coming from affluent classes, politically well connected families, protege of senior civil and army officers and scions of big landed and mercantile houses. This army of the youth spread all over the country after school graduation and create a commotion in which every family is, directly or indirectly, involved. The curse of Sifarish rampant in the country is closely linked with the struggle to win a job for a relative, a friend or a henchman’s kin. Historically, loyalty to the rulers or to one trusted by the elite was taken into the government. After independence, the sifarish continued, but there was the need to change the criterion. However, it did not; rather its scope was widened. Every new institution that was established in the country was filled increasingly by persons having the right connections. How much frustration and bitterness, this practice causes is unimaginable.
The sudden increase in visa applications could, partly be ascribed to the removal – or threat of removal – of the illegally appointed persons by the past governments. These numbers will swell further as the cleaning process progress. However, by any measure, this is not a healthy trend. Honorable societies try to create jobs within the country, with their own resources rather than creating beelines for the industrial countries or the oil rich desert lands. With the tremendous human and physical resources, we can make each and every member of this nation prosperous and happy – provided we manage them well. But we have not learnt to discipline ourselves, and what we had inherited in this respect, we have lost. No one can dispute the usefulness of traveling abroad. We have saying, ‘Safar Wasila-I-Zafar’ (travel is a vehicle for winning). One learns from life in other countries, and how the humans adjust themselves to various climates, topography, and how they use fauna and flora for their benefit. Technology, across the World has been transferred through exchange of population. The process will continue.
However, these travels were just visits or explorations and not the steps to settle permanently, except in case of the marauding armies. What these travelers earned and learned was brought home to benefit the home-land – in sharp contrast to the intentions and actions of the present day migrants; they go to industrial countries to make money and settle down. Those migrating to other developing countries move to fill the gap caused by shortage of labour; they tend to return after some years as the life is difficult, local population is rude and the local culture is unattractive, compared to the native milieu. On return, they carry with them new gadgets, tools and goods used in the host countries, which actually originate in the developed world. They also bring the money and knowledge which helps them to lead a wholesome life. They also act as catalysts of change for a better life.
Ironically, this process is at the root of many a problem related to migration. The temptation of making big money in a short time, demonstrated by the peers, serves as the big push factor in emigration. The small time skilled and semi-skilled labour do not have the resources to migrate to the United States nor have they the connections or the confidence to settle in the industrial countries, their goals in the target country are also low. So they tend to migrate near home. The educated youth, however, have a different set of aspirations and a separate background. They want to be engaged in an occupation for which they were trained. They wish to lead a somewhat modern life with some comforts, and they have the desire to join at least the middle class of the host country – and its elite, in due course of time. For that they want to become rich and influential. This attracts them to the big industrial countries where there are ample opportunities for fulfilling their wishes; whether they achieve them is a different matter.
These are some of the factors which pull the migrants to host countries. But the main issue remains the situation which pushes them out of their native lands. It is summed up by a single expression – suffocation. It could be social, economic, political, ethnic, religious, or a combination thereof. However, the upsurge in migration during the recent past cannot be explained by these factors alone. The major causes, beyond the usual reasons for migration seem to be three in number. First, the mounting pressure on employment market in the cities due to the coming of age of the younger generation of Afghan refugees besides illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka etc. has made it difficult to secure jobs in the private sector. Like all migrants, they are more vibrant, enterprising and well organized ethnically. They have far less inhibitions to adopt menial occupations than the locals which makes them affluent more rapidly. The local job seekers cannot compete with them and prefer to seek jobs abroad. Second, a serious degree of disillusionment has cumulated over the years over continuous deprivation of ordinary citizens. It has, by now, grown at the family level; even one instance of injustice and denial of a legitimate opportunity to a young person in the family activities the entire clan. And one person gone abroad paves the way for other young people to follow. Third, the feeling of deprivation and despondency has struck the chord of moving to the industrial countries. The rush to acquire proficiency in computers and the mushroom growth of information technology outfits are indicative of the times to come; the youth graduating from these training institutions will lead for greener pastures leaving Pakistan high and dry. The final development to pull cheap labour from the Third World is the issuance of quick and convenient visas; the experience has shown the Western countries that the young people from Asia and the orient are a gold mine. They will love to exploit it. Now it is our job to hold them back.
(News August 31/ 2000)