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Blog: Don’t blame young Pakistanis for wanting to leave

And don't think it isn't a tough choice for them either
Published 21 Dec, 2022 02:10pm

A recent report showed that over 765,000 Pakistanis chose to leave the country in the year 2022. This started a debate on the internet on the brain drain and why so many people were choosing to leave the country that they were born in.

Brain Drain is a phenomenon commonly found in countries such as Pakistan, where skilled professionals and talent choose to leave their country for better prospects or a safer environment. These people take their skills elsewhere, which means a deficit of human capital for the country’s development, economy and prospects.

Prior to the 1970s the outflow of Pakistani emigrants was towards Western countries, especially the UK: Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment

Support for leaving Pakistan is seen in young people. Millennials and Gen Z face a future in a place with a rapidly declining economy and outdated social mores. In contrast, the older generation chooses to stay back out of a sense of loyalty and hope. It would be unfair to claim that either side is wrong, but it presents a dilemma for those with their whole lives still ahead of them.

This dilemma rears its head when you are young and are given contradictory advice. Some people tell you to do whatever you can to get out of this country (even if you have to use illegal means). Other people insist that our country will not be able to grow until its youth chooses to stay and put its talent to use here.

“On one hand, there was my grandfather who taught us all English and encouraged us to leave the country after graduation,” said Yusra Siddiqui, a second-year student at the University of Karachi. “Then there are my parents who think it’s a complete betrayal to try to leave. I feel so guilty for even considering going abroad but I also don’t want to stay.”

This ambivalence is common among young people who feel a sense of patriotic duty but also want a better or different life for themselves. A strong sense of guilt accompanies any thoughts of leaving and even those who do manage to move away, often feel as if they have abandoned their country and the people left behind.

“When I was graduating from college, I applied to a university in the UK and received an offer letter,” said Maham Muhammad Owais, an English major who plans to move abroad. “While I was very excited to start this new phase of my life, there were people around me who told me that my country was on the path to becoming a more progressive and developed nation. Based on this misplaced sense of optimism, I decided to stay back and study in Pakistan. I can safely say now, after dealing with teaching strikes, unfair grading and inadequate teaching standards, that I made a mistake.”

From a pragmatic point of view, patriotism does not fill an empty stomach and neither does perhaps, a misplaced sense of loyalty. This is especially true for skilled workers who are treated badly and paid poorly in Pakistan but are considered to be extremely valuable in foreign nations. The highly educated may not have a right to speak for those who spend hours doing physical labour yet receive nothing for it.

A country that hemorrhages talent does not have prospects, especially for a country like Pakistan which already struggles to advance in the areas of STEM and the Arts. Many extremely bright scientific minds end up studying and qualifying abroad and not returning home because their fields are so advanced that they can’t find jobs or institutions where they can progress. Loyalty is great but if you’ve got no place to put it…

This is evident in how Pakistanis achieve greatness despite a paucity of resources. The response from their own people and government leaves much to be desired. Take the example of Joyland which was banned and boycotted by several religious groups. It is, ironically enough, the same movie that is en route to an Oscar nomination.

Students of the Arts will sympathise with director Saim Sadiq. Maira Pasha, a third-year student at the department of Mass Communication at KU and a rising musical artist, has lost out on many opportunities. “I have wanted to sing since I was a child, it is the only dream I’ve ever had and I have the skill to support these dreams as well,” she said. “But instead of encouraging me, the people around me instead reminded me how the media is for women of bad character and that I would be bringing shame upon my family and religion. After hearing discouraging words like these for years, could anyone blame me for wanting to leave?”

Cultural exports can earn a country revenue and recognition. Take Pasoori by Ali Sethi on Coke Studio that became a global hit, or the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. A particularly inspiring example is of South Korean group BTS, which is estimated to be earning $3.9 billion for its economy yearly.

One thing is evident: if things don’t change, people will continue to leave Pakistan.

The writer is a second-year student at the University of Karachi majoring in English Literature and Linguistics

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Comments are closed on this story.

maham Dec 21, 2022 02:26pm
An insightful article that takes every conceivable factor into consideration!
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