What comes to your mind when you think of Pakistan? A country held hostage by a few hundred extremists? Well, there is more than bombings and terror plots from Pakistan. It is home to 180 million people who are resilient enough to extract good from the worst. A few thousand diehard expatriates also call it home.
Who are they? To make things clear, they are not CIA contractors. They are not from the diplomatic corps either. They are simply normal, law-abiding citizens like you and me. They are Pakistanis!
Thousands of Brits remained in Pakistan after the division of India in 1947. They found the new country a perfect place to spend their lives. Some were missionaries while others were teachers, doctors, engineers, military officers, traders and bureaucrats. Even larger in numbers were Anglo-Indians, children of mixed ethnicity who formed the backbone of the massive railway system.
As Pakistanis started taking charge of their lives, Brits started losing their superiority. Many found it better to go back to Dear Old Blighty. Anglo-Indians followed suit as despite being racially closer to other Pakistanis; religiously and culturally they were more like the Brits.
Many expats were and still are employed in education and health sectors. Pakistan was finally declared free of leprosy thanks to the untiring efforts of a German missionary, Doctor Ruth Fao. The septuagenarian, who has earned many national honors, lives in a working class locality of Karachi and is still serving the community.
Perhaps the largest expat population in Pakistan is that of expat wives. They married Pakistanis and decided to head back to their husbands’ native country. They come from every strata of society. Those married into affluent families have largely adopted the decadent lifestyle. Others like to live among the masses. They teach English and other foreign languages, work in welfare organizations and run their own businesses.
Susan is one of these wives who moved to Pakistan in 1996. She immediately fell in love with the country and its people and decided to stay even after her divorce. She lives in a middle class suburb of Rawalpindi, the sister city of Islamabad, and is running a successful garments business. Now she bargains with her suppliers in Urdu, haggles with cabbies and buys her groceries from a crowded wholesale bazaar. “It is cheaper and the produce is fresh,” she told me.
The Chinese Connection
Pakistan has a significant number of people who trace their roots to China. The third generation of Chinese immigrants is growing up in Pakistan, fully versed in local languages and customs while also retaining some aspects of their native culture. They are restaurateurs (Mandarin food is immensely popular in Pakistan), stylists, medical professionals, teachers and entrepreneurs. They have been joined by another wave of expats in recent years who are involved in construction and engineering jobs.
The small yet vibrant expat community in Pakistan is playing a key role in the development of our society. Pakistanis respect these people and treat them as one of their own. The fact that many of them have settled her for good reflects the fact that things have not gone awry. There is still hope for everyone.