Expats Urged to Become Highway for Saudi-Pakistan Investments

ARAB NEWS: Pakistani entrepreneurs and professionals in the Kingdom should become a people-to-people bridge and take a step forward to be highway between the two brotherly Muslim countries for bilateral investments, trade, commerce, and socio-cultural initiatives, said Irshad Salim, a US-based journalist who is also a business and construction consultant.

Salim was speaking as chief guest Friday at the Pakistan Thinkers Forum — a Pakistani expatriates’ socio-intellectual platform here (Riyadh). Community leaders and individuals of all shades of opinion participated in the question and answer session with Salim.

TALKING POINTS: Skills; people-to-people bridge; knowledge highway; socio-cultural initiatives; qualitative contribution; tolerant society; knowledge-based economy; transactional mind; CSR activities; value addition; God-gifted tools; renewable energy; leading global metropolis; Pakistani Diaspora Burden; Nation Building; Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (CPEC); regional peace, Pakistan-India relations; Kashmir; paradigm shift; regional negativism; entrepreneurial activism; brain-drain reversal; Pakistaniat

“Pakistanis in the Kingdom, who lead in strength and remittances among the Pakistani Diaspora, must also contribute qualitatively in making the country a tolerant society and a knowledge-based economy like what Pakistanis and Pakistani-Americans in the United States are doing,” he said.

“Skills, expertise and thought-leadership can also be added by overseas Pakistanis here — just as they are adding value in all spheres of the holy land. For this, the Pakistan Thinkers Forum can lead or collaborate with other community platforms. After all, knowledge base is such a powerful God-gifted tool that its quantum exceeds all the renewable energy the nation is seeking today,” said Salim.

Reminding the participants that Riyadh is expected to become a leading global metropolis as announced by Chairman of Arriyadh Development Authority (ADA) Prince Faisal bin Bandar at an exclusive interview with Oxford Business Group (OBG), Salim asked Pakistanis and Pakistani companies to participate in the process not only with a transactional mind, but also seek value-addition through enhancing knowledge base, and CSR activities. “Everything you do, teach or learn here will add to your thinking tools and ultimately benefit Pakistan — if you have the will,” he said.

“Pakistani expatriates worldwide are unaware that collectively they are carrying a moral, ideological and philosophical burden, which I call the Pakistani Diaspora burden, he added. “They need to participate in the nation-building process — it’s not an option,” he added.

Salim also exchanged views and responded to questions on Pakistan’s current affairs, particularly the $46 billion Pakistan-China economic corridor, regional peace and Pakistan-India relations particularly Kashmir.

According to Salim, who is on a business visit here after a two-month hiatus in Pakistan, said that generally he found Pakistanis this time are more upbeat and proactive rather than reactive. “There is now more discussion on upcoming events than debates on things of the past. Movers and shakers are discussing solutions and seeking inputs and advises on them rather than focusing on problems. That’s a paradigm shift in the society.”

“The mixing bowl effect the corridor is expected to generate in Pakistan’s socio-economic and cultural domain, may marginalize security issues as well as the dynamics of existing regional negativism. I see Pakistan converting crises into opportunities. Physical boundaries of the country can become contours of a land where Pakistanis can seek and embrace prosperity, and positivism, affirmative action, knowledge base, intellectualism, sustainable living and lifestyle, thought leadership, entrepreneurial activism and nationhood. These are the evolving attributes of ‘Pakistaniat’ which will transform Pakistan,” he added.

Community leaders Khalid Rana, president PML-N Riyadh; Rashid Butt, VP PMN-N Riyadh; Fayyaz Ali Khan, president PPP Riyadh; Fayaz Gilani, VP PTI Riyadh, agreed that Pakistan is the land of opportunities surrounded by countries seeking to do business with it as well with Middle Eastern countries using corridor as the gateway.

Rana Khalid, president of the forum agreed with Salim that Pakistan also needs overseas Pakistanis’ valuable input and knowledge-base in an organized, result-oriented and non-political manner. “An enabling environment for brain-drain reversal should be initiated,” said Ch. Mobeen, general secretary, PML-N Riyadh.

Concerted efforts should be made in the Kingdom to highlight the opportunities in Pakistan, he said, adding that the Saudi business community should be made aware of them on people-to-people basis so that bilateral investment opportunities can be harnessed,” said Qazi Ishaq Memon, coordinator PPP Riyadh.

Yunus Ghalib, who anchored the session, announced holding such brainstorming sessions on regular basis.

Zahoor Ahmed, SVP, ANP; Sardar Razzak, president PPP Azad Kashmir; Farman Saleem, VP, PPP Riyadh; Tahir Rao, PPP Riyadh; Mubashar Anwaar; and Faisal Alvi of Darussalam were among those present.

The article appeared in Arab News on Dec 6, 2015.