India has already expressed its displeasure and deep concern over the inconclusive talks in Islamabad, recently, between the interior secretaries of India and Pakistan, earlier billed to finalise a long-overdue new visa regime between the two neighbours. The Indian side went into these talks with a prepared brief; the Pakistanis didn’t have one. They’d apparently done no homework for a conclave keenly watched with anticipation and great expectations by millions of people on both sides of the divide.
The Pakistani explanation for being not ready to sign a deal was effete and unconvincing. A spokesman laconically said the Pakistani negotiators didn’t have the Cabinet’s clearance for the deal. What he really meant to say, but couldn’t, was that there was no green light from GHQ where the generals still retain an arbitrary veto power over anything relating to India. A corrupt, clueless and conniving civilian coterie holding court in Islamabad has no way to call the GHQ’s bluff as the sole arbiter on India and Pakistan.
However, the Pakistanis’ unpreparedness, en masse, to meet the challenges of the 21st century has just been documented in that part of the world, North America, where hundreds of thousands of them have emigrated to in search of a better life and a brighter future for their children.
Murtaza Haider is a professor at one of Canada’s prestigious universities — the Ryerson, in Toronto — who has just published a painstakingly researched report on the socio-economic lot of immigrants to Canada and the United States. It’s a highly interesting read and should be an eye-opener to anyone in the Pakistani diaspora, in particular, still labouring under a misplaced sense of matching wits with the Indians. The ‘sibling rivalry’ between the Indians and the Pakistanis in North America is no less intense than the one blanketing the subcontinent.
In Canada, the Pakistanis are faring poorly among the South Asian immigrants; nearly 40 per cent of them live below the poverty line. Their enterprising skills are zero and nowhere near those of the Indians, who make up a thriving and prospering community. If there’s any comfort in it, the Pakistanis are a notch better than the Afghans.
However — and that’s where the rub is biting for the Pakistanis — the 1.8 million-strong Indian diaspora is far ahead of them in almost every department of socio-economic and cultural advancement.
According to Haider’s findings — based on the American Community Survey for 2010 contained in the US census figures of the same year — the median salaried household income of Indian-born Americans was $94,700, compared to just $51,750 for native born Americans. The Pakistani-Americans fared better than the native-born: their median income being $ 61,000. Not surprisingly, 14 per cent of the Pakistanis in US lived under the poverty line, compared to only 4 per cent from India.
One of the leading factors of Pakistanis trailing behind Indians is that the Pakistani household cart is, mostly, a one-wheel contraption, with only the male working as bread-winner. The Indian household is a properly two-wheeled cart, with both husband and wife working. Only 42 per cent Pakistani women in US worked, compared to 57 per cent Indian women.
The survey doesn’t shed any light on whether religion or religious teachings have anything to do with fewer Pakistani women in the work place. However, Muslim clergy from South Asia has a large and visible presence in the social scenery of North America. It isn’t all that difficult to imagine that their influence and teachings may have a hand in keeping the Pakistani women confined to their homes.
A similar disparity is also reflected in the family size of Indians and Pakistanis in the US. An average Indian household has just 3.5 persons; the Pakistani has 4.3 persons. Which may also explain why fewer Pakistani women are engaged in professional activities: they have larger families and broods to take care of at home and, perforce, can’t go out to work.
The principal reason of disparity between Indians and Pakistanis becomes most clear in the comparative figures of educational and professional levels of the two. Forty-two per cent of Indian immigrants have graduate or professional college and university degrees compared to only 23 per cent from Pakistan. Education is the main divider between Indians and Pakistanis in any comparative study.
The picture becomes clearer and sharper when one takes up the qualitative figures of immigrants that entered US from the subcontinent with the dawn of the 21st century. Forty-seven per cent of Indian immigrant community — 1.8 million in 2010 and pushing inexorably closer to the 2 million mark — entered the US market after 2000, compared to just 36 per cent from Pakistan.
Yes, it’s a fact that Pakistan has a much smaller population than India and, because of it, a much smaller pool of workers. However education-induced skills are the main reason of the divide and disparity between the two. The US, Canada and the rest of the western world switched to a policy of selective immigration, based on the skills of incoming immigrants, with the onset of the 21st century. Some critics may call it cherry-picking but that’s where the field became widely open to Indians and narrowed down for Pakistanis because of their educational inferiority, vis-à-vis the Indians.
History should never be lost sight of while drawing inferences from any comparative analysis. Back in the 1950s when the two newly-Independent nations got down to carving out a place for themselves under the sun and forge a national identity of their own, Pakistan opted for textile machinery from US in aid. Pundit Nehru opted for institutions of higher learning and technology.
The Indian Institute of Technology, now with six dynamic centres in various parts of India, is the real answer to the question why Pakistanis don’t have the skills of their Indian counterparts. They don’t have any IIT to begin with, and their rulers — mostly Bonaparte dictators and robber-barons — are least interested in competing with India in this department. The Pakistani oligarchs are ready, at the drop of a hat, to cross swords with India, but have no heart for trading in skills or expertise.
The inevitable and immutable lesson of history is what the Pakistanis, in particular, must, in their own interest, remember but sadly don’t: you reap what you may have sown, and there’s no way you would avoid reaping whirlwind if you sowed wind in the past.
Karamatullah K Ghori is a former Pakistani diplomat.