ISLAMABAD, May 29 (APP): Prime Minister, Justice (Retd) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso on Wednesday approved National Policy for Overseas Pakistanis for their welfare and protection of their assets. The policy aims at protecting, conserving and providing sustainable tools to improve their working environment and encourage investment. The Prime Minister accorded approval to the first-ever policy in a meeting with Minister for Overseas Pakistanis, Feroze Jamal Shah Kakakhel, who called on him here and briefed about the salient features of the policy.
According to the policy brief, currently over seven million Pakistanis or more than four percent of the country’s population are residing in 115 different countries around the world.
Approximately, 52 percent of the overseas Pakistanis are working in the Middle East, 30 percent in Europe and 18 percent in the United States and other countries.
The overseas Pakistanis are playing a pivotal role in the development and growth of their homeland through remittances. The flow of remittances from overseas has increased manifold with the passage of time.
Remittances noted in the financial year 2006-07 at US $ 5.494 billion and touched US$ 13.069 billion mark in 2011-12.
These figures highlight the role that the emigrants are playing in the prosperity of Pakistan, who are not only a great asset for the country but are also its roaming ambassadors and image builders.
The policy has been approved by the Prime Minister in wake of the principle approval of the policy by the Cabinet in its meeting held on May 9, 2013.
Dilating on the salient features of the policy, the Minister said that it had been made though a consultative process with all the stakeholders, including ministries concerned, Board of Investment, Federal Board of Revenue, Overseas Employment Foundation, besides holding seminars.
The policy provides for social and welfare facilities to the overseas Pakistanis, including the proposals for housing schemes in different cities of the country, allocation of a specific sector or percentage in government residential schemes.
It also envisages the opening of Pakistani schools in different cities abroad on need basis, establishment of overseas university in Islamabad, construction of hospitals, provision of mobile medical units and legal assistance for families of overseas Pakistanis.
The minister said the policy also ensured a self-contributory pension scheme that had already been launched and would be made more attractive by enhancing facilities under it.
The policy also envisages increase in the existing grant of financial assistance to the destitute families in case of sudden death or disability. The increase in grant will also be reviewed periodically.
Under the policy, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis will facilitate free transportation of dead bodies of overseas Pakistanis where PIA service is not available, including transportation from airport to the deceased’s native town or village.
The policy encourages increased liaison with foreign government in matters of recruitment, assistance to resolve difficulties and disputes between employers and workers, simplification of procedure to acquire Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs), passports and foreign remittance cards.
Moreover, the government will appoint special focal persons in regional police offices and in the district government offices to look into and resolve the issues of overseas Pakistanis.
The government will also support activities undertaken by members of Pakistani Diaspora to promote Pakistani art, culture, music, literature and crafts as well as festivals in host countries.
The policy also provides for establishment of a database of overseas Pakistanis to have updated information, analysis, policy intervention and welfare initiatives.
Under the policy, an Overseas Pakistanis Advisory Council (OPAC) will be established with an objective of welfare and participation in the national development.
The policy stipulates consideration of looking into the means to facilitate the overseas Pakistanis’ right of vote.
The brief said to encourage remittances and investment, the policy provided to expand duty credit to other household items to encourage remittances through banking channels.
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) will initiate schemes with attractive profit rates for foreign currency deposits and would draw a mechanism to eliminate difference between market and official rate of exchange for increasing inflow of remittance.
The SBP will introduce national award for leading remitters while special investment fund trust and schemes will be introduced to offer loans to overseas Pakistanis at attractive interest rates.
The National Policy also provides for establishment of overseas Pakistani facilitation center to cover broad areas, including investment facilitation, knowledge networking and ensuring business partnership.
Under the policy, the short and long term programmes will be prepared for manpower development and employment promotion abroad.
The minister said that the successful implementation of this policy would depend on a unified approach to national development by Pakistanis at home and abroad.
He said the government, therefore, strongly emphasized on joint initiatives between diaspora and resident Pakistanis.
He said Pakistan needed the contribution of its citizens abroad in improving its image and dispelling the negative impression created by the unfortunate events of terrorism in the country.