By Muhammad Javed
So finally the Overseas Pakistanis (OPs) will cast their votes in the coming elections. I have for 30 years myself been an Overseas Pakistani. The hectic activity of the last four five months suggests perhaps non casting of the their vote was the biggest shortfall, problem, hurdle and demand for their true welfare and not so far thought or talked about their rehabilitation, freeing their occupied properties, providing them some real investment scheme etc. For the last about more than 4 months they are in extreme problem in getting their new passports stopping them from travel even for some emergency but perhaps casting of their vote would now solve their this problem too.
I continuously struggled for years, for instant, that an Overseas Pakistani who comes back home permanently after 20-30 years stay abroad may also be treated as a “Retired” and allowed investment in National Savings Pensioners Scheme. In my 10-15 years long struggle involving more than 200 requests to each President, each PM, different Ministers, Senators including so called Overseas Pakistanis Foundation. I never got any acknowledgement from any quarter let alone any consideration. Today I feel I was fool struggling for a non-issue rather than raising my voice for casting of my vote which today appears the only single remedy for putting the derailed country back on track.
According to simple reading of un-detailed news item this voting in the forthcoming elections, due to technical and perhaps for logistic reason, will only be in ten countries. Though the names of these countries are not mentioned in the initial news item, it is presumed these are European countries where mostly live dual nationals. If one seriously takes note of debate during the last two years it will be found that the whole emphasis is on the dual nationals, to please them and to ensure them that their rights are protected. No one talked about those Pakistani origins residing in countries other than those 16-countries having dual nationality mutual agreements with Pakistan who today hold only one Passport viz foreign Passport where they reside.
I don’t remember exactly but if my memories are not misguiding me in this old age, it was the second half of 80s. Mr. Justice ® Sardar Mohammad Iqbal was the first Honourable Ombudsman of Pakistan who according to once the most serious Daily of our’s “so far unmatched for” ombudsman. He proved himself a true Ombudsman truly believing the universal doctrine “principles of natural justice”. As with blessing of God there was a true ombudsman, simultaneously by good luck then there existed no “jamhuriat ka hussan”, nor existed then the “abundance good governance”. Today for filing a complaint for example on issue of non issuance of a cheque book, one cannot file a complaint with our Banking Mohtasib unless he has first given a notice to the Bank concerned “solve my problem within 45 days otherwise I will go to Banking Mohtasib”. It will take 45 days plus 2-3 months in process of complaint. Mr. Justice Sardar Iqbal was rightly termed by the prestigious Daily as unmatched for. One mid night some Chinese transit passengers stranded at Karachi Airport telephoned Justice ® Sardar Iqbal. Justice Iqbal knowing well he was an ombudsman turned his bedroom table as his camp office and picked up the telephone provided to him on peoples expense for such purposes. Within half an hour he delivered justice and the passengers, who would otherwise miss their flight, timely departed.
It was “Qarz Utaro” time. I was then working abroad. That evening Ijazul Haq was to address the Pakistanis living there by raising emotions to take out from the pockets for Qaraz Utaro, the next morning the President of Philippines was coming to that country to address his countrymen there and deliver them keys of houses the Philippines government had constructed for its nationals working abroad. It be remembered the Philippines Government was then and today economically much weaker than Pakistan. This Qaraz Uttaro leader stayed in the Inter Continental Hotel there which was the most luxurious hotel there then. When I addressed letter to the editor how shameful it was that a leader was appealing for Qaraz Utaro but this leader himself was staying in posh hotel which money, had he and his leader Nawaz Sharif been real honest for the country, he would have contributed towards Qarz Uttaro. When my view was published Ijazul Haq clarified through the Editor that he stayed at his own expense. While Pakistanis working abroad will cast their votes in ten countries only, the nationals of same poor Philippines are casting their votes all over the world where their embassies exist. While in our case it is argued that in the Middle East countries special permission is needed, Philippines are casting their votes in Middle East too. Knowing well the harsh conditions of work in Middle East, realizing if one of its nationals is working on a main road, one is working in desert, one had difficult to get a two three hours leave, the Philippines government has arranged for these nationals to easily afford themselves to cast their votes from April 13 until May 13, 2013.
As is the practice most of the schemes are designed in the name of Overseas Pakistanis but actual benefit of which is for vested interests, Duty Free Shops introduced an Advance Booking Scheme. Under it an Overseas Pakistani was facilitated to book an item in advance before his arrival in Pakistan so on arrival delivery of the ordered item could be affected rather than he found the item was out of stock. As in this voting right, due to similar technical reason this facility was allowed to Pakistanis residing in Saudi Arabia only with the tag the same to be extended to other places later. Knowing well there existed a true Forum which delivered true justice without any discrimination, really free of cost justice without summoning the complainant on high travel expense and under principles of natural justice I raised the issue with the Federal Ombudsman. My argument was that the scheme was discriminatory. My complaint was before a man sitting on the chair of justice who disagreeing with T&T stand that the complainant had signed “I agree to terms & condition which included no responsibility if the telegram could not be delivered” ordered refund of Rs. 2.11 charged for the non delivered telegram. During Justice ® Sardar Iqbal’s tenure I must had filed more than 150 complaints mostly on topics of overseas Pakistanis, in 80-90% to the best of my memories I got relief from that God fearing man assigned the duty of delivering justice. To my memories almost the same standard remained during his successor Mr. Justice Aslam Riaz which later after 1990, I could not even dream of that standard.
The discriminatory advance booking scheme immediately was shelved. As a long standing Overseas Pakistani, I cannot today even think of voting right in selected countries as a discrimination, No, not at all. It is good, praise worthy for ECP, I can’t dare.