By YesPakistan.com Staff Writer
Migration has been a constant
in the history of Pakistan. From its inception, its people have been moving
in migratory waves. This migration of people started with the moving of millions
of people from India into Pakistan when the two nations gained their independence
from British colonial rule. These Muslims moved to Pakistan in hopes of a better
life, not just economically but socially and religiously as well.
As the population in Pakistan
swelled with the movement of people from south to north, the masses also started
an internal migration from the rural areas to the urban. As with the first migrants,
these people also came with the hope of a better life.
Between 1951 and 1981, the
urban population quadrupled. The annual urban growth rate during the 1950s and
1960s was more than 5 percent. This figure dropped slightly in the 1970s to
4.4 percent. Between 1980 and early 1994, it averaged about 4.6 percent. By
early 1994, about 32 percent of all Pakistanis lived in urban areas, with 13
percent of the total population living in three cities of over 1 million inhabitants
each--Lahore, Faisalabad, and Karachi.
The key reason for the migration
of rural dwellers to urban centres has been the limited opportunity for economic
advancement and mobility in rural areas. Much of this stagnation has been caused
by the firmly entrenched feudal practices of landlords in the countryside. They
tend to wield an inordinate amount of economic and political control over their
The urban migrant is almost
invariably male. Although he has moved to the city, in practice he retains his
ties with his village, and his rights there are acknowledged long after his
departure. At first, the migration is frequently seen as a temporary expedient,
a way to purchase land or pay off a debt. Typically, the migrant sends part
of his earnings to the family he left behind and returns to the village to work
at peak agricultural seasons. Even married migrants usually leave their families
in the village when they first migrate. The decision to bring wife and children
to the city is thus a milestone in the migration process.
The next wave of migration
has then been the move from urban centres in Pakistan to urban centres overseas,
especially the Middle East. The Middle East, with its vast oil wealth, has provided
many opportunities for overseas labourers to work and earn a living building
and maintaining infrastructure in various Arab states, especially in the Persian
The migration to the Gulf
began in the 1970s. Pakistan had a severe balance of payments deficit and so
as a way of dealing with this deficit, the government of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto
encouraged both skilled and unskilled men to work in the Persian Gulf countries.
The government set up a program under the Ministry of Labour, Manpower, and
Overseas Pakistanis to regulate this migration. With the construction boom in
the Gulf states at that time, labour jobs were plentiful and Pakistani men were
more than willing to go.
By the mid-1980s, when this
temporary migration was at its height, there were an estimated 2 million Pakistanis
in the Persian Gulf states making up the largest group of foreign workers. These
men were remitting more than US$3 billion every year to Pakistan. At its peak,
this money accounted for almost half of Pakistan's foreign-exchange earnings.
By 1990, new employment opportunities were decreasing, and the 1990-91 Persian
Gulf War forced many workers to return quickly to Pakistan. Workers have only
slowly returned to the Gulf since the war ended.
The majority of migrant
workers are working-class men who travel alone leaving their wives and children
behind. These men are willing to sacrifice years with their families for what
they see as their only chance to escape poverty in a society with limited upward
mobility. Families generally use the overseas earnings for consumer goods rather
than investing in industry. The wage earner typically returns after five to
ten years to live at home.
Although this migration
has had little effect on Pakistan demographically, it has affected its social
fabric. While a man is away from his family, his wife often assumes responsibility
for many day-to-day business transactions that are considered the province of
men. For the women involved, therefore, there has been a significant change
in social role. Psychologists point out that many migrant workers in the Middle
East are profoundly affected. They tend to feel a sense of social isolation,
culture shock, and are depressed by the harsh working conditions in these countries.
They also suffer from a sense of disorientation resulting from the sudden acquisition
of relative wealth and from the guilt associated with leaving their families.
Date/Time Last Modified: 6/18/2002 8:06:28 AM
miranda : 11/8/2005 2:01:35 PM
thanks that the kind of info i need for my book report
haseeb ch: 2/13/2006 12:50:07 PM
Thanks a lot! i really needed that information for my assignment. Thanks again.
sehrish: 11/7/2006 12:16:15 PM
good and useful article 4 students and provides all factors as well as impacts of migration
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