Is The Pakistani Diaspora In The West Doing Poorly?
A recent Dawn newspaper article entitled “Getting Ahead in the West” by British journalist Owen Bennet Jones suggests that Pakistanis in the US and the UK are doing poorly relative to their Indian counterparts. It builds this narrative using the example of 3 ministers of Indian origin and just one junior minister of Pakistani origin in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet. It also cites the example of the choice of Kamala Harris, who is seen as African-American in the US political context, on the Democratic presidential ticket headed by former Vice President Joseph R. Biden.
While it is true that the current British government has three ministers of Indian origin, it is also true that British Pakistanis Sajid Javid and Sayeeda Warsi held senior cabinet posts in recent British governments headed by Prime Ministers Teresa May and David Cameron.
In addition to cabinet memberships, British Pakistanis have been elected as mayors of several cities, including London. They also have over a dozen seats in the British and European parliaments.
Twelve British Pakistanis, including 5 women, have been elected members of parliament (MPs) in recent elections held in the United Kingdom, according to media reports. Seven of them are members of the Labor Party and three belong to the Conservative Party. This sets a new record with the increase of two MPs from the May 2012 elections that resulted in the election of 10 MPs of Pakistani origin. British Pakistanis make up 1.8% of the British population, about the same as their representation in the House of Commons. There are 15 British Indians in the UK parliament and they make up 2.3% of the UK population.
Upwardly Mobile Pakistani-Americans:
A recent study shows that Pakistani-Americans are among 5 most upwardly mobile groups in the United States. Other top most upwardly groups are Chinese-Americans from Hong Kong, Taiwan and People’s Republic of China and Indian-Americans.
Immigration to the United States continues to offer a route to escape poverty — if not for poor immigrants themselves, then for their sons, according to a study published by a team of economic historians at Princeton, Stanford and the University of California, Davis.
It is important to note that there are about 500,000 Pakistani-Americans, a fraction of about 3.2 million Indian-Americans in the United States.
Top 5 Upwardly Mobile Groups in America:
The study shows the adult outcomes of sons born in 1980 who grew up in poor families at about the 25th percentile of income distribution in the United States. Pakistani-American sons born in poor households are now at 59th percentile of income in the United States.
Sons of immigrants from Hong Kong in 25th percentile have the highest economic mobility are 64th percentile followed by China at 63rd, India at 62nd and Taiwan at 60th percentile. Sons of American born fathers are at 46th percentile, much lower than for the sons of immigrants. Only the sons of immigrants from the Caribbean island nations of Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica have lower mobility.
British Pakistani MPs and Peers:
In addition to the 12 British Pakistanis in the House of Commons, there are 8 members of the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament, bringing the total strength of British Pakistanis in the UK parliament to 20. Most of them are from very humble backgrounds in rural Pakistan. Majority of Pakistanis in the UK are from Mirpur and its surrounding villages in Azad Kashmir. They or their parents migrated to Britain when they were given compensation by Pakistani government for their land to make way for the building of the massive Mangla Dam after the signing of the Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan in 1960. Five of the twelve British Pakistani MPs in the new parliament are from Azad Kashmir.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan:
Last year saw the election of Sadiq Khan as mayor of London, making him the first Muslim mayor of a major western capital city. Mayor Sadiq Khan is also of Pakistani-origin. Khan’s father migrated to Britain in 1960s and worked as a London bus driver. Khan comes from a family of two generations of immigrants: His grandparents migrated from what is now India to the newly created state of Pakistan in 1947 and his parents migrated from Karachi to London in 1969. Sadiq Khan was born in London in 1970.
British Pakistanis’ Struggles:
While the British Pakistanis have made some headway in the public sector in their new home, they continue to face discrimination, particularly in the private sector. A 2016 study by the government’s Social Mobility Commission found that the “children of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin in Britain have outperformed other ethnic groups to achieve rapid improvements at every level of education, but are significantly less likely to be employed in managerial or professional jobs than their white counterparts”.
The study said that the “minority ethnic pupils (including Pakistanis) are outperforming white working class children in English tests throughout school, with white British teenagers coming bottom of the pile in the subject at GCSE level”.
Pakistani Doctors in the West:
Pakistani doctors make up the third largest source of practicing physicians and surgeons in the United States. Pakistan is also the second largest source of doctors of foreign origin serving in the United Kingdom, according to OECD. Indians make up 34% of the foreign doctors in Britain, followed by 11% from Pakistan.
Pakistani-Americans are among the top 5 groups in terms of upward economic mobility, according to a study by researchers at Princeton, Stanford and UC Davis. Other immigrant groups with high mobility in America include Chinese and Indians. It is important to note that there are about 500,000 Pakistani-Americans, a fraction of about 3.2 million Indian-Americans in the United States. British Pakistanis have achieved significant success in spite of their humble origins and discrimination they face in their adopted home. 12 of them serve as members of the House of Commons and 8 in the House of Lords. Mayor Sadiq Khan of London, the first Muslim leader of a major western capital, is the son of a London bus driver who migrated from Pakistan. British Pakistani children are outperforming their white working class peers in schools. British Pakistani doctors are the second largest population of doctors of foreign origin in the United Kingdom. The British Pakistanis are among the best of the Pakistani diaspora, or any diaspora, in the world. Pakistani-American have been described as “geniuses” by CNN analyst Van Jones.
The article originally published in South Asia Investor
The author is a Silicon Valley based Pakistani-American analyst and writer. He blogs at www.riazhaq.com and can be reached at @haqsmusings