'Non-resident Pakistanis should get voting rights'

Muscat - 

Non-resident Pakistanis too should be given voting rights, according to Rana Mashood Ahmed Khan, the deputy speaker of the provincial assembly of Punjab, Pakistan.

“Voting rights ought to be available to non-resident Pakistanis as we believe they have contributed a lot towards the country's development,” he said while speaking exclusively to Muscat Daily. Khan, who was in Muscat recently to sign an MoU with Sarfaraz LLC on tourism development, said the Punjab government has set up a committee to look into issues faced by Pakistanis living abroad for ten or more years.

“Overseas Pakistanis are equally important to us. So, if an expatriate from Punjab has an issue, he can seek help from this committee.” There are plans to appoint representatives of the committee in various countries.

Oman has about 220,000 Pakistanis who, according to Khan, contribute substantially to their country's development in the form of remittances.

He said Oman has immense investment opportunities in Punjab. “The province is rich in agriculture, construction, textiles, leather and other industries. We are also a country with years of experience in railways and can help Oman with its proposed rail network. A number of other business delegations from Pakistan will be visiting the sultanate soon.”

He said that investors from Germany, Turkey, Iran, China and even India were coming to Punjab province. “The investment climate in Punjab province is encouraging.”

He said that the elections next year will be a defining chapter for Pakistan, 'whose image has been tarnished'.

“There have been a lot of scandals that have done damage to our country. We have been American allies for a long time now. I think it's time that the foreign policy is changed and made more people-centric. People are fed up with load-shedding and poverty. These elections will witness a big change and parties with credibility among the masses will have a fair chance to win.”

Khan represents the Pakistan Muslim League-N, which runs the provincial government in Punjab and had formed the federal government from 1997 to 1999.

“If we look at our record, Pakistan's economy experienced the highest growth rate in its history under our rule. It was known as an Asian tiger. We were the only government that rejected foreign aid in 1997, had surplus electricity which was supplied to India.

“The situation has changed now. The recent International Monetary Fund's transparency report shows that Punjab is the only province where corruption has shown a downward trend.”

He said the Election Commission of Pakistan's decision to bar parliamentarians with dual citizenships from contesting the forthcoming elections was a harsh one.

“Why should only politicians be targeted? There are many bureaucrats, army personnel and businessmen holding dual nationalities. Why does a person not living in Pakistan lose the right to do something for this countrymen? The commission has to come up with something better. The people should decide who can serve them and who cannot.”

About the caretaker government setup, Khan said PML-N too was deliberating on names. “The names shall be decided soon. It will be made sure that the caretaker setup is in the best interest of people.”

He said the move to split South Punjab from Punjab to create new provinces will have a huge impact. “It is a political issue. It's unclear what the boundaries would be. We want new provinces of course, but after consultations and taking legal issues and people's opinions into consideration.”

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