Dubai: The first meeting of the Overseas Pakistani Forum will be held in Dubai on Sunday to discuss the issues Pakistanis face while living abroad.
Dr Farooq Sattar, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis, will chair the forum which will be attended by government officials, diplomats, prominent community members and representatives of Pakistani social centres, associations and the business community.
"The theme of the forum's meeting is ‘Building a Positive Relationship with Overseas Pakistanis' and it will provide an opportunity to the overseas community to directly address their problems to the official concerned," said Javed Malek, Pakistan Ambassador At Large, who is based in Dubai.
He said the Overseas Pakistani Forum is a body established under the guidance of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who attaches special importance to the role of overseas Pakistanis and is therefore sending the Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis to chair the meeting.
"The forum will act as a bridge between the overseas Pakistani community and the Government of Pakistan," noted Malek, who is organising the programme.
He said there was a need to review the nature of the "one-sided" relationship between Pakistani expatriates and their government, and transform it into a "two-way partnership."
"Through this forum, we want to appreciate their role, addresses their issues and jointly evolve strategies that gives them a role in the nation-building programmes," he added.
Until recently, he said the role of Pakistani expatriates was limited to a source of foreign exchange remittance. But, in fact, they have a lot more to offer their country, "We need to device strategies to utilise their skills, expertise and experience for the development of our country," he added.
Malek said the forum is the first step to reaching out to this community, listening to them, and then evolving strategies that provide solutions to problems the country is facing.
The forum intends to advise on policies that affect the community when abroad as well as at home. Primary focus of the forum is on education, housing facilities and welfare.
"Similarly, we need to look at how we can offer incentives to returning residents, as well as providing skills to those workers that wish to go abroad to work, as we have a large pool of human resource and we intend to work with the host governments to train them according to the needs of the host countries," he added.
Malek who has been given the responsibility to improve Pakistan's image abroad, said that the forum would also discuss problems overseas Pakistani businessmen face.
"Many businessmen intend to invest in Pakistan but the lack of incentives and facilities prevents them from doing so. Through this forum, we also intend to work with Pakistani Ministry of Commerce and Investment to evolve strategies that address this issue," he added.