Pakistani Diaspora in Barcelona- Their efforts and contribution

By: SYED SHERAZ SHAH

According to my information through Wikipedia, in an eminent Pakistan based english newspaper and the Social Media, Ana Ballesteros, moved to India for PhD Research for two years (2001_2002) when 9/11 clearly marked a change.

Islam came to the forefront of international academic and non-academic interests, often for the wrong reasons. The heading Published in Pakistan’s Top Pakistani english newspaper, “How the Pakistani Diaspora in Barcelona established itself in the heart of the City” draw the attention of everyone living abroad and especially in Spain.

In author’s case, living in the very city and belong to the same diaspora it drew my attention as well. Ana in her article narrated the story in a quite impressive manner but still there is a lot to talk about this diaspora in current political and social scenario.
Instead of repeating the same facts as mentioned by Ana, my best effort would be to expand on it and shed light on the various aspects of the journey of the coal mining community in the 1970s, from mines to establishing successful supermarket chains.
It is important to note that this diaspora, which started off with a few people, now harbours about 60,000 members according to official and registered statistics. However, after adding the number of unregistered and family visa visitors in the last two years, the number has reached approximately 70,000, as per the records of the Pakistani embassy. This also includes those Pakistanis who are no longer considered Pakistani after receiving a Spanish nationality.

MEANS OF INCOME:

If we examine the Pakistani community in Barcelona, we find that at large, the means of earning is linked to personal businesses. Interestingly, the Pakistani diaspora, like others, did indeed face severe financial problems during Spain’s economic crisis, but it was able to confront those challenges head on, mainly because the families of a majority of the working class were residing in Pakistan, and so, here they lived in low rents, shared apartments and even split their kitchen expenses. Therefore with the lowest cheques available to them by the job office in terms of unemployment allowance they were able to sail through those hard times, while, on the other hand, the Latin American communities opted to return through various programs.

After shutting down their Construction companies, internet cafes, and the general stores where expenses were higher than earnings, the people residing in Barcelona preferred to work even at lower wages. Due to the lack of jobs in Barcelona, ​​hard-working Pakistanis associated themselves with the farming sector in the nearby city of Valencia to combat this period of economic hardship using physical services.

In the meantime a large number of them also turned to the taxi sector.
However, as the economic downturn came to an end, the business-minded portion of these people, owing to their experience, once again, turned to practicing business.
An example of this was the taxi sector itself, in which the total number of owners and employees in the crisis era was around 750, which has now risen to about 2500, half of whom are owners. Similarly, of on the other hand, small general stores were replaced into supermarkets and investments were made by Pakistanis in large stores like Condis, SUMA and Caprabo.

Mobile phones, and fast food businesses have made many Pakistanis economically strong. Growing influence of Pakistanis in the local market has also been acknowledged by the Chamber of Commerce when they selected candidates from amongst the Pakistanis.

SOCIAL EVENTS AND SOCIAL INTEGRATION:

If we observe the pakistanis living all across the world, it turns out that the major or perhaps only cause of migration to these regions is the economy, which mainly depends on the male of the family. That is the reason why, like other countries, the majority of Pakistanis in Spain are men and only 13% are women. In such a case, when your primary focus is earning a livelihood, the pace of social events and social integration is slow.

For a long time, social events in this society were limited to annual festivals like Eid and Ramadan iftar parties as well as some of the national days of Pakistan that were celebrated and were thus termed as Social Activities.

Although this process is slow, the good news is that it is moving forward. After the economic situation of the last few years stabilized, the arrival of women and children (families) from Pakistan brought a positive change, which was also reflected in the program of the Consulate General of Barcelona.

However, society still appears to be confused about the question of coexisting and merging together. It is worth mentioning here that the people of literature gave a new, unique and real introduction to social events by lifting them from Ramadan, Eid and national festivals. Poetry, publication of books, and Qadeer Khan’s Sufi singing was greatly admired and promoted. The editors of the local newspaper “Hum watan” that were associated with the pen, book, culture and journalism being awarded the “Pride of Performance” award by the Barcelona Government is a proof of this.

 

POLITICS:

Although Pakistan’s national sport is hockey, but the popularity that cricket and politics have as a most favourite game can hardly be compared to any other. Pakistani society has always held a strong ground in these fields. The political development of pakistanis in Spain is still in its early stages but it has had a few successes. One of which was the electing of a councillor directly in the local elections and in the past as well as the present, to have had two councillors be appointed by the party. At national level pakistanis have politically consolidated themselves in the right and left wing parties. Ciudadano’s and Socialist’s parties giving pakistani candidates tickets to the seats in provincial as well as national assembly is also acknowledged as a great success.

Although, if this political scenario is reviewed closely, then it is observed that apart from the many associations and federations at work, the wings of Pakistani political parties are also seen to be active in Barcelona. However, in my opinion, in accordance to the examples seen in Britain and Scandinavia, it is safe to say that for any major breakthrough one will have to wait for the second or third generation of this movement. And that too is only possible if the tendency of Pakistanis, after getting their Spanish passports, to migrate to the UK and other countries is considerably reduced.

SPORTS:

Sports are a sign of healthy activity in any society. And are essential in setting up positive character development among the youth. Although the most popular sport in Europe is football, how can the Pakistanis deny the importance of cricket? The journey of cricket in Spain is most interesting, starting from parking lots to officially approved grounds of the state and now having patronage from both the government and the ICC. With scores of teams and hundreds of players, the emergence of a national team of Spain for league matches and the local and European tournaments, with their reigns being in the hands of pakistanis should be considered a huge success, which is now being admitted by spanish organizations, newspapers and sponsors. We find it important to mention here that sports like kabaddi and volleyball are also organized every year with great interest.

Miss Ana Ballesteros’s Article covered many aspects of the Pakistani diaspora in Spain. There were but a few that I felt the need to add. Nevertheless, there are still many issues and aspects of the Pakistani diaspora that need to be addressed in this society.

Syed Sheraz Shah, MBA is renowned columnist based in Barcelona, short story writer and one of the main representatives of Pakistani community in Barcelona.

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