Massive Brain Drain Leaves Pakistan Intellectually Barren

Massive Brain Drain Leaves Pakistan Intellectually Barren
The government of Pakistan has been left red-faced as the tall claims of ensuring economic prosperity and equal employment opportunities made by those at the helm of country's affairs are mired into dust due to the rampant human capital flight as highly educated and skilled youth leave for foreign lands in search of promising professional careers and quality of life.

According to the Bureau of Immigration and Overseas Employment, the numbers of people leaving Larkana, Sindh and Pakistan in the last five years is 10,429,169,760 and 2,168,339 respectively.

The number of people opting out of country in search of better opportunities in other countries in the last five years is 2,168,339. The yearly break up of the data from 2019 to 2023 is 62,5876 (2019), 22,5213 (2020), 288,280 (2021), 832,339 (2022), 196,631 (2023) respectively.

Highly qualified people, from 2019 to 2023 upto March are 5525 (2019), 5121 (2020), 7396 (2021),17976 (2022) and 5661 (2023) respectively; and highly skilled people from 2019 to 2023 consist of the following numbers -  9899 (2019), 3745 (2020), 6563 (2021), 20,865 (2022) and 10,450 (2023) respectively-  left Pakistan to pursue economic prosperity.

Larkana is politically fertile land, but economically poor hence with looming economic insecurity and disillusionment locals are left with no option but to make escape plans.

Dr.Ghulam Mustafa Bughio hailing from a humble background, and a small village New Gudd in Taluka Bakrani, district Larkana. He did his Bachelor's in Pharmacy in 2002 from the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Sindh, Jamshoro.

After graduating in Pharmacy, he worked in different multinational pharmaceutical industries for more than 7 years. In 2009, he was selected for MS/ PhD programme in Molecular Medicine from Dr.Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine (PCMD), International Center for Chemical and Biological Science, Karachi. In MS/PhD programme, he joined a research group of Computational Medicinal Chemistry.

His proposed research work in Ph.D thesis, required proper supervision and skills in the Computational Modeling and Simulations of memrane - proteins, especially icon channels responsible for neuronal transmission.Thus it necessitated to look for the DAAD Fellowship Program enabling him an opportunity to join research group abroad subsequently honing professional development required for the research work.

His academic talent brought him DAAD sandwich fellowship, and he left for Germany in June 2012. He joined a group of Molecular and Cellular Modeling (MCM) academically anchored by Prof.Dr.Rebecca Wade at Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HIT gGmbH), University of Heidelberg, Germany.

He rapidly learned and implemented highly advanced computational approaches to study the molecular mechanism of membrane -proteins and their mechanism of selectivity towards drug-metabolism. As the DAAD sandwich program was limited to two years funding hence he was supposed to come back to Pakistan and complete his PhD here in Pakistan.

But, with his curiosity for learning and capacity building of computational approach to study, he approached to DAAD to offer him 3 years full  PhD from Germany and because of his academic excellence, he was granted the scholarship.

He enrolled in a Ph.D program in School of Life Science, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Heidelberg. During his Phd, he published several research papers in international peer-reviewed journals, both as first and co-author. He defended his Ph.D thesis titled :Molecular Modeling and Simulation of protein, membrane and ligand interactions, on 13-12-2017 with Magna Cum laude under the supervision of Prof.Rebecca Wade in the Molecular and Cellular Modeling (MCM) group at the Heidelberg Institute of Theoretical studies.

Currently, he is working as a senior researcher in the Protein Chemie, at the Center for Protein Assembly, Technical University Munich, Garching Forschung -Zentrum. While doing research, he attended several International conferences, and workshops, and presented his work. He also obtained the best poster presentation award and an outstanding scientist of the Year during his Ph.D.

Crowned with Ph.D. from Germany, and several research papers under his belt, he could be an asset to the people of his area and the country as well. Inspiration for the former and an asset for the latter in terms of scientific research and knowledge for his country.

But lack of research, the oppressive environment in research centers coupled with racism, a lack of institution-building in terms of scientific development, and to top it all, no patronage for the intellectual establishment called scientists and technical experts, compelled him to leave the country.

Another senior lecturer in the Cadet College Larkana is making an escape plan. Upon inquiry he disclosed that there was no light at the end of the tunnel in terms of promising professional careers for his five children.This dilemma is dictating his role as a father to migrate to a developed destination so that his children may have chances of bright future there.

There is no second opinion about the infrastructural patronage in terms of road connectivity and healthcare facilities to Larkana by the PPP-led provincial government. However, industrial growth which generates multiple jobs is a far cry. Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari along with Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah inaugurated the newly-established Sindh Industrial Trading Estate near Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Medical University on Airport Road in Arija, district Larkana in January 2021, which had been established at a cost of Rs1,366.420 million and consisted of 94 plots for industries and 20 for commercial purposes where establishment of agro-based industries would be encouraged.

Nothing has moved beyond the construction of administrative offices at the site being discussed. The employment opportunities are only in the public sector which are squeezing with every passing day leaving the educated and skilled people to leave their home towns far earning sources of survival outside the country.

‘Desire to Live in Pakistan: Stay or Leave?’ authored by Dr. Durre Nayab, published in November, 2022 by the Pakistan Institute of Development of Economics (PIDE), Basics Survey, asked the respondents if they were given a chance to leave Pakistan would they like to do, and if yes what were the reason(s) for it.

The results showed that 40% and 36% urban and rural Pakistanis respectively harboured a desire to leave for the destination countries.

The findings of the survey in question suggested that among the four provinces, the desire to leave the country is highest in Balochistan (42%), followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Sindh. The desire is lowest in Punjab but not by much. People in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), showed the highest proportion of those wanting to leave the country, followed Gilgit Baltistan. Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) has the lowest proportion of those wanting to leave the country- reaffirming that where people have promising prospects, they don't want to migrate to other countries.

This survey enlightened the reader that the desire to leave the country is much higher in males than females, across all age groups.It also illustrated that the youngest age group (15-24) males, 62%  have the strongest desire to leave their homeland followed by the weakest among those who have never been to school, which is 22%.

The PIDE Basics Survey dived deeper into the reasons and came up with economic reasons to be the most dominant driving force behind brain drain. Besides, better opportunities, more respect, gender equality and more security are some of the push factors draining best brains. It maintained that a higher level of income is the major motivation, but Sindh and Balochistan contrasted by having the desire for more respect when compared to the urge for equal opportunities. This also highlighted the role of racial justice.

The least developed and developing countries typically experience brain drain more often than developed countries as they offer lower standards of living and thus find it more difficult to retain or attract highly skilled professionals.

The causes of brain dain identified by Ion llaso are disparity in working conditions, level of pay, or the potential for career development between the source and destination countries, pennury, lack of economic growth, discrimination, political repression and a lack of freedom, environmental disasters, and the effects of climate change, military or civil conflict.

Dr.Ali Gul Kushik, assistant professor, Department of Economics, University of Sindh, Jamshoro believes that lack of institutional framework for research, lack of funding for scientific research, and pay and packages disproportionate to one’s knowledge and experience, predatory private job market, political instability, and lack of institutional patronage for the highly educated and skilled people are some of the factors fueling brain drain in Pakistan.

He also placed the blame at the door of global political spectrum saying that it promotes open economy, trade and flight of human resources from the developing countries to the developed states.The professor opined that the rich countries have developed double standards when it comes to embracing the best brains and the average workers i.e easy and attractive compensation for the former, and the red tape and less incentives for the latter.

The declining industrial activity in the country can be measured from the data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the textile sector – once the pride of Pakistan – is one of the worst hit and has witnessed more than 14.8% decline in exports.

On January 10 2023, Dawn quoted a joint press conference held by the textile associations of Pakistan which sounded alarm bells after having announced that around 7 million people working in the textile sector and related industries lost their jobs since last summer. Moribund economy, partial or complete shutdown of various industrial units and subsequent unemployment, political instability, and deadlock over 9th IMF Review causing economic meltdown, inflation mandated by the Fund policies created a combination where we saw the highest ever talent drain that as high as 832,339 people left this pure land in 2022.

However, brain drain has some advantages like receiving the remittances sent by the overseas employees and returning of those leaving the country come back with international exposure, training and learning , and innovation ultimately revolutionisng their national institutions with new knowledge.

Unfortunately, in our case, it is not happening in a desired direction.

As per the Dawn editorial "Declining Remimitances" workers remittances dropped by 13% to $22.7billion during the 10-month period between July and April of this fiscal year as compared to the last one.

This declining remittances sent by overseas Pakistanis speaks of declining trust in national political and economic institutions. Whereas those leaving the country never return hence innovative ideas associated with returning to the native country remain a wishful thinking so far.

According to Ion IIaso there are some negative effects of brain drain (but are not limited to) the  loss of highly educated and those highly skilled individuals leads to the loss of socio-economic potentials for the country facing flight of human capital, a loss of tax generation ultimately underming public welfare programs, shortage of manpower in key sectors like health, education, industry and more.

However, under economic pressure, a great many people are even taking a perilous path of illegal entry into prosperous countries. Reportedly, in February 2023, 60 people, including 28 Pakistanis, perished when a wooden sailing boat carrying migrants from several countries capsized in Italy.

Shahida Raza, sports athlete was one among the victims.This speaks volumes about the economic impoverishment of the vast majority of those tucked into perpetual poverty.

Dr.Ghulam Mustafa Bughio aforementioned scientist shared a video in which one could see the scientists' four children leaving this pure land for Germany with tears trickling down their cheeks while waving goodbye to their uncle, aunty, and grandparents.

Were there a sense of social security, equal employment opportunities, and decent working environment in Pakistan, the scientist would not have opted for immigration. Leaving one’s country, under any circumstances, is one of the most difficult times to face.














The writer is a freelance contributor. He may reached at Nazeer tweets at @nazeerarijo.