Overseas Pakistanis ( Urdu : بیرون ملک مقیم پاکستانی ‎) refers to Pakistani people who live outside of Pakistan . These include citizens that have migrated to another country as well as people born abroad of Pakistani descent. According to the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development , approximately 7.6 million Pakistanis live abroad, with the vast majority, nearly 4 million, residing in the Middle East . [4] The second largest community, at around 1.5 million, live in the United Kingdom . According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs , Pakistan has the 6th largest diaspora in the world. [18] In 2014–2015, overseas Pakistanis sent remittances amounting to 1928 billion (US$18 billion), which translates into a year-on-year increase of 16.5% according to data released by the State Bank of Pakistan . [5] [6] [107] [8]


The term Overseas Pakistani is officially recognised by the Government of Pakistan . The term refers to Pakistani citizens who have not resided in Pakistan for a specified period (for purpose of income tax) and people born abroad who are of Pakistani descent.

National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis

The National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis, or NICOP, is a Computerized National Identity Card issued to workers , emigrants , citizens , or Pakistanis holding dual nationality . NICOP was conceived by NADRA in 2002 as a project of mutual resolve between the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation, the Ministry of Labour & Manpower , and the Ministry of Interior . All NICOP holders are registered into the NADRA database to provide authenticity of the individual and visa-free entry into Pakistan.

Pakistan Origin Card

The Pakistan Origin Card, or POC, is issued by embassy to people of Pakistani origin living abroad. [13] POC are not issued to those with dual nationalities. [48]

Emigration from Pakistan

Emigration from the territories that now constitute Pakistan began as early as 2000 BC.


The presence of Harappan merchants in Mesopotamia from the Indus Valley Civilization is suggested by various forms of glyptic evidence. A recently discovered Mesopotamian cylinder seal inscription reveals that an interpreter from Mehluna was present during the Akkadian period. Several Indus scripted seals have also been discovered in excavations. [48]

Middle ages

During the 10th century, Arabic chronicles mention tribes coming in contact with Baloch settlers. [53] The majority of Baloch settlers originated from the Makran coast and settled in what is today Oman to form part of the Bedoon community. [54] Many of them worked in various trades including barbers, fan operators and shopkeepers. Some were even drafted as soldiers for the army of the Iman of Oman . [48] A small population of Muslim clergy from Punjab, Kashmir and Sindh settled in Mecca by the 14th century in order to aid travelers from the region making the journey for Hajj and to also aid in the expansion of Islam throughout the Indus Valley and its tributaries. Bankers and merchants from southern Punjab ( Multan ) and northern Sindh ( Shikarpur ) were present in Safavid Persia during the 15th century where they lived along with Jews and Armenians. [48] [48] Pashtun traders arrived by boat in Batticaloa , Sri Lanka as early as the 15th century. [59] [60] The Mukkuvar locals established an alliance with the Pashtun traders, enlisting their help to fend off incursions from rivals in the north. The traders were rewarded through marriages, and settled in Eravur . [59] Their settlement may have been deliberate, so as to form a buffer against future invasions from the north. [60] When Arab and Persian merchants expanded maritime trade routes in the 16th century, Sindh became fully integrated into the inter-Asian trade network. This led to increased trade and navigational interactions between Sindhi merchants and Arab/Persian merchants. Sindh also entertained independent commercial relations with East Asia and Southeast Asia, in particular with the Kedah Sultanate on the Malay Peninsula . [61]

Colonial era (1842-1947)

After the fall of Sindh in 1842 and Punjab in 1845, much of the territory was now under rule of the British Empire . From 1842 to 1857, a small number of immigrants from Punjab, Sindh and Kashmir began arriving in the British Isles as employees of the British East India Company , typically as lashkars and sailors in British port cities. [63] [64] [65] After the establishment of the British Empire in 1857, Baloch and Pashtuns along with Punjabis, Sindhis and Kashmiris continued coming to Britain as seamen, traders, students, domestic workers, cricketers, political officials and visitors. A small number of them settled in the region. [66] Many influential members of the Pakistan Movement would spend a considerable amount of time in Britain and Europe who studied at major British institutions, including Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah . Between 1860 and 1930 camel caravans worked in Outback Australia which included Pashtun , Punjabi , Baloch and Sindhi men as well as others from Kashmir . [67] By 1900, Punjabis and Pashtuns began migrating to other parts of the British Empire. Many were veterans of the British Army , but included a small migrant population who were legally considered British subjects . Pashtun migrants opted for the British Trucial States , where the British used their subjects as valuable human resource in running the administration. British Columbia became a destination for many Punjabi migrants as agents of the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Hudson's Bay Company were guaranteeing jobs for them between 1902 and 1905. However, many Punjabi migrants returned due to racism and curtailing migration of non-whites by the Canadian government . Others sought opportunities by moving to the United States , particularly Yuba City, California . Poor wages and working conditions convinced Punjabi workers to pool their resources, lease land and grow their own crops, thereby establishing themselves in the newly budding farming economy of northern California. [68]

Post independence

1947 to 1970

Emigration from Pakistan was relatively small between 1947 and 1970. The rapid industrialization process of Pakistan during the 1950s and 1960s coupled with the introduction of modern agricultural practices pushed out surplus labor leading to mass rural to urban migration, primarily to Karachi . During this time period, the majority of Pakistanis who went abroad considered themselves to be "sojourners", who left to earn money abroad but not to settle, or were students who intended to return to Pakistan when their degree programs were completed. By 1971, no more than 900,000 Pakistanis lived abroad with the majority residing in the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia . In 1959, small numbers of Pakistanis were found to be working in Bahrain, Kuwait and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf. By 1960, the Pakistani community in Bahrain numbered 2200 while almost half of the population in Kuwait comprised non-nationals, and of them a small number came from Pakistan. Pakistan was already the single most important source of non-Arab expatriate labor in the Kuwait Oil Company (representing about 19% of the workforce) and trailed only Americans among those working for Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia, who represented 6% of the workforce.

The first mass migration of Pakistanis began in 1965 during the construction of Mangla Dam in Azad Jammu & Kashmir . Over 280 villages around Mirpur and Dadyal were submerged, which lead to the displacement of over 110,000 people from the region. During the same period, the British government were actively seeking people from abroad to work in industrial towns in north-west England who were suffering from worker shortages. Thus many worker permits for Britain were awarded to the displaced population of Mirpur who were eligible for work. [69] Close to 50,000 Pakistanis from Mirpur emigrated to Northern England between 1965 and 1970. [70] [71]

1971 to present

The availability of large scale labor force from Pakistan owed to a combination of economic, social and institutional factors at home. By 1970, Pakistan was passing through a serious economic and political crisis which eventually led to the secession of East Pakistan in 1971. The rapid economic development of the 1950s and 1960s could not be sustained by 1970 and a wave of nationalization of business and industry was unfolding under Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto . This led to slower large scale industrialization due to a new wave of industrial unrest and disaffection between industrialists and Bhutto's government which favored nationalization of banking, large scale trading and industry. Rural to urban migration into Karachi slowed down during the 1970s and 80s and was substituted by a rising wave of international migration to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait or Libya. The profile of the work force and their places of origin simply followed the established patterns internal migration routes. These included people from NWFP , northern Punjab (Potohar Plateau), the "Seraiki belt" in southern Punjab and the hill-tracts of Azad Jammu & Kashmir. Institutionally, a network of information chains to seek work, and the channels for remitting money to families back in Pakistan had already existed. The majority of migrants were young males who would seek work abroad while families would remain back in Pakistan. These channels soon expanded and adapted themselves to new requirements and conditions. During the 1960s and 1970s, the remaining Pakistani Jewish community of 2000 began emigrating to Israel and settled in Ramla . [72]

Today over 7.6 million Pakistanis live abroad, with an estimated 4 million Pakistanis in the Persian Gulf region. The expatriate labor force in the Persian Gulf has, however, followed what might be called a "circulating work force" pattern. Workers come in, work for a few years during which they periodically visit Pakistan for short or long breaks, and finally return permanently. Overseas Pakistanis are the second largest source of foreign exchange remittances to Pakistan after exports and over the last several years, foreign exchange remittances have maintained a steady rising trend. 670 billion (US$6.4 billion) in 2007-08, 817 billion (US$7.7 billion) in 2008-09 and 985 billion (US$9.3 billion) in 2009-10. [107] By 2012-13, remittances stood at 1362 billion (US$13 billion). [6] [107] In 2014-15, overseas Pakistanis sent remittances amounting to 1928 billion (US$18 billion). [5] [6] [107] [8] Since 2004, the Government of Pakistan has recognized the importance of overseas Pakistanis and their contribution to the national economy . Its largest effort is facilitating returning overseas Pakistanis with aims at providing better services through improved facilities at airports and setting up suitable schemes in housing , education and health care .

Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis

The Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis is a ministry of the Government of Pakistan that oversees matters concerning Overseas Pakistanis and human resource development in Pakistan. Pir Syed Sadaruddin Shah Rashidi is the current minister. [51] The ministry was created in July 2013, from a merger of the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis [51] [51] and the Ministry of Human Resource Development. [51] which was established in 2008. The Bureau of Emigration & Overseas Employment appoints Community Welfare Attaches around the world to establish and maintain close contacts with the foreign firms who are in need of manpower for their ventures in different countries, and to aid in the welfare of overseas Pakistanis. CWAs are currently located in: [51]

Overseas Pakistanis Foundation

The Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) was established July 1979, with its head office at Islamabad and regional offices in all provincial capitals as well as Mirpur , Azad Jammu and Kashmir . The objective of the OPF is to advance the welfare of the Pakistanis working or settled abroad and their families in Pakistan by identifying their problems and contributing to their solutions. These include health care , financial aid, foreign exchange remittance and education . [51]

OPF schools

The Overseas Pakistanis Foundation operates more than 24 schools in across Pakistan, offering preschool , primary , secondary and preparation for local SSC and the international GCE education. Most of its students opt to take the GCE O and AS/A Levels organized by the CIE of UCLES . It also has established international projects in the United Arab Emirates , Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom . The head office of the OPF school is located in Islamabad , administering the system through Six main regional offices:

Relations with Pakistan

Millions of Pakistanis immigrated to various countries during the 1970s and 1980s. Unlike European immigrants who settled permanently in the new world, many Pakistanis who immigrated considered themselves to be "sojourners", who left to earn money abroad but not to settle, or were students who intended to return to Pakistan when their degree programs were completed.

From the Middle East

Since the independence of Pakistan in 1947, there has been a large population of Pakistanis in the Middle East, mainly in Saudi Arabia . However, since the 1990s, many of them have opted for countries like the United Arab Emirates , Bahrain and Kuwait . Pakistanis who immigrated to these countries or who were born in these countries tended to stay close to Pakistani culture. Many "International Pakistan Schools" were opened to cater for the large population and for them to study under the same boards as Pakistani students at home. As a result, those returning to Pakistan from the Middle East have found it much easier to adjust. Pakistanis from the Middle East can be found throughout the country today and these people are usually fluent in Urdu , English and their regional language. They are most likely involved in trading , media , telecommunications , banking , and aviation .

From Europe

Since the 1990s, a large number of Pakistanis who settled in Europe have been returning to Pakistan. Those who were born in Europe have also maintained close links to Pakistani culture. However, there are some instances of children not learning Urdu while growing up or being accustomed to Pakistani culture. As a result, those who return from Europe do experience "culture shocks". Those returning from Norway and Denmark are mostly settled around Kharian in the Punjab province, whereas those from northern England ( Bradford ) can be found in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (mainly Mirpur ), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and upper Punjab ( Jhelum , Chakwal , Attock and Rawalpindi ).

From America

Very small numbers of Pakistanis from Canada and the United States have historically returned to Pakistan. Although they frequently visit Pakistan during the summer and winter vacations, permanent settlement had not been popular amongst them until 2001. Since the September 11 terrorist attacks and the recent Financial crisis of 2007–2010 , a large number of Pakistani Americans and Pakistani Canadians have begun to return. The population of returning expatriates from the Americas, who tend to have excellent credentials, has increased significantly due to new job opportunities in Pakistan. [51] Many from North America are found in the major cities of Pakistan, mainly Karachi , Lahore , Rawalpindi / Islamabad , Faisalabad and Peshawar . Large populations can also be found in smaller cities and towns, such as Sialkot . Those returning from North America have tended to find jobs easier in Pakistan and are involved in a wide scope of fields, primarily healthcare , engineering , law , banking , information technology , mass media and industry .

Population by country

Population of Pakistanis abroad, by country, according to the 2013-14 Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development Yearbook 2013-14 [78]

Continent / country Article Overseas Pakistani population
Asia 4,027,883
Saudi Arabia Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia 1,900,000
United Arab Emirates Pakistanis in the United Arab Emirates 1,200,000
Bangladesh Stranded Pakistanis in Bangladesh
Pakistanis in Bangladesh
Oman Pakistanis in Oman 235,000
Qatar Pakistanis in Qatar 115,000
Bahrain Pakistanis in Bahrain 112,000
Kuwait Pakistanis in Kuwait 117,544
Malaysia Pakistanis in Malaysia 110,000 [51]
Afghanistan Pakistanis in Afghanistan 70,000
Thailand Pakistanis in Thailand 65,500
Iran Pakistanis in Iran 18,500
Hong Kong Pakistanis in Hong Kong 18,042
China Pakistanis in China 14,000
Jordan Pakistanis in Jordan 12,000
South Korea Pakistanis in South Korea 10,423 [51]
Japan Pakistanis in Japan 10,299 [3]
Iraq Pakistanis in Iraq 4000
Singapore Pakistanis in Singapore 4000
Yemen Pakistanis in Yemen 3000
Philippines Pakistanis in Philippines 2973
Kazakhstan Pakistanis in Kazakhstan 1500
Kyrgyzstan Pakistanis in Kyrgyzstan 1300
Israel Pakistanis in Israel 1000
India Pakistanis in India 761
Indonesia Pakistanis in Indonesia 550
Mongolia Pakistanis in Mongolia 525 [2]
Lebanon Pakistanis in Lebanon 500
Brunei Pakistanis in Brunei 150
Azerbaijan Pakistanis in Azerbaijan 379
Syria Pakistanis in Syria 350
Turkmenistan Pakistanis in Turkmenistan , Beluch 243
Sri Lanka Pakistanis in Sri Lanka 200
Uzbekistan Pakistanis in Uzbekistan 141
Tajikistan Pakistanis in Tajikistan 122
Maldives Pakistanis in Maldives 92
Nepal Pakistanis in Nepal 86
Vietnam Pakistanis in Vietnam 63
Myanmar Pakistanis in Burma 36
Palestine Pakistanis in Palestine 26
North Korea Pakistanis in North Korea 10
Europe 2,255,000 [7]
United Kingdom British Pakistanis ,
Pakistanis in London
1,510,836 [7]
England : 1,360,000 (2010) [28]
Scotland : 90,000 (2010) [29]
Wales : 9,000 (2010) [30]
Northern Ireland : 1,000 (2010) [31]
France Pakistanis in France 165,000
Italy Pakistanis in Italy 110,000
Greece Pakistanis in Greece 90,000
Spain Pakistanis in Spain 81,413 [32]
Germany Pakistanis in Germany 72,000
Norway Pakistani Norwegians 42,000 [33]
Netherlands Pakistanis in the Netherlands 40,000 [4]
Denmark Pakistanis in Denmark 35,000
Belgium Pakistanis in Belgium 14,500
Ireland Pakistanis in Ireland 12,000
Sweden Pakistani Swedish 8500
Austria Pakistanis in Austria 5000
Switzerland Pakistanis in Switzerland 4575
Cyprus Pakistanis in Cyprus 3000
Russia Pakistanis in Russia 2815
Portugal Pakistanis in Portugal 2474
Ukraine Pakistanis in Ukraine 2000
Finland Pakistanis in Finland 1700
Romania Pakistanis in Romania 581
Luxembourg Pakistanis in Turkey 500
Czech Republic Pakistanis in Czech Republic 466
Turkey Pakistanis in Turkey 400
Poland Pakistanis in Poland 361
Hungary Pakistanis in Hungary 154
Estonia Pakistani Estonia 150
Latvia Pakistani Latvia 150
Lithuania Pakistani Lithuania 150
Belarus Pakistani Belarus 150
Albania Pakistanis in Albania 100
Bulgaria Pakistanis in Bulgaria 100
Slovakia Pakistanis in Slovakia 50
Iceland Pakistanis in Iceland 65
Slovenia Pakistanis in Slovenia 29
Serbia Pakistanis in Serbia 15
Moldova Pakistanis in Moldova 14
Kosovo Pakistanis in Kosovo 14
Republic of Macedonia Pakistanis in Macedonia 14
Bosnia and Herzegovina Pakistanis in Bosnia and Herzegovina 12
Croatia Pakistanis in Croatia 2
Americas 1,204,474
United States Pakistani American 518,769 [4] [2]
Canada Pakistani Canadian 155,310
Cuba Pakistani Cuban 908
Chile Pakistanis in Chile 800
Peru Pakistanis in Peru 600
Dominican Republic Pakistanis in Dominican Republic 300
Brazil Pakistanis in Brazil 200
Mexico Pakistanis in Mexico 200
Argentina Pakistanis in Argentina 42
Panama Pakistanis in Panama 10
Bolivia Pakistanis in Bolivia 7
Colombia Pakistanis in Colombia 7
Paraguay Pakistanis in Paraguay 5
Suriname Pakistanis in Suriname 5
Africa 123,081
South Africa Pakistanis in South Africa 100,000
Libya Pakistanis in Libya 12,000
Mozambique Pakistanis in Mozambique 9000 [11]
Uganda Pakistanis in Uganda 3800
Kenya Pakistanis in Kenya 3562
Tanzania Pakistanis in Tanzania 3000
Egypt Pakistanis in Egypt 2000
Sudan Pakistanis in Sudan 1200
Zimbabwe Pakistanis in Zimbabwe 449
Malawi Pakistanis in Malawi 413
Zambia Pakistanis in Zambia 350
Ethiopia Pakistanis in Ethiopia 290
Mauritius Pakistanis in Mauritius 289
Djibouti Pakistanis in Djibouti 200
Botswana Pakistanis in Botswana 160
Ghana Pakistanis in Ghana 152
Rwanda Pakistanis in Rwanda 120
Congo Pakistanis in Malawi 115
Nigeria Pakistanis in Nigeria 92
Eritrea Pakistanis in Eritrea 80
Morocco Pakistanis in Morocco 78
Angola Pakistanis in Angola 73
Sierra Leone Pakistanis in Sierra Leone 70
Tunisia Pakistanis in Tunisia 65
Algeria Pakistanis in Algeria 60
Mauritania Pakistanis in Mauritania 25
Senegal Pakistanis in Senegal 87
Madagascar Pakistanis in Madagascar 66
Gambia Pakistanis in Gambia 63
Ivory Coast Pakistanis in Ivory Coast 22
Niger Pakistanis in Niger 22
Comoros Pakistanis in Comoros 15
Seychelles Pakistanis in Seychelles 13
Guinea Bissau Pakistanis in Guinea Bissau 5
Oceania 64,277
Australia Pakistani Australian 61,913 [50]
New Zealand Pakistani New Zealander 9,000 [4]
Total overseas Pakistani population 8,803,226

See also

Diasporas of Pakistani ethnic groups