Overseas Pakistanis foundation Achievements and initiatives of overseas Pakistanis foundation (OPF)

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Azmat Khan
There has been enough talk by the governmentover the past couple of years regarding revolutionizing government organizations through institutional reforms to make them public-friendly and service-oriented. Although there is no short-cut to achieving such courageous aims, there has been impatience among not only the general population of the country but also among some segments of PTI’s own voters to see the Naya Pakistan happen in tangible terms. However, the comprehensive diagnostic of government departments being conducted by the present government is complete and at many departments structural changes which aim at increasing their efficiency and effectiveness are already taking roots. One such government department where government’s reform efforts are showing early results is Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF), a department of Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis & Human Resource Development (OP & HRD). 2. Realizing that economic development and reduction in poverty are two of the foremost challenges faced by the country and both are strongly associated with the size of remittances, especially in Pakistan’s case, the Prime Minister Imran Khan, right in the early days of his premiership had expressed his government’s desire to take necessary steps to restore the confidence of Overseas Pakistanis. 3. Other than being concerned about the well-being of their familiesand properties back home, the Overseas Pakistanis, most of whom reside and work in the Middle East, face a number of work-related issues such as non-payment of wages, delayed salaries, non-issuance of release letters by previous employers for change of visa/sponsorship, lengthy procedures of issuance of NICOP, POC, passports, lack of basic necessities at the workplace, repatriation of workers, assistance in crisis etc. OPF fits in at the service end of the multilayered expatriation process as it looks after the interests of Overseas Pakistanis working abroad and their dependents / family members living in Pakistan. 4. In order to help expats fulfill their dreams of having their own house in a safe and secure environment with simple access to all the significant amenities, OPF has effectively finished seven OPF Housing Schemes. Development works at OPF Greens Lahore, Foundation’s latest housing project for Overseas Pakistanis has been completed, whereas,development works at OPF Town Lahore, a housing project specifically designed for low-paid Overseas Pakistanis, is underway.  Besides, another housing project namely OPF Country Homes & Apartments has been launched in Islamabad.Besides these, OPF has initiated the planning / designing for construction of Apartment Buildings at 58 kanalsland and multipurpose commercial complex at 8.17 kanals land at OPF Housing Scheme, Phase-I,Rawind Road, Lahore.All the above mentioned projects have been launched / executed after PTI’s government came into power. Under the capable guidance and supervision of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on OP & HRD, Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, OPF has successfully recovered more than 150 kanals of state land in Lahore and Islamabad valuing Rs. 1.20 Billion.Furthermore, in order to safeguard ownership rights of Overseas Pakistanis, digitization and automation of land records of all OPF Housing Schemes is in process. 5. In order to ensure that Overseas Pakistanis can own properties in their motherland without any fear of being fraudulently alienated from their ownership rights and to save them of lengthy legal battles, OPF also accelerated its efforts, during the present government’s regime, for drafting of a bill for “Establishment of dedicated Fast Track Courts for Overseas Pakistanis” for its approval by the Parliament. 6. A one-window machine-readable passport facility has recently been established at OPF Head Office, Islamabad, in addition to the existing OPF-NADRA facilitation center for fast-track provision ofpassports for Overseas Pakistanis and their family members. Furthermore, a dedicated Overseas Facilitation Desk has been established in the ICT Police Public Facilitation Center in F-6, Islamabad for early resolution of complaints of Overseas Pakistanis and their families. This facilitation will ultimately, be extended to the provincial capitals and other major cities across the country. 7. OPF also provides monetary help to families of those Overseas Pakistanis who accidently lose their lives in host countries or sustain injuries that render them incapacitated. Dispensing more than Rs. 2.37 Billion, OPF has so far provided financial assistance to the families of 11,612 such Overseas Pakistanis. For speedy transportation of inbound remains of deceased Overseas Pakistanis from airports to their respective hometowns, OPF has signed MoUs with Edhi Foundation and Al-Khidmat Foundation. 8. On the direction of Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on OP & HRD, a 24/7 ‘COVID Emergency Cell’ has been established at OPF Head Office to provide immediate assistance to the Overseas Pakistanis stranded abroad due to COVID-19 pandemic. The Emergency Cell has so far addressed queries and repatriation issues of Overseas Pakistanis received through 15,684 phone calls and 20,301 messages approximately. Stepping up to challenges created by the pandemic, an amount of Rs. 20.0 Million was donated by OPF to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for provision of food items for Pakistani students stranded in Wuhan, China. On the directives of Special Assistant to Prime Minister on OP &HRD, an additional amount of Rs. 10 Million was also provided to Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) for subsidizing airfare for the two special flights which repatriated 550 Pakistani students from Wuhan. 9. In order to facilitate the returning Overseas Pakistanis in terms of  skill development for their subsequent re-employment/reintegration in Pakistan’s social and economic fabric for gainful employment, OPF has recently signed an MoUwith GIZ, German development agency, which has agreed to provide a grant of 3.13 Million Euro for this purpose. 10. It is also worth mentioning that OPF, in the last two years, has recovered Rs.1527.78 Million from the overseas employers of 557returned or deceased Overseas Pakistanis which was disbursed amongsttheir families.Under its Financial Assistance Program, OPF has disbursed an amount of Rs.224.7 Million amongst 571 destitute families of Overseas Pakistanis. Furthermore, OPF has also created a dedicated Overseas Pakistanis Support Fund with a seed capital amounting to Rs. 20 Million for provision of support to destitute Overseas Pakistanis who are stranded/detained abroad with very meager financial resources. 11. In the field of education, OPF is running a dedicated scholarship program for the children of Overseas Pakistanis which is open to intermediate to master level students studying in colleges/universities across the country. Due to the extensive outreach campaign run through the social media during the last two years, OPF has disbursed scholarships amounting to Rs. 18.47 Million amongst the children of Overseas Pakistanis. 12. Besides, OPF is also running a network of 25 educational institutions (4 colleges, 20 secondary schools, and 1 primary school) which is spread throughout the country including Azad Jammu and Kashmir. Children of Overseas Pakistanis have the first right of admission at all OPF Educational Institutions where they can also avail 50% discount in the tuition fees. In the last two years, OPF has subsidized Rs. 220 Million in lieu of feediscounts for children of expatriates. 13. There is a huge learning gap between children of rural and urban areas due to shortage of highly qualified subject specialist teachers in public sector educational institutions located in far flung areas. In order to address this issue, OPF has implemented its well-thought-out E-learning Program (live online lectures) at its far-located schools. During the tenure of the present government, the program has already been extended to Pakistan International School Riyadh and Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed, Pakistani Community School, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Since dearth of teachers having sufficient experience in teaching Pakistani curriculum is an equally challenging predicament for Pakistani community schools abroad, the impact of OPF’s program is far-reachingand greater. 14. In order to make OPF an organization compliant to international standards of quality management systems, OPF has recently achieved ISO 9001: 2015 certification. This certification will not only ensure transparency and efficiency but will also enhance the trust of our Overseas Pakistanis. In order to educate Overseas Pakistanis about the services being rendered by OPF, an extensive social media campaign (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) highlighting OPF’s se15. Under the capable leadership of Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on OP & HRD, OPF has also set-up a Reconciliatory Council Project having representation from revenue, police and local judiciary. Over the last two years, the Foundationhas taken various new initiatives for facilitation of Overseas Pakistanis such as internship program for the newly graduated children of Overseas Pakistanis, establishment of a dedicated Complaint Management System, revamping of OPF facilitation desks at all international airports in Pakistan, establishment of passport office at OPF Head Office and establishment of dedicated Overseas Facilitation Desk at ICT Police Public Facilitation Center. 16. While there are visible signs that the efforts of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s team in revolutionizing public sector institutions are beginning to bear fruit for which they must be applauded, the credit must also go to the management teams of organizations like OPF which are identifying opportunities for improvement and the frontline employees who are rendering services at the extremely crucial execution level. rvices and recent accomplishments is being undertaken which has achieved its objective of educating Overseas Pakistanis and has got a very encouraging response from Overseas Pakistanis. Similarly, a video documentary highlighting OPF’s services is also being displayed for the information of Overseas Pakistanis at all offices of OPF including its airport desks. 15. Under the capable leadership of Sayed Zulfiqar Abbas Bukhari,