It has been six years since I have been an expat.

They say you get used to it after a while.

I’d say six years can qualify as a while.

I still miss Pakistan like you miss a part of your soul. Like you’ve left a person behind. I was born there, grew up there, I still have friends and family there. In the past six years I have seen many countries including Hong Kong and Yemen, and have met and spoken to many expat families who have successfully integrated and assimilated in those alien cultures. There was a family from Mardan who loved Yemen and even though spoke fluent Pashto amongst each other, but wouldn’t give up their lives in Sana’a despite the insanity it currently is going through.

I met a Norwegian woman in Hong Kong who loved the place more than she loved Norway. Once spoke to a Pakistani family who lived in Saudi Arabia for decades in the same house and didn’t want to come back until the company that the father worked for threw them out. Then I met a power couple who traveled all across the world due to their jobs. They were very happy doing that.

I would listen to their stories in wonder. How do they do it? How do they manage to love these alien cultures as their own? How do they manage their homesickness? How do they learn to love strange languages, different food, unknown streets? How do nomads learn to love their lives?

Every time I make social or political commentary about Pakistan, I get to hear a very strange kind of accusation from opponents/dissidents. It has nothing to do with my argument; it has nothing to do with their argument; it has nothing to do with any angle or cursor of the issue at hand.

“You’re an expat. What do you know?”

I can’t go around explaining to all these people what Pakistan has meant to me over the twenty five years that I did live there. I can’t go around explaining what I go through every day as an expat. Maybe there are expats out there who do feel that Pakistan is an easy disconnection for them - but not for me - and many others like me, who love Pakistan and their hearts ache that they can’t go back. A lot of us are away from Pakistan not out of happy choices or just because we couldn’t like bun kebabs anymore. We are here because of circumstances and if we had the power to turn things around in Pakistan, we would.

It is also important to note, at this juncture, that soon after these ‘judgments’ about being an expat have been been passed, you will soon receive a call or an email or a message from the same brothers and sisters wondering if you could get them a job for them somewhere ‘abroad’. Irony lives.

Expats also contribute to Pakistan’s economy by purchasing and selling property and sending and receiving foreign remittances. Some expats successfully manage businesses in multiple countries; some expats are abroad temporarily.

What I am unable to understand is that how to do expats lose the right to comment on situations that they feel strongly about? And if the comment is in some way sensible or insensible, how does the expatriate status reflect on it? Yes, they may not be facing the bullet directly in a no-go area in Karachi; yes they may not be direct victims of an acid attack or a bomb threat - but by that logic, no one should comment on those situations except the dead or the directly attacked.

Why are we so happy to take away someone’s right to comment on a situation? An argument may or may not be accepted or rejected on the basis of its own merit - whether or not the person is an expat or waiting to be one is irrelevant to the merit of the argument. 

My love for my country is not bound by geography. It is not a hard concept to understand even if you aren't an expat yourself. It is a hard situation to comprehend however if you are an intolerant bigot.