Growing Pakistani Diaspora in North America

The US government granted 16,320 immigrant visas to Pakistani nationals. Another 11,861 immigrant visas were given to Pakistanis by the Canadian government in the same period.  The total number of new Pakistani immigrants admitted as permanent residents in North America in 2023 was 28,181. 

There are currently over a million Pakistanis living in North America. These include 687,942 Pakistanis in America as of 2020, according to the US Census. And 303,260 Pakistanis residing in Canada as of 2021, according to Statistics Canada. There are nearly 6 million people from India living in North America, according to government data. 

Pakistani Diaspora in North America. Source: US, Canadian Governments

Non-immigrant visas issued annually by the US government to Pakistani passport holders have almost doubled over the last 5 years, from 40,679 in 2018 to 80,852 in 2023, according to Gallup Pakistan. Meanwhile, immigrant visas issued annually to Pakistani citizens have increased by about 60% in the last 5 years, from 10,114 in 2018 to 16,320 in 2023. 

Pakistani immigrants make up the 25th largest group in America, far behind immigrants from Mexico, India and China. In Canada, Pakistani immigrants are the 5th largest group of foreign-born residents. 

Top 8 Source Countries of Foreign Students in US. Source: IIE OpenD...

Pakistani student enrollment in America's institutions of higher learning rose 16% last year, outpacing the record 12% growth in the overall number of international students hosted by the country. This puts Pakistan among eight sources in the top 20 countries with the largest increases in US enrollment. India saw the biggest increase at 35%, followed by Ghana 32%, Bangladesh and Nepal at 28% each, Pakistan 16%, Colombia 13%, Italy 10% and Spain 5%. 

"During 2022-2023, there were 10,164 Pakistani students, compared to 8,772 in the previous year, indicating an impressive 16% increase," according to IIE Open Doors Report for 2022-23. There has been an overall 33% increase in enrollment of Pakistani students in US colleges and universities. 

The average annual household earnings of Pakistani-Americans are $149,178, according to the latest update issued by the United States Census Bureau for 2022. The update estimates the median income of 132,958 Pakistani-American households at $106,281. Average is calculated by adding up all incomes and dividing it by total number of households. Median income level divides the top 50% of families from the bottom 50%.  It shows that Pakistani-American household incomes are roughly at par with the Asian-American households' median of $104,646 and average of $149,363. The highest income ethnic group in the US are Asian Indian households with a median of $152,341 and average of $197,732.  Asians are significantly richer than Whites (mean $78,636, average $112,415) and African Americans (mean $52,238, average $76,888). The word "alone" in the labels in the following table excludes mixed race households. 

South Asian Americans Households. Source: US Census Update 2022

Asian Americans are the best educated racial group in the United States. From 2012 to 2022, the percentage of adults age 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or more increased from 34.5% to 41.8% for the non-Hispanic White population; from 21.2% to 27.6% for the Black population; from 51% to 59.3% for the Asian population; and from 14.5% to 20.9% for the Hispanic population, according to the US Census
Educational Attainment By Racial Groups (Source: US Census)

Among Asian Americans, the Indians (three quarters) have the highest educational attainment with at least a bachelor's degree, followed by Koreans and Pakistanis (about 60%), followed by the rest.  

Asian American Educational Achievement by Countries of Origin. Sour...

Asians, including Chinese/Taiwanese, Indians and Pakistanis, tend to be concentrated in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Technology) fields where incomes are generally much higher than in other occupations. 

As of 2019, there were 35,000 Pakistan-born STEM workers in the United States, according to the American Immigration Council. They included information technologists, software developers, engineers and scientists. These figures do not include medical doctors and healthcare workers. 

Foreign-Born STEM Workers in America. Source: American Immigration ...

Foreign-born workers make up a growing share of America's STEM workforce. As of 2019, foreign-born workers made up almost a quarter of all STEM workers in the country. This is a significant increase from 2000, when just 16.4% of the country’s STEM workforce was foreign-born. Between 2000 and 2019, the overall number of STEM workers in the United States increased by 44.5 percent, from 7.5 million to more than 10.8 million, according to American Immigration Council

India and Pakistan Among Top 10 Countries Receiving US Immigrant Vi...

India topped the top 10 list of foreign-born STEM workers with 721,000, followed by China (273,000), Mexico (119,000), Vietnam (100,000), Philippines (87,000), South Korea (64,000), Canada (56,000), Taiwan (53,000), Russia (45,000) and Pakistan (35,000).  Enormous number of Indian STEM workers in the United States can at least partly be attributed to the fact that India's "body shops" have mastered the art of gaming the US temporary work visa system. Last year, Indian nationals sponsored by "body shops" like Cognizant, Infosys and TCS received 166,384 H1B visas for work in the United States. By comparison, only 1,107 Pakistanis were granted H1B visas in Fiscal Year 2022.  In addition to H1B work visas, 9,300 Indian nationals and 7,200 Pakistani nationals received immigrant visas to settle in the United States as permanent residents in 2021. 

Doctor Brain Drain. Source: Statista

In addition to 35,000 Pakistan-born STEM workers, there were 12,454 Pakistan-born and Pakistan-trained medical doctors practicing in the United States, making the South Asian nation the second largest source of medical doctors in America.  Pakistan produced 157,102 STEM graduates last year, putting it among the world's top dozen or so countries. About 43,000 of these graduates are in information technology (IT).

H1B Visas Issued in Pakistan. Source:

Every year, applicants sponsored by Indian body shops claim the lion's share of H1B visas. In 2022, Indians received 166,384 new H1B visas, accounting for nearly three quarters of all such visas issued by the US government. The figures reported as India IT exports are in fact the wages earned by millions of Indian H1B workers in the United States.  

Many developing countries are experiencing brain drain. But India is losing its best brightest at a much faster rate than others. Some call it "The Great Indian Brain Drain". This is the reason why Indians in the United States are the best educated and the highest earning group.  In a recently published book titled "The Other One Percent", authors Sanjoy Chakravorty, Devesh Kapur and Nirvikar Singh explain this phenomenon. 

They write that the vast majority of Indians who migrate to the United States are from privileged backgrounds in terms of caste, class and education. They have gone through “a triple selection” process that gave Indian-Americans a boost over typically poor and uneducated immigrants who come to the United States from other countries. The first two selections took place in India. As explained in the book: “The social system created a small pool of persons to receive higher education, who were urban, educated, and from high/dominant castes.” India’s examination system then selected individuals for specialized training in technical fields that also happened to be in demand in the United States. Kapur estimated that the India-American population is nine times more educated than individuals in the home country. Here's an excerpt of it:

"A major focus of this book is on demonstrating and understanding the multiple selections that shaped the Indian-American population. These selections applied not only to education (that, in terms of attaining college degrees, made the India-born population three times more educated than that in the host country and nine times more educated than the home country’s population) but also to class and caste (favoring, by large margins, the “upper” and dominant classes and castes of India), profession (engineering, IT, and health care), and both the region of origin (Gujarati and Punjabi were overrepresented in the first two phases, and Telugu and Tamil in the third phase) and region of settlement (in specific metropolitan clusters in and around New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Houston and Dallas). In addition to direct selection is what we call the “selection+” advantage: we suggest that group characteristics or norms, such as the fact that Indians had the highest propensity to live in married-couple households of any major immigrant group, added to the advantages of being an already selected group. We show, in particular, how family norms were useful in keeping the Indian-American poverty level low (under 5 percent) and family income high (the highest in the United States). It is also likely that the selection process enabled, without explicitly intending to, the generation of high levels of social capital (through linguistic/ professional networks such as Gujarati entrepreneurs in the hotel industry, Telugu and Tamil workers in the IT industry, IIT engineers, Malayali nurses, Bengali academics, etc.)"

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Comment by Riaz Haq on June 28, 2024 at 8:47am

The establishment of the National Center for Quantum Computing could be a critical step – if Pakistan can overcome economic constraints and a significant brain drain.
By Zohaib Altaf and Nimrah Javed
June 27, 2024

Pakistan is poised to make significant strides in the field of quantum technology with the establishment of its National Center for Quantum Computing, as announced by Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal. This initiative marks a critical step toward overcoming the global quantum divide – if Pakistan can overcome the associated challenges, including economic constraints and a significant brain drain.

Globally, the quantum technology market is expected to burgeon, reaching an estimated $106 billion by 2040. This growth is fueled by robust investments, with private investors pouring $1.5 billion into quantum startups in 2023 alone. Public sector investment has also been significant, surpassing $38 billion globally. The United States, European Union, and Canada collectively committed over $3 billion in 2022. China leads the way with a staggering $15.3 billion total investment.

Despite these global advancements, a significant quantum divideexists, as the majority of countries lack national quantum initiatives. This divide creates substantial disparities in technological capabilities and economic opportunities. Countries without robust quantum technology infrastructures are at risk of falling behind, facing increased cyber vulnerabilities, and struggling to compete in the global economy.

For Pakistan, this divide is particularly concerning. Kaspersky Lab has ranked Pakistan among the most unprotected countriesin terms of cybersecurity, highlighting the urgent need for improved defenses as countries venture into the quantum technology domain.

India’s ambitious quantum initiatives further underscore the challenges facing Pakistan. India’s investment in quantum technology not only bolsters its technological capabilities but also poses a strategic challenge to Pakistan. India has also announced its National Quantum Mission, investing approximately $740 million over eight years. In addition, India is also cooperating with the United States, Australia, and Russia on quantum technology, forging strategic partnerships to enhance its capabilities and position in the global quantum landscape.

The Indian Army’s emphasis on integrating quantum computinginto its defense systems highlights the potential for a significant shift in the regional balance of power. Pakistani Army Chief Gen. Asim Munir has acknowledged these developments, emphasizing the importance of Pakistan’s investment in quantum computingto maintain its strategic equilibrium.

However, Pakistan’s efforts to establish a successful quantum initiative are hindered by several challenges. The most pressing issue is the ongoing brain drain. From 1971 to 2022, over 6 million highly qualified and skilled professionals emigrated from Pakistan, including doctors, engineers, and IT experts. In 2022 alone, 92,000 highly educated professionals left the country, with nearly 200,000 people emigrating in the first three months of 2023. This trend poses a substantial challenge to Pakistan’s efforts to build and sustain a robust quantum technology sector.

In a country where illiteracy rates are high and educational standards are low, the mass exodus of young and educated professionals is particularly troubling. According to the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, 67 percent of Pakistani youths want to leave the country. This statistic underscores the difficulty of retaining talent and bringing back professionals from abroad to work on quantum initiatives. The challenge is further compounded by Pakistan’s economic situation. The country is currently under an IMF program, which imposes stringent financial constraints and increases the risks associated with investing in high-cost technologies like quantum computing.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 1, 2024 at 10:01pm

Photo Depicts Potential Nuclear Mission for Pakistan’s JF-17 Aircraft

Implications For Pakistan’s Nuclear Forces
Given the lack of publicly available information from the government of Pakistan about its nuclear forces, we must rely on these types of analyses to understand the status of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. From these observations, it is likely that Pakistan has made significant progress toward equipping its JF-17s with the capability to eventually supplement–and possibly replace–the nuclear strike role of the aging Mirage III/Vs. Additionally, it is evident that Pakistan has redesigned the Ra’ad-II ALCM, but little information has been confirmed about the purpose or capabilities associated with this new design. It is also unclear whether either of the Ra’ad systems has been deployed, but this may only be a question of when rather than if. Once deployed, it remains to be seen if Pakistan will also continue to retain a nuclear gravity bomb capability for its aircraft or transition to stand-off cruise missiles only.

This all takes place in the larger backdrop of an ongoing and deepening nuclear arms competition in the region. Pakistan is reportedly pursuing the capability to deliver multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRVs) with its Ababeel land-based missile, while India is also pursuing MIRV technology for its Agni-P and Agni-5 missiles, and China has deployed MIRVs on a number of its DF-5B ICBMs and DF-41. In addition to the Ra’ad ALCM, Pakistan has also been developing other short-range, lower-yield nuclear-capable systems, such as the NASR (Hatf-9) ballistic missile, that are designed to counter conventional military threats from India below the strategic nuclear level.

These developments, along with heightened tensions in the region, have raised concerns about accelerated arms racing as well as new risks for escalation in a potential conflict between India and Pakistan, especially since India is also increasing the size and improving the capabilities of its nuclear arsenal. This context presents an even greater need for transparency and understanding about the quality and intentions behind states’ nuclear programs to prevent mischaracterization and misunderstanding, as well as to avoid worst-case force buildup reactions.

Comment by Riaz Haq on July 2, 2024 at 8:33am

Pakistan’s JF-17 Gets Nuclear Capability? US Report Says PAF Arms 'Thunder' With RAAD Nuke Missile

by Ritu Sharma

Pakistan has consistently maintained ambiguity when it comes to its nuclear weapons program.

The JF-17 fighter jet, jointly developed by China and Pakistan, has long been rumored to have been assigned a nuclear mission. A recently released photograph confirms that the fighter jets manufactured in Pakistan have indeed been armed with tactical nuclear missiles.


India’s Air-Launched Nuclear Deterrence
Fighter bombers were India’s first and only nuclear strike force until 2003 when the country deployed its first nuclear-capable ballistic missile. Despite developing land and sea-based nuclear deterrence, aircraft-delivered nuclear weapons are important to India’s nuclear posture.

It is speculated that three or four squadrons of Mirage 2000H and Jaguar IS/IB aircraft have been assigned nuclear strike missions against Pakistan and China.

The Mirage 2000 H fighter bombers are deployed at Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. Mirage-2000 is a French-made fighter jet. France used its Mirages in a nuclear strike role for three decades until its retirement in 2018. The Indian Mirage 2000 H has undergone upgrades to extend its service life.

The IAF also operates five squadrons of the Jaguar (named Shamsher or Sword of Justice). The Jaguar, jointly designed by France and Britain, was nuclear capable when deployed by these countries. It got a Darin III precision-attack and avionics upgrade in 2016.

Observers of Indian nuclear forces have estimated that aircraft with both conventional and nuclear missions conduct operations from the Nal (Bikaner) Air Force Station and the Ambala and Gorakhpur Air Force bases. Satellites, too, are likely to serve both a civil and military role.

However, these two aircraft are getting old. India’s latest acquisition is the 36 Dassault Rafale aircraft from France. The Rafale is also used in nuclear mission roles in the French Air Force, and there have been speculations that the aircraft might be converted to a nuclear role in India as well.


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