The Pakistani Community

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The migration of people from Pakistan to Britain in the 1950s and the 1960s, was not something new, but part of a history of migration that began hundreds of years earlier.

People from the Indian sub-continent have been travelling to Britain from as early as the 17th century. Pakistanis are now the third largest ethnic minority group in Britain. However, very few details are known about their socio-economic position. The settlement of Pakistanis in the county of Gloucestershire is not direct migration from Pakistan, but from other regions in Britain.

It is relevant to point out that migration of Pakistanis into Britain was to fill unskilled textile jobs in Yorkshire and Lancashire Textile Mills. Those Pakistanis who entered Britain before the Commonwealth Immigration Act in 1962, were predominantly economically active men. The so-called 'voucher system' gave the opportunity for those who were already in Britain to arrange jobs and vouchers for their relatives and friends. The 1962 Act had a decisive effect on the pattern of migration. It turned a movement of workers, many of whom who were probably interested in staying temporarily, into a permanent immigration of families. The voucher system reinforced kinship and friendship bonds and therefore, helped the pattern of settlement.

Pakistanis and other ethnic minority groups suffered a lot and are still suffering as a result of negative attitudes by some people in the white community.

The migration of Pakistanis to Britain started slowly and peaked in 1961 and 1962. However, some former seamen of Pakistani origin, started settling in Britain in the early 1940s, leaving ports and moving inland.

Two other factors contributed to the migration of Pakistanis into Britain and then Gloucestershire The first was the partition of India, when Pakistan (east and west) was created and the second was the construction of the Mangla Dam in Pakistan, in the early 1960s.

p100 - At the time of the partition in 1947, a large-scale movement of population took place between India and Pakistan. Various surveys have shown that many of these displaced people came to Britain, thus becoming migrants twice.

It is estimated that about 100,000 people were displaced from Mangla Dam area in the early 1960s. The villagers were given compensation, some in the form of land in Panjab while others received cash and settled in various areas of Pakistan. But some who had friends or relatives in Britain used the compensation money to come to Britain and to find work. In 1950s travel agents established offices in Karachi, Rawalpindi and other cities including Mirpur to help would-be migrants.

It was estimated in 1951 that there were 5000 Pakistanis (including Bangladeshis) in Britain. In 1961 the estimated number of Pakistanis reached 24,900 and by 1966 it had grown to 119,700. However, there was a drastic decline in the number of immigrants coming as workers.

It is worth mentioning here, that a significant number of Pakistanis entered Britain and then Gloucestershire under the B voucher scheme. This voucher allowed people with certain special qualifications or skills, like doctors, teachers, engineers and scientists with at least two years employment to come to Britain. Between 1965 and 1967 almost 2,600 B vouchers were issued to Pakistanis.

p101 - Pakistani migrants filled a gap for labour mostly in the unskilled sectors and poorly paid jobs, available as a result of the reconstruction and expansion of the British economy after 1945. In the 1960s and 1970s the myth of return was quite common. However, more recently this myth among Pakistanis has diminished because of economic circumstances and the future of their children, which most of them see as being in Britain.

According to the 1991 census, out of the almost 55 million population of Great Britain, 477,000 were of Pakistani origin. Of these, about 450,000 lived in England, just over 21,000 in Scotland and almost 6,000 in Wales. Out of these about 227 lived in Gloucestershire, 4546 in the south west and 4727 in west Midlands.

More than half of the Pakistani community in 1996 was British born (estimated to be 66% in 2001) and almost all others have British nationality. Therefore Pakistanis in Britain can no longer be considered as "immigrants" or "aliens", "foreigners "or "outsiders", they are British Pakistanis. Analysis shows that Pakistanis are not evenly distributed throughout Britain. Around 87% of Pakistanis live in four regions - the South East (30%), West Midlands (21%), Yorkshire and Humberside (20%) and the North East(16%). In 1996 the largest number of Pakistanis lived in Birmingham followed by Bradford.

The Pakistani community in Gloucester, as described earlier, is not made up of people who migrated directly from Pakistan, but people who came as a second or third stop from the other regions of Britain.

Unlike other regional cities, the Pakistani population of Gloucestershire is well scattered between inner city areas and the outskirts of Gloucester, Cheltenham, Stroud and Tewkesbury. The majority of Pakistanis are owner occupiers and are well settled and integrated.

    On the night before Eid it is traditional to put Mehndi (henna) on hands and feet. A similar thing is done for weddings.

During Ramadan, Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink from sunrise until sunset. Families often break the fast with a generaous meal after sunset in their home.

To fit in with the muslim calendar Ramadan is held 10 days earlier each year.

Nationally the educational achievements of Pakistanis, present a mixed picture. For example in Waltham Forest, the average GCSE points scored by Pakistani pupils in 1994/1995 were higher than white pupils, and it was above average for the borough. However, in Birmingham the Pakistani pupils scored significantly lower than white pupils. Other research surveys have shown that Pakistani children in London had significantly higher "performance scores" than some other ethnic groups. The situation in London and Waltham Forest is possibly due the class differences which may affect their performances. A similar pattern can be seen in Gloucestershire where parents are better educated and a good proportion are self-employed. They are then able to contribute more to the education of their children.

There is an increase in the number of Pakistani pupils in Gloucestershire who are staying on in education after the age of 16. The proportion of Pakistanis in Higher Education is increasing. The self-employment statistics also show an increase. If the efforts of parents and educational institutions continue, the achievement levels of the Pakistani community will increase.

The representation of Pakistanis in Politics and public bodies is likely to increase slowly. The traditional family system is the joint and/or extended family. The joint family normally consists of a group of 3 or more generations with a complex set of mutual obligations. They usually pool their expenditure and income. In cases where some family members are working in other areas or abroad, they still try to maintain family obligations and hold together as a joint family.

The Pakistani community in Gloucestershire originated from various geographical areas of the Pakistan. They are from Punjab and Azad Kashmir. The language links are very strong among its members and religious links and facilities are shared with the Gujarati Muslim community. The social links are very strong among the community. Being smaller in numbers makes them able to socialise more and teach their children the culture and language.

A Pakistani social and cultural organisation is functioning in Gloucester. This group was established in 1991. Some festival celebrations and events to mark days of national importance have been arranged by this organisation. Urdu language classes are also held regularly for all age groups. The group does not have its own premises and operates from various venues which are hired on a temporary basis.

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