Pakistan’s population explosion: Need for Urgent Action

Print

Pakistan’s population explosion:
Need for Urgent Action
Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar

People need food, water, shelter adequate facilities for health and education. Faced with the approaching storm of population growth combined with climate change, it is difficult to get these, therefore urgent action on emergency basis is the need of the hour.

The biggest issue in controlling population growth are lack of awareness and ignorance, combined with social pressure amongst the poor, especially in the rural areas of Pakistan. The people in villages think the more the children, the better because these children are considered as increasingly family work-force (rather than a liability).Health of the women is irrelevant .Many even consider birth control contrary to Islamic injunctions. Pakistan’s population is the highest in the region and one of the highest in the world. Pakistan has limited resources .Even the richest countries in the world cannot cope with the unlimited rise of population.

The government must give top priority to population control and change the mind-set of people .Bangladesh (the former East-Pakistan) had larger population than Pakistan (Former West Pakistan) but now has reduced its population considerably less than Pakistan. China succeeded in reducing population with one child-family policy under an authoritarian regime. It is not possible in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia used religious leaders for this programme and also trained women in family planning who visited women and achieved reasonable success.

But the most successful programme has been of Iran. It is most humane and effective rural Iran has experienced world history’s most reduction in birth-rate (total fertility declined from 6.5 to 1.6 births for women in 2012).The most amazing was the speed with which all this was achieved -the target set to be met by 2011 was already met 11 years earlier by 2000. Pakistan should study and follow the Iranian model.


Lt. Gen. (R) Mahmud Ahmad Akhtar

Iran evolved an integrated system involving clergy, and a comprehensive health network involving human and infra-structure resources. Clergy issued Fatwas that contraception was not inconsistent with Islamic tenets. Women were educated, trained employed as health workers to provide active service delivery in villages and towns where-ever the birth rate was high.

Married women were registered in local health facilities, encouraged to visit one providing facilities. Other health facilities like treatment for women diseases and for children were also provided. A system of comprehensive health-care with more emphasis on birth-control. If a child –bearing age woman failed to attend the health center once a year, the lady health worker visited her and provided domicile services, information, health-care etc.

Before getting married it is compulsory for Iranian-couples to qualify a course on birth control. This has also helped in population control .No policy on population control can succeed without empowering women –women have to be incharge of their bodies. The result is that in Iran –woman have high literacy rate and form a large work-force .In universities women even out-number “male-students. Rural women’s status has been raised .Iran offered family planning to over 90 percent of rural women. When women are educated, family planning, population control, prevention of diseases, health promotion succeeds-morbidities and mortalities are reduced –life-span is increased. In the Armed Forces it has been noted that these parameters are far better. In the officers class due to education while far worse in the lower ranks due to lack of education of women(wives).

Pakistan can follow the same model. Pakistan and Iran has the same cultural back-ground. Pakistan should bring the clergy together to break the myth that contraception and birth control is un-Islamic. At the same time Pakistan needs to invest in health infra-structure and provide sustainable family planning plans. For this purpose high priority has to be accorded to family planning program. It has to be integrated with primary care.

The key to success of Iran’s program was the effective way in which the information about the population problem and the Government’s policy was communicated to the people. Pakistan should also run a nation-wide effective awareness program on radio,T.V in Urdu and in local languages , make advertisements putting quotes and labels everywhere reaching out to rural people everywhere like festivals, carnivals, shrines, parks, sports, grounds- every public plac. Drama is also the most-effective way to convey the message. It is imperative that the problem is recognized and given due importance which is not being done. There is consistent talk of advantage of youth bulge. In fact youth bulge is not a boom but has become bust. There are nearly 25 million children out of school. More than 40% children are suffering from stunting jeopardizing not only their future but also of the Nation. Street crimes and addiction are rising up like rocket flight. There was a leader of a Religio-political party who was exhorting people to produce one billion Mujahids to capture the world. There is some talking of miracles coming out of knowledge economy –driverless cars-gene therapies etc. One has to adopt down the earth- realistic approach to solve the basic problems.

However much investment is made in controlling water and other scarcities, it will never be sufficient against the rising tide of population. It has been estimated that with the present rate of growth in 50 years the population would swell to 750 million.

If a population policy is not developed, announced and given priority economic policies are doomed to fail. The recent announcement of the chief justice of Supreme Court is to work for the population control is a step in the right direction. By following Iran’s model one can visualize tangible successful results if not 100% even 70-80%success rate will bring rich dividends. It needs political will and commitment. The Nation must be mobilized particularly the rural population, slums and shanty towns i.e. people living in real Pakistan. Available financial resources should be spent on cost -effective projects in the over-all National interest.