The work of Thomas Robert Malthus, the founder of modern demography, has greatly influenced and inspired a large number of demographers, political economists and sociologists all over the world. His theory of population, which is commonly referred to as Malthusianism, essentially maintains that population generally tends to outpace the means of subsistence since the former grows in geometric progression while the latter only grows in arithmetic progression. The so-called Malthusian catastrophe represents the worst case economic scenario when population in the society reaches its tipping point. In this situation, people without access to subsistence or other basic necessities either perish or resort to some violent crimes to obtain them.

Most of the developing countries in the world, including Pakistan, are inherently prone to fall prey to the Malthusian catastrophe. But quite worryingly, due to a set of unique demographic and socioeconomic factors, Pakistan is potentially capable of giving rise to another demographic catastrophe which can be described as a ‘Neo-Malthusian catastrophe’. One of the crucial reasons for this imagined catastrophe is the phenomenally high population growth rate in Pakistan, which is perfectly in geometric progression in the absence of any efficient population planning regime. The other fact is that the material resources for the rapidly-growing population in Pakistan are by no means increasing in the presumed arithmetic progression. They are either stagnant or only growing at a snail’s pace primarily owing to the absence of good governance, public sector corruption, administrative mismanagement, lack of planning, vision and a sense of priority etc in Pakistan. Consequently, the scarce material resources of this large population are either misappropriated or simply wasted.

The poor state of economy and the deteriorated internal security situation in Pakistan have just made things even worse. The aforementioned factors have resulted in creating a rapidly-expanding pool of poor, unemployed, illiterate, and deprived people who have no access to means of subsistence as well as the basic civic amenities. So the gulf between the haves and have-nots is not only constantly widening but also the ‘island of have-nots’ is growing in size day by day. These ugly developments can trigger a severe humanitarian catastrophe in Pakistan in the future. This Neo-Malthusian phenomenon should not be overlooked while analyzing Pakistan’s demography, and proposing remedies for its underlying demographic woes.

According to the provisional results of recently-conducted census in Pakistan, with around 2.4% growth rate, country’s total population now stands at 207 million. So there has been a 57% increase in our population during the last 19 years. Now Pakistan is world’s sixth most populous country. Presently, the doubling time in Pakistan is less than 30 years, which is one of the highest not only in the world but also in the South Asia. So by the year 2050, Pakistan’s population would be more than 400 million, making Pakistan the fifth most populous country in the world

The concept of family planning was formally introduced in Pakistan in 1960’s. However, family planning programs couldn’t be effectively implemented owing to the lack of required resolution in the country. No government seriously tried to pursue these programs. The so-called process of lslamization in 1980’s has also been a severe blow to the nascent family planning regime in the country. The clerics and religious political parties have also been very vocal against these programs. Unfortunately, we have just failed to follow China and Iran- the two successful population planning model right in our neighbourhood.

Currently, important elements of good governance; namely accountability, transparency, and rule of law, are largely missing in Pakistan. Prepared by Washington-based World Justice Project, The Rule of Law Index Report 2016 ranks Pakistan 106th among 113 assessed countries in the world. In the absence of any efficient accountability regime, there is rampant corruption in Pakistan. Corruption has now become a prominent feature of the public sector management. Therefore, a major chunk of public funds are siphoned off or misappropriated to the disadvantage of the ordinary citizens in the country.

Lack of public sector planning and regulation is another pressing problem in Pakistan. Politicization of public projects and the so-called bureaucratic inertia make things even worse. So a number of periodic development plans have miserably failed to achieve the desired objectives. The Planning Commission of Pakistan is the official public policy development institution in the country. Aimed at ‘making Pakistan next Asian Tiger’, it has ambitiously launched the Vision 2025. However, presently the Planning Commission has narrowly focused on the multi-billion dollar CPEC project to change the ‘economic fate’ of Pakistanis. Therefore, this project is the only silver lining in Pakistan’s dark economic cloud.

Current demographic indicators in Pakistan are anything but satisfactory. A UN report ranked Pakistan 147th on Human Development Index in 2016. It is the lowest position in the South Asia. Presently one third population in Pakistan lives below the poverty line. Around 20 million people are homeless in the country. About 84% people do not have access to safe and clean drinking water. Nearly half of Pakistani children suffer from stunted growth. Pakistan also has the highest infant mortality rate in the world. Similarly, some 25 million Pakistani children are out of school. With its current 58% literacy rate, Pakistan is lagging far behind the 88% literacy ratio, a target set by UN’s MDG.

Primarily aimed at substantially reducing the population growth rate, Pakistan direly needs to evolve and adopt an effective population planing regime. Pakistan must effectively check the rapid surge in its population growth in order to overt the so-called Neo-Malthusian catastrophe in the future. At the same time, it also needs to improve the state and quality of pubic governance. Public sector corruption can be minimized through introducing and enforcing some stringent anti-graft laws in the country. Similarly, it should also focus on improving its economic fundamentals through prudential fiscal regulation and resource-mobilization. Indeed there are required the strong resolution and commitment to achieve these desired goals.

It is quite unfortunate that some political parties are trying to dispute the population statistics collected during the recent census only to secure the maximum number of seats in the parliament and provincial assemblies rather than worrying about managing such a large population. They just look dissatisfied with the ‘low population growth rate’ in their respective electoral constituencies. Indeed the rapid surge in population is a matter of serious concern for the demographers, public policy makers, economic managers and planners in Pakistan. This factor would push Pakistan towards a severe humanitarian crisis even without the usual precursors like famine, or outbreak of war or civil strife. Therefore, the underlying Neo-Malthusian characteristics of Pakistan’s demography should now be carefully noticed and analyzed. Without doing so, I am afraid all the periodic development goals and plans, prepared and pursued by domestic and global agencies in Pakistan, would end up in a frustrating fiasco at the end of the day.