Pakistan’s population continues to grow in an unchecked and uncontrolled manner. Rapid population growth in this manner is yet another serious challenge faced by the country in addition to others. Population growth bomb is going to explode much sooner than expected by the people and the governments of Pakistan and it will be as disastrous as the looming threat of drought-like situation by 2025 in the absence of major water storages and precious water going and going as sheer waste in the Arabian Sea for years together.

After taking a very positive and appreciable initiative for construction of dams in the country, Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Mian Saquib Nisar has also expressed grave concern over population growth and said after the dams, he will be taking up population growth issue and the country’s apex court while hearing a case about unabated and unchecked growing population has also called for launching awareness campaigns about the population growth on priority basis.

It is a matter of bitter fact that rapid population growth is a major problem and looming crisis that confronting Pakistan as it lies at the center of the country’s social, economic and political problems. Ever growing population is fast eating and eroding the somewhat limited national resources at one hand and on the other, green agricultural land is fast being consumed in an unabated manner by the increasing number of housing societies in the private sector thus adversely affecting food grain production in the country and even vegetables and pulses are being imported/smuggled from India and other countries quite thanklessly and shamefully . Nobody seems to bother that why we consume so much and produce very little and do not rely on our domestic products only.

The latest Population Census conducted in two phases in 2017 after the lapse of many years has served as an eye-opener both for the federal and provincial governments as well as the stakeholders to start work on a rigorous population planning and strategy on priority basis without wasting any more time which is fast running out of our hands.

With a population growth rate of 2.4 percent reported in Population Census 2017 with a total population of 207.774 million , it is of utmost importance for Pakistan to ensure resource mobilisation in a most effective manner to check and control the rapid population growth.

Apparently, the federal government , although population welfare is the provincial subject following 18th Constitutional Amendment, of the high population growth and working to formulate a comprehensive action plan to deal actively and effectively with the challenging situation faced by the country.

However,It is pertinent to mention here, that due to certain social barriers it is sometimes very difficult to implement the population growth action plan, as aggressively as required and needed due to a prevailing quite alarming situation which is become grave with every passing day, smoothly and effectively.

The population growth rates of the provinces even give a more very alarming picture underlining the dire need for taking some concrete measures to be taken by the Provincial Population Welfare Departments and Special Areas.

As mentioned above, Population Welfare has since been made a provincial subject, however, the federal government continues to extend every possible support and assistance to the Population Welfare Departments of the Provinces and Special Areas of Gilgit-Baltistan, Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir by way of appropriate funds through Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) to the maximum possible extent.

Pakistan’s neighboring regional countries have very effectively controlled the demographic and family planning indicators. But, Pakistan continues to confront a very high Total Fertility Rate of 335 and very low Contraceptive Prevalence Rate of 42.7 percent. Pakistan’s Crude Birth Rate is estimated to be around 27.33 per 1000, Infant Mortality Rate of 61.4 per 1000 and Maternal Mortality Rate of 165.6 per 100,000, which are also high, according to the latest figures available from official sources

In order to sensitise policy makers about quite alarming population growth rate in the country, the federal government is reportedly actively planning to formulate Population Commission of Pakistan as well as Population Task Force. The Task Force to be constituted will be working under the proposed Commission. The main objectives are to have a consolidated forum of all stakeholders at the national level for devising plan of action according to national priorities of Pakistan by adhering to religious doctrines; to deliberate on population control mechanisms by effectively engaging all stakeholders; to develop consensus on smooth and effective implementation of other priority areas of population in Vision 2025, 12th Five Year Plan 2018-23, London Summit on Family Planning 2012 and Sustainable Development Goals.

The Population Policy is also reported to have been finalised and is expected to be notified.. For population planning, impact oriented approach has been adopted which would hopefully bear dividend in the long run. .

The Ministry of Planning and Development, UNFPA and UNDP have started a joint project to deal effectively with the population related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The objective of the UNFPA contribution is to mainstream population dynamics across core national and provincial development plans and strategies which is consistent with Agenda 2030 and this will help improving the general quality of development planning.

This project will cover and provide support research and analysis including the impact of population growth and population dynamics on SDGs achievement in Pakistan, technical support for integrating population priorities into SDGs framework, policy and planning processes and strategic developments across all sectors and strengthen overall data ecosystem for SDGs and population including coordination, monitoring, reporting, capacity building, online dissemination as well as effective use of integrated statistical frameworks for advancing sustainable development.

The federal government intends to bring reforms in the Population Sector as well like other sectors so that a cross –cutting strategy is developed and adopted and the Population Sector Organisations are revived for ensuring optimal efficiency. Hopefully , many historically and most important steps are most likely to be taken in the coming months to effectively ,actively and efficiently tackle the alarming Population and Family Planning situation in Pakistan.

In this regard, the provincial and all federal units governments will be taken on board to achieve the desired objectives in a positive manner at the earliest possible as quite time has already been wasted unproductively and unthinkingly.

These measures and new initiatives as mentioned above include formation of Population Commission of Pakistan, setting up of a National Task Force for Population and Family Planning, functional integration of Provincial Health and Population Welfare Departments for Family Planning Services, revamping of Lady Health Workers Programme, launching of Advocacy and Awareness Campaigns at all levels on regular basis, introduction of Family Planning education in colleges and universities particularly for girl students, developing and evolving National Consensus for Population and Family Planning, ensuring proper and timely funding for Population and Family Planning, involvement of religious scholars who can effectively and convincingly carry the message down to the Union Council level especially in the rural areas , formulation of Population and Family Planning Committees down to the Union Council level throughout the country and free provision of good quality and wider range of contraceptives and family planning services if not maximum at least at all Health and Population Welfare outlets for all eligible married couples throughout the country .

As a first major step, though taken in a pretty delayed manner, Task Forces for Controlling the Population have already been set up at the national and provincial levels. Task Force at the national level is headed by the prime minister himself and the at the provincial levels the Task Forces are headed by the respective chief ministers of the Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pukhtoonkhwah and Balochistan.

These Task Forces will be submitting their performance reports to the prime minister every month.

This is a national obligation which has to be accomplished by one and all to avert the onrushing population growth bomb explosion in the coming years.

 

The writer is Lahore-based Freelance Journalist, Columnist and retired Deputy Controller (News)

Radio Pakistan, Islamabad.