ISLAMABAD    -       Speakers on the Parliamentary Forum on Population on Tuesday urged that investment in population planning was essential for Pakistan to accelerate its progress across social, economic and environmental fronts and achieve sustainable development. 

The Parliamentary Forum on Population was launched in March this year. The Forum aims to raise parliamentary awareness on population and development, sustain cross-party political commitment and advocate for population stabilization.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed in his opening remarks said that legislators played a critical role to translate government’s commitment at the highest level to provide universal access to comprehensive reproductive health care.

The meeting was attended by provincial ministers, members of the Senate, national and provincial assemblies, representing major political parties. The meeting was organized by the Population Council with the support from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Islamabad.

Senator Mushahid Hussain pointed out that multi-party commitment to accelerate fertility transition in Pakistan was an important step to meet the population challenge in the country. 

In her opening remarks, Ms. Lina Mousa, Country Representative UNFPA in Pakistan, said, “It is essential that parliamentarians play their critical part in ensuring that annual allocation of Rs.10 billion non-lapsable population fund is secured, and that family planning services are integrated in all health departments and all public facilities are mandated to deliver family planning services as part of the essential service package.” She said the country needed to enhance fiscal space for population planning, use the mass media to propagate the national narrative and partner with the private sector to enhance access to services.

Citing Pakistan’s high population growth rate, Dr. Zeba Sathar, Country Director Population Council, said 4 million unwanted pregnancies could be avoided annually if Pakistan achieved universal access to family planning services as prescribed by the CCI recommendations. 

The govt is giving due consideration to the population issue and there was a cross party consensus on dealing with it. She said the present government continued to advocate for population stabilization both inside and outside the parliament. “Poverty alleviation programmes such as the Ehsaas Programme focus on marginalized women and their reproductive health needs. 

We continue to engage Ulema for a more social acceptance of family planning amongst masses.”