Khalid Khokhar It is, indeed, surprising that the government has failed to see the danger that the sheer increasing numbers of people in the country - the ticking population bomb pose. Since independence, several steps have been taken to control the growth of population in the country, but none of them have proved to be successful. The reasons are far more intricate than initially assumed. In a large segment of the Pakistani society, any type of birth control programme is considered a taboo subject, due to the prevailing closed and conservative belief system. The people of this bent of mind believe that God determines the family size, and large families mean more earning hands, but they do not realise that it also means more 'eating mouths. In addition, the swelling population is not only an economic problem, but it is also a big social problem. The parents, who have too many children, cannot pay attention to their mental, physical, and spiritual growth. As a result, the children feel neglected and fall victim to different evils. The lack of basic awareness among the common people is another hurdle to reducing the family to a manageable size. Pakistan is confronted with a horrendous problem of overpopulation. As estimated on 2009 by Wikipedia: Pakistan with 180,800,000 people living on its soil is the sixth most populous country on the globe and fourth in Asia. When Pakistan became independent in 1947 its population was estimated at 32 million. Sixty-three years later it has increased 5.6 times to 184 million. This implies an average annual rate of growth of 2.77 percent, one of the highest in the world. The population of Pakistan would touch the figure of 300 million in the year 2050, if not controlled properly and would move the country towards the worst ever crises in the near future. This has major implications for the availability and sustainability of resources needed for Pakistani people to survive. The unabated population growth is causing a catastrophic strain on the surging economy of Pakistan. No one can deny that achieving desirable rates of population growth could be an important factor in bringing sustainability of resources and averting energy problems. Vision 2030 launched by Pakistan in August 2007 envisaged an increase in the size of the economy from $141 billion currently to $1 trillion, raising per capita income from the current $925 to $4,000, complete elimination of poverty, reduction of population growth rate from 1.9 percent to 1 percent, and finally raising the literacy rate to 100 percent till 2030. There is, therefore, a need to gear macroeconomic policies towards consolidating the nascent recovery, while, at the same time, laying the foundations of sustainable growth. So presently, the country is nowhere near its Millennium Developmental Goals (MDGs). In order to defuse the ticking population bomb, it is very important to empower our women, socially, politically and economically. Despite some successes, the progress towards the goal of women empowerment still trails behind. It suffered a severe blow when religious extremists banned girls education in the tribal areas a couple of years back, leaving more than 3,000 girls with no access to education. However, the population explosion can be effectively addressed by educating the masses, particularly women, on birth control, the use of contraceptives and safe sex. Due to well-thought out policies underlining the importance of small family, the population of Europe's 47 nations is projected to decline from 728 million this year to 653 million in 2050. Learning from the success story of European nations, Pakistan too needs to devise a grand population control strategy through a media campaign to avoid bigger catastrophe. Religious scholars must also come forward to raise awareness about population planning and extend pro-active support to the government so that the future generations could lead a prosperous life. Pakistan will be facing serious shortages in the years to come, if the present rate of national population growth persists. Unless well-coordinated measures to reduce fertility are adopted, population growth will continue to be a major hurdle to development. The writer is a retired Air Commodore, Pakistan Air Force.