Islamabad - President Mamnoon Hussain has emphasised on developing national consensus for controlling rapidly growing population of Pakistan, adding that the challenge of burgeoning population was not only impacting aspects of individual lives but also collective destiny of the countrymen.

The president made these remarks while addressing the 15th annual population conference entitled ’50 Years of Pakistan’s Population Programme: Setting Strategic Priorities & Programme Direction For Vision 2025,’ organised by Population Association of Pakistan in collaboration with Bahria University on Tuesday.

The president said that there was an urgent need to take effective measures for creating balance between demography and resources keeping in view the reality that national resources are finite.

President Hussain said that the Pakistan’s current population growth rate is 1.95%, which is noticeably higher than other Muslim nations; such as Malaysia, Morocco, Turkey, Iran and Bangladesh. On an average Pakistani women are having more children as compared to other Islamic countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey and Iran. As a result Pakistan is one of six countries that accounts for more than 50% of the world’s maternal deaths. Pakistan also has the highest rate of first day deaths of newborns.

The president stressed on developing national guidelines that would provide the framework for developing plans to deal with the demographic pressure confronting Pakistan today. He said that efforts should be directed toward prioritising family planning services and up-gradation of health infrastructure for provision of quality healthcare services that also include birth spacing family planning services.

The president stated that Pakistan is among the countries having young populations in the world that needed to be provided with ample opportunities for channelizing energies into nation-building activities. The president also called for promoting female education in the country, adding that collective human resource development sans education was not possible. The young girls and women of the country must be provided with opportunities to participate more in public and economic life so that they can meaningfully contribute toward national development, stated the president.

The president also said that abundant evidence indicates from East Asia and elsewhere that rapid fertility decline does yield benefits and economic growth. Investments in health and family planning were essential requisites for the demographic dividend to materialize, said the president.

The president appreciated Population Association of Pakistan for organising the event and deliberating upon a topic that was of utmost importance to Pakistan. Shahnaz Wazir Ali President Population Association of Pakistan, Vice Admiral Shahid Iqbal Rector Bahria University and senior officials of President Secretariat were also present on the occasion.

In her opening remarks, Shahnaz Wazir Ali, President Population Association of Pakistan, stated, “This year’s conference has come at a time when we have available to us new evidence that is both, to some extent, encouraging and disturbing. The results from the recent PDHS 2012-13, PSLMS 2012-13 and National Economic Survey 2013-14 show that while some of our RH indicators are improving, such as coverage of skilled birth attendants from 39% to 52%, facility based deliveries from 34% to 48% and life expectancy has increased to 67 years for female and 65 years for males, yet these improvements can best be described as modest and far from satisfactory. Contraceptive prevalence rate in Pakistan has increased marginally from 27 percent in 2006-07 to 35 percent in 2012-2013.”

She said, “While these are all challenges; we also see many opportunities before us. Pakistan is mid-way through its demographic transition, as more and more young people enter the workforce.” This “demographic dividend” first became available in the 1990s. Pakistan’s current age structure reflects the largest ever cohort of adolescents and youth with 48 percent population aged 15-49 and 56 percent (age 15-64) in the productive age group.

To ensure that young people contribute towards economic and social prosperity in their adulthood, it is necessary to invest the future generations of Pakistanis by developing sound policies in education, employment and focusing on human resource development and women’s empowerment. This will ensure that we capitalize on the demographic dividend which has enabled several countries in East Asia to prosper. The window of opportunity will close around 2045, by which time our society will be ageing rapidly, she added.