Unbridled population growth has been an alarming yet neglected issue Pakistan faces today; it is a problem that requires courage from the government to tackle due to the significant social stigma attached to its discussion.

Previous governments have failed to contain the problem, with Pakistan still adding four million new people to its population every year despite funding and multiple resources. Now President Arif Alvi has taken up the issue—he chaired the third meeting of the Federal Task Force on Alarming Population Growth in Pakistan to evolve a strategy to lower population growth in the country.

It will be a tough but not impossible task. Since the 1990s, there have been multiple programmes designed to revive the family planning campaign in Pakistan since its freezing by Zia-ul-Haq. Yet those programmes have been largely ineffective. Contraceptive use went up from 6 percent in 1969 to just 18 percent in 1995; Pakistan’s average of six children per family has barely fallen since the 1960s, and the population density is 169/km. The issue has not just been deeply conservative attitudes towards family planning—Iran has had success with curbing population growth. The problem also lies with deep structural flaws with Pakistan’s implementation of any family planning campaigns, including over-centralisation and lack of coordination.

The family planning initiative is no rocket science; provision of birth control and providing pre- and post-natal care, alongside ensuring that greater healthcare services for mothers and children are provided is a holistic way of approaching this. Awareness campaigns conducted in a sensitive manner are necessary for this campaign; on-the-ground efforts have shown that local religious figures are not hostile to the idea. Yet the subject should not be confined to a campaign—for there to be proper impact, there needs to be proper education from an early age about reproduction and the harms of overpopulation. If a thorough sincere effort is not carried out, then the barriers which have prevented the government from even approaching this topic will never truly be broken.