Alarming population growth rate

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A result of years of ignorance

As with most socioeconomic issues of the country lack of attention, procrastination and complacency have managed to bring a fairly manageable problem to an unsustainable level. Pakistan’s population growth rate is at a staggering 2.4% that is at least double of other regional countries like India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Post separation Bangladesh’s population was close to 67 million compared to Pakistan’s 60 million. Currently Pakistan is at 200 million and formerly East Pakistan is at 164 million. This is a telling statistic that displays plainly how little priority has been/is given to population control in Pakistan over the years.

Successive governments have ignored this vital issue while opposition parties of the past and present have not bothered to highlight it much either and have rather focused on the more mainstream kosher topics like load-shedding, corruption etc. And that is where the problem lies: starting the conversation, which due to social and religious taboos has become unnecessarily impossible.

But it is not as if Pakistan is the only Muslim majority country in the world with a population explosion problem. Iran and Bangladesh managed to keep happy their most conservative ultra-right religious factions by including them in the process and providing incentives to get the job done. It is very much achievable as long as the will to do it is there. Marvi Memon merely suggesting a pilot project similar to how BISP works – that she is heading – is not going to cut it  – specific and visible action is required.

Unfortunately the public sector outlay on education is so little and reforms in education so low on the list of the government’s priorities that the battle seems a losing one. Yes, such macro, structural changes will come with time but there are measure that can be taken now. Free distribution of contraceptives, increased access to sterilization and edicts from religious leaders is doable given the right amount of government/institutional backing is provided. Otherwise if this already out of hand growth rate is allowed to increase further then sustainable economic growth will remain little more than a pipe dream.