Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Wednesday termed unbridled population growth as the "most disastrous issue" for Pakistan, and regretted that the "menace" was not given any attention in the past 60 years.
He made the remarks while addressing a symposium in the capital on the alarming population growth in Pakistan.
"Our water reserves and resources are depleting, but our mouths [to feed] are increasing," he said while addressing the event that was attended by several high-profile personalities, including judges and Prime Minister Imran Khan.
CJP Nisar called on the prime minister to probe why no dam had been built in Pakistan in the past 40 years and why the country was facing such an "alarming" situation.
"Today we have no water management in Pakistan. Water is life, without water we cannot conceive a life," he said.
The top judge said that the apex court had created a task force which presented its recommendations after holding a few sessions but added that "that was the extent of their power".
"The judiciary does not have any mechanism to act on these recommendations," he said. "The only person who can get any implementation done is the prime minister," he said.
He said the Supreme Court has played its part in amplifying and understanding human rights and now it was the Executive's job to take them forward.
Justice Nisar said the burden on the judicial system did not go back to just the past five to seven years but it was centuries old.
"The tools have to be given to us by the parliament," he said, regretting that so much time had passed but laws had not been updated.
"Perhaps the time has come to stop boycotting the parliament and sit in the parliament and [start doing] our actual duty," he said.
CJP Nisar said models used by other countries to restrain their population growth were before the country and that they just needed to be implemented and awareness needed to be created.
"I am hopeful that with good intentions, we will reach our dream in a few years," the top judge said.
Problems exist due to 'short-term thinking': PM
Prime Minister Imran Khan began his address by thanking the top judge for inviting him to the event. "I am glad I am not being presented in courtroom number one," he joked.
Speaking at the day-long symposium, Khan expressed "the nation's resolve to address the population growth in the country", reported Radio Pakistan.
Addressing CJP Nisar, the premier said that the steps that the top judge had taken should have been taken by democratic governments instead.
"The democratic governments unfortunately only used to think about five years," he said, adding that nothing could be accomplished in that time span for major issues.
"We are in these problems because of a short-term thinking," Prime Minister Khan regretted.
The premier recalled the family planning campaigns shown on television in the 1960s, saying those were very "effective".
He said that people were under the impression that (formerly) East Pakistan had been a burden on the country's population, but today Bangladesh had gotten ahead of Pakistan because of their long-term thinking.
"As the population continues to grow, our food security will be affected," he cautioned.
Prime Minister Khan thanked the CJP for raising the matter of population growth which he called a very "serious issue".
He said the government has formed task forces to address population growth, adding that he was glad that all provincial chief ministers were on board for the initiative.
Khan noted that the delivery system of contraceptives in the country was an issue but what was actually needed was an ambition to resolve the problem.
"There is a big role for the ulema," he said, citing examples of Iran and Bangladesh where population control campaigns were done from mosques. The premier said Pakistan too needed to involve its mosques in the campaign.
'Singularity of narrative'
The event is being attended by provincial chief ministers, judges of the Supreme Court, ministers and other officials including Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider.
Former senator Javed Jabbar, while addressing the symposium, acknowledged former president Ayub Khan's contribution, noting that while he may not have been a democratically elected leader, credit should be given to him for highlighting family planning.
"Why have we forgotten the narrative [in the last fifty years]?" he asked. "There needs to be a singularity of narrative."
Renowned religious scholar Maulana Tariq Jamil observed that the problem in Pakistan was "illiteracy" and stressed the importance of education to bring population growth under control.
He noted that while the symposium was being held in Islamabad, the problem is more prevalent in rural areas.
Vice-president of the Population Council, John Bongaarts, the first speaker of the event, highlighted the levels of contraceptives used in Pakistan as compared to other countries in the region such as Bangladesh and India.
Furthermore, he presented the benefits of family planning programmes, adding that this was an extremely important event for Pakistan.
Co-chair of the World Health Organisation High-Level Independent Commission on Non-communicable diseases, Dr Sania Nishtar, while addressing the symposium, said "today is a landmark day" and remarked that the "stellar show of strength" of various stakeholders was "critical" to the cause.
A documentary on population dynamics was presented at the event.