KARACHI: The Sindh Assembly on Tuesday adopted a resolution unanimously calling upon the provincial government to take measures to rein in population growth in Sindh.
Two members of the religious parties opposed the resolution, moved by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Rana Ansar, during the debate. However, they were absent in the house when Speaker Siraj Durrani placed it for voting and it was passed unanimously.
The mover had originally scripted the resolution with the words “to control” the population. After an extensive debate, the words were replaced with “to plan” and approved by the house.
‘We want to provide 100pc coverage through the LHW programme for which recruitments are being made’
“This assembly resolves that [the] provincial government [should] take measures to plan population and launch awareness campaigns in this regard,” said the resolution.
Ms Ansar appreciated the Sindh chief minister saying that Sindh was the first province which set up a task force to “plan” the alarmingly increasing population. However, she said the government still had to do a lot of work.
She said the population issue should be part of the curriculum.
The MQM-P lawmaker said the government should use its lady health workers’ network effectively to launch greater awareness both in women and men.
“This should be a joint initiative by all the provinces if we [are] to handle the population problem,” she said.
Rana Ansar said slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto was the first leader who had launched the programme to seriously tackle the population issue, but later no targets could be achieved.
Health minister’s assurance
Population Welfare and Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho gave a detailed account of her ministry, stating that the population welfare department was seriously engaged in its effort to make planned population a reality.
“We are working on it diligently to ensure planned and responsible parenthood,” said Dr Pechuho.
She suggested to the mover that it was not controlling the population, as the latter had suggested in her original draft, but “we are working towards planned parenthood”.
The minister said: “We have limited resources, limited area and limited water reserves, all [this] warrants that we should not have a rapid and haphazard population growth”.
She said Sindh’s population was close to 50 million out of around 210 million of the country’s population. She added that women were the ultimate sufferers of the entire scenario.
“Woman is being deemed a child-producing factory at the expense of her own health and life. We have a horrible mothers’ mortality ratio, which is 178 out of 1,000,” she said. “There should be at least three-year birth space for a mother.”
Dr Pechuho said her ministry had chalked out various strategies to achieve the targets it had set. She said originally the LHW programme was launched to provide 45 per cent health coverage. However, with the passage of time the coverage dwindled due to decrease in the original strength of LHWs because of no regular recruitment.
She added: “Now, we want to provide 100pc coverage through the LHW programme for which recruitments are being made.”
She said the LHWs were being trained for advocacy and planned parenthood involving birth spacing and improved use of contraceptives. She added that the LHWs had been prepared to administer the first injection to mothers.
Responding to a member’s earlier speech objecting to rampant surgeries in women to stop pregnancy, the minister said such an action was the last resort.
Increased use of contraceptives
She said Sindh was the only province which had registered an increase in the use of contraceptives, though by a single percentage point. She added that the rural districts of Sindh had returned the figures showing a four per cent increase in the use of contraceptives.
However, in cities such as Karachi and Hyderabad the use of contraceptives had decreased.
She said the cities such as Karachi had a greater ratio of migrant population, which too had contributed to decreasing contraceptive usage rates.
All the basic health units and rural health centres were offering delivery and family planning services where contraceptives had also been made available, she said.
The minister said the government was providing free contraceptives to 200 privately run healthcare facilities and such hospitals were located in Karachi and several other districts. She said since the health department controlled the LHW programme, plans were afoot to integrate it with the population welfare department for better planning.
MQM-P’s Mohammad Hussain said political will was needed to achieve the target of a controlled population growth. He claimed the population welfare department was not proactive to achieve its designated targets.
Women Development Minister Shehla Raza also suggested the mover rearticulate the resolution by replacing “control” with “planning” the population.
PPP’s Kulsoom Chandio and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Shehzad Qureshi said the authorities concerned should take further measures and that they would have to work hard, particularly in the rural areas.
Grand Democratic Alliance’s Nusrat Abbasi said why only women were forced to go for surgery to stop pregnancy and why not such operations were performed on men.
MMA, TLP oppose the move
Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal’s sole member Abdul Rasheed opposed the resolution saying: “You will face the consequences if you go against the laws of nature”.
He claimed Pakistan’s population growth was ranked 84th in the world, and was not that high.
“Pakistan will be a country of elderly people if you control its population like that,” he warned.
Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s Mohammad Qasim opposed the resolution bluntly.
He said: “Allah has promised sustenance in the Holy Quran, and no force could go against it”.
The house approved for introduction two private bills — The Sindh Water Management (Amendment) Bill, 2018, moved by Rana Ansar, and The Control of Narcotic Substances (Sindh Amendment) Bill, 2018, moved by Rabia Nizami.
PPP’s Heer Soho withdrew her adjournment motion asking the federal government to give due share of NFC award to Sindh as contemplated in Article 160 (3A) of the Constitution after the chair said an extensive debate had already been held a day earlier on another adjournment motion by Nida Khuhro.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2019