Experts alarmed at country’s population growth rate

Published July 9, 2021
The programme under way at the PMA House on Thursday.—White Star
The programme under way at the PMA House on Thursday.—White Star

KARACHI: “It is sad that we don’t want to openly discuss family planning. But the growing population is the cause of poverty, the cause of child labour, the rising mother mortality rate and what not,” said Dr Jaipal Chhabria of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) during a World Population Day seminar organised by RAHNUMA-Family Planning Association of Pakistan (Sindh) in collaboration with the PMA Karachi (HRC) at the PMA House here on Thursday.

Syed Abdul Qayyum of RAHNUMA said that the population of Pakistan is at the moment 225 million. It was 32m in 1947 and by 1971, it had more than doubled to 65m. In 1998, it was 132m and by 2017, it was 208m. “If we carry on like this, it will be 260m by 2030. Should we let it grow at this rate? This is after all the same size country with the same resources. What about food security, what about educating the population?” he said.

Senior gynaecologist Dr Shershah Syed blamed the population explosion on the clerics in Pakistan and also television anchors. “They are against family planning the most, and they bring in all kinds of theories to keep people away from contraceptives. The maulvis say that there is a need for a bigger Muslim population in the world which the West would not want. I believe that we have to control the maulvi to control the population,” he said.

Dr Mirza Ali Azhar, president of PMA Sindh, said that there was a need for planning ahead. “Whatever work we do, we do on a daily basis. We should work while also planning for the future. Then we have also not managed to change mindsets. The people here should understand that those who talk about controlling the population growth are not against Islam,” he said.

‘If we carry on like this, it would be 260 million by 2030’

“Here if you set up a cheap plant for making bread, you administer a free vaccine to eradicate the poliovirus or coronavirus, people start thinking that these carry some kind of contraceptives. So, there is a need to change the mindsets as people should be able to understand logic,” he said.

Other shortcomings pointed out by him included the government’s failure to have education and health as a priority, no coordinated health policy, all issues linked to religion or politicising all issues.

Dr Yasmeen Sabeeh Qazi, senior advocacy adviser to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that there was a greater need for political commitment here. “But here we are looking to get foreign donor funding rather than do something ourselves,” she said.

“The women here are also so disempowered. They have no say about their families, their bodies. Invest in girls, invest in girls’ education, make them aware, equip them with decision-making power,” she said.

“So there is a dire need for spreading awareness of the need for family planning.”

Prof Dr Farhan Essa Abdullah also said that women need to make their own decisions for which they need to be economically empowered, too. “We see girls riding motorbikes now. At first their doing so was met with resistance from the men in their families but now after realising that they themselves don’t need to pick up the children from school or shop for groceries because the females can run such errands on their own, there has been a change of heart,” he said.

Dr Talib Lashari, technical adviser and focal person, population welfare department, government of Sindh, said that the current population of other countries is expected to double in the next 60 years whereas at the rate Pakistan is going, its current population is expected to double in 30 years.

Senior politician Mehtab Akbar Rashdi, who was presiding over the seminar, said that it is not so easy to fix things that have gone wrong. “Once a train is derailed, it is not easy to get it back on track,” she said. “But if you really take charge and want to take forward your plan and make up your mind to do something, you will achieve what you set out to do. The change begins with you.”

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2021

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