Population planning never talked about in Pakistan, laments Miftah

Published March 4, 2023
Miftah Ismail speaking at an event in Karachi on Saturday.—DawnNewsTV screengrab
Miftah Ismail speaking at an event in Karachi on Saturday.—DawnNewsTV screengrab

Former finance minister Miftah Ismail on Saturday termed the lack of population planning in Pakistan as one of the reasons for the country’s current socio-economic situation, saying “one way to get out of the current maelstrom” was to pay attention to population planning.

Addressing an event in Karachi, he said, “We are stuck here now so, how will we get out of this maelstrom? One way is … we have a record […] that 5.5 million children are born in Pakistan [every year].

“If there are 5.5m kids being born [in Pakistan every year], tell me when will you pay attention to population planning in Pakistan?” Ismail asked, adding that the discussion comes under criticism from particular groups whenever talked about.

Listing Bangladesh, Tunisia and Egypt as countries that are also “Muslim societies” like Pakistan, he said, “Everyone has done population planning but we have not.”

The former finance minister further said if we had matched the fertility rate to Bangladesh’s for the past 10 years, the country’s Gross Domestic Product per capita would have been higher than 15 per cent.

He said other South Asian countries, such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, had progressed significantly because of “proper planning”.

Talking about the country’s economic situation and the lack of accountability, Ismail said the expenses of provinces had increased by 6pc since 2010 “but there is no one to ask them about reasons for the rise in expenses”.

The ex-minister said provinces had been given autonomy under the 18th constitutional amendment but the authority was not devolved at the grassroots level.

Calling for reforms in the education sector, the PML-N leader said the nation must question if only one school was churning out students who make it to the top positions in judiciary and bureaucracy.

“I give you such statistics to make you feel uncomfortable and think about ways to fix these issues,” he told the gathering.

Ismail further said Pakistan was mired in problems because of “wrong policies” in the last 75 years.

“When we built Pakistan, we changed seven prime ministers in the first 11 years since our inception. Then there was the judiciary run by Justice Munir that would approve of martial laws imposed by Ayub Khan, Iskander Mirza and other rulers.”

The former minister recalled that India established five institutes of technology at a time Pakistan was in the process of removing its premiers.

“They reached this stage after thorough research and education.”

The PML-N leader’s talk comes as Pakistan stares into the abyss of default, and Ismail’s successor as finance minister, Ishaq Dar, insists a deal with the IMF is forthcoming.

Since his removal in October as the finance minister, Ismail has been highlighting the limitation of resources only to the elite and the country’s low literacy rate.

The PML-N leader has been holding numerous conferences and participating in panel discussions, along with other renowned political ‘mavericks’ — such as former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and former senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar — on the current economic and political issues in the country.

Naming the discussions “Reimagining Pakistan”, the leaders have blamed all stakeholders — including political parties, the military establishment and the judiciary — for the problems the masses were facing and have urged them to find a way out of the prevalent political and economic impasse in light of the Constitution instead of focusing on a power struggle.

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