ISLAMABAD: Senator Sherry Rehman on Friday said all political parties should transcend political differences for greater national cause and sign a charter of population.

Speaking at the inaugural meeting of Parliamentary Forum on Population (PFP) held after General Election 2024 she said curbing population growth rate demanded a united political front.

The meeting was organised by the Population Council with the support of United Nations Population Fund.

Ms Sherry emphasised on increased investment and stronger legislation on family planning programmes which could accelerate Pakistan’s progress across social, economic and environmental areas of sustainable development.

Suggests stronger legislation on family planning to accelerate development

“Resources of the country are stretched thin by rapid population growth which hinders achievement of development goals like education, employment opportunities, and access to basic necessities,” she added.

She praised a cross party consensus on population agenda at the PFP and emphasised the need for a harmonious balance between population and resources for the progress of the country.

According to a statement issued here, the Parliamentary Forum on Population (PFP) was launched in March 2020, with the aim to raise parliamentary awareness on population and development, sustain cross-party political commitment and advocate for population stabilisation. The forum has convened nine meetings since its inception to advance the population agenda within the parliament and provincial assemblies.

In her welcome remarks, Country Director of the Population Council Dr Zeba Sathar drew attention to Pakistan’s current fertility trends and the broad impact of population growth on the country’s development indicators.

Dr Sathar emphasised the far-reaching consequences of rapid population growth, highlighting its negative impact on various development indicators.

Former senator and PFP Secretary General Mushahid Hussain Sayed welcomed the newly-elected parliamentarians in the forum. He commended the dedication of the participants to the population agenda and emphasized the Forum’s responsibility in involving the national and provincial assemblies as key players in attaining population planning objectives.

He highlighted the importance of prioritising population issues beyond party affiliations,” he said.

Dr Farooq Sattar, Member of National Assembly, called for revisiting the National Finance Commission (NFC) and separating population considerations from the distribution of divisible pool resources among provinces. He stressed the importance of fulfilling people’s right to family planning through sustainable, equitable and sensible allocation of resources.

Dr Luay Shabaneh, Country Representative of UNFPA Pakistan, commended the bipartisan consensus at the meeting and urged parliamentarians to prioritize addressing rapid population growth.

In their comments the parliamentarians emphasised that population was a critical national issue that required immediate attention. It was important to address misperceptions amongst citizens that hinder the uptake of family health services. The role of religious scholars in creating greater social acceptability of family planning was emphasised by the parliamentarians of national and provincial assemblies.

It was suggested that religious leaders should promote responsible parenthood and address religious misperceptions amongst masses. Parliamentarians also urged for propagating the consensus of all major religious scholars on the permissibility of birth spacing in Islam as a means to save mothers’ lives to ensure the wellbeing of the family which is a basic human right.

The parliamentarians advocated for the inclusion of family planning and sustainable population within secondary and higher secondary curriculums.

They reiterated government’s role in providing education to girls, addressing child marriage issue, including mandatory pre-martial counselling and countering socio-cultural myths surrounding family planning by strengthening local governments and initiating grassroot level awareness campaigns.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2024

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