ACCORDING to a study released on Thursday by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre, the world's Muslim population — currently at 1.6 billion — is projected to reach 2.2 billion by 2030. The growth of the Muslim population will slow down over the next two decades, from an average annual rate of 2.2 per cent in 1990-2010 to 1.5 per cent in 2010-2030. Nevertheless, Muslims' pace of population increase will be about twice the rate of that of non-Muslims. By 2030 Muslims will constitute 26.4 per cent of the world's population, which is expected to have swelled by then to 8.3 billion.
This information must be framed in the context of the global population's competition over resources, both natural and man-made, and over opportunities for economic and other sorts of benefits. While the sum total of the essentials of human life is shrinking, the number of people who must share them is increasing. Worst-affected are the poorer countries and their people. Fierce competition over access to education and health services as well as job opportunities is leading to growing numbers of people from under-deve- loped countries to seek immigration to the deve- loped nations. This, no less than other factors, is causing a number of developed countries to tighten immigration laws. The findings of the Pew study must be taken as a signal for a more equitable division of the world's resources. Some of the most under-developed countries in the world are Muslim countries. Their governments must make a serious push to improve welfare indexes across the board, and the developed world must help in doing this.
The problem is mirrored in the situation Pakistan faces. The Pew research indicates that by 2030 Pakistan will have surpassed Indonesia as the country with the single largest Muslim population. More worryingly, during the next two decades this country's population is expected to grow from the current 178 million to 256 million — and this despite the fact that population planning programmes have been successful in bringing birth rates in the country down somewhat. Does Pakistan have a plan to ensure a steady growth of resources and infrastructure to match the needs of a burgeoning population? Hardly. The needs of even today's citizenry are far from being met. It is estimated that one child in four is acutely malnourished, and the problems of access to education, health services and jobs, if available, are well-known. Projected into the future, the situation appears frightening. There is a need for a two-pronged effort if the generations to come are to be saved. On the one hand, the state must start some serious planning. On the other, the birth rate must be brought down further.