Well done neighbour
August 24, 2023
Heal your hospital, before you heal your patient
September 14, 2023

Preventing 17435 daily arrivals

It requires neither a prophecy nor mathematics to understand that Pakistan is doomed to sink under the weight of its own population.  Any steps towards progress or reform in Pakistan are akin to building sandcastles on the beach –  only to be washed away by the relentless tsunami of our runaway population.   Pakistan’s resources are entirely inadequate to feed, house, educate, protect, manage  or provide jobs, pensions, water, gas, electricity and healthcare to its existing inventory of 251,135,893 inhabitants.  This number increases at an alarming rate of 2.55% per year or 17435 new arrivals every day.   This calls for building another 20805 schools and 620 hospitals every year.  Considering that the existing 25 million children have no schools to go to and 12 million of them are engaged in child labour, we are only fooling ourselves  by not acknowledging the suicidal path that we tread on.

How come no leader or state institution in Pakistan ever bothered to find out how Bangladesh reduced its Total Fertility Rate (TFR) from 6.9 in 1971 to 1.9 in 2023.  Pakistan stays foolishly frozen at 3.6.  Do our leaders not grasp the reality that the exceptional progress achieved by countries  like China, South Korea, Singapore, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Finland, Norway and numerous others have one common denominator –  a TFR of well under 2.0.  Is Pakistan ordained to remain medieval, backward and decadent forever?   Will we continue breeding  hordes of wild, ignorant  and uncontrolled zealots, whose only creed is hatred, burning and destroying places of worship?   Events of Jaranwala on 16 August 2023 are only a minor reflection of our worsening,  uncontrolled and unmanaged reproductive behaviours.

 Easy and free access to contraceptives, media campaigns, advertisements, integrating reproductive health services with other healthcare posts, community health visitors,   reproductive health clinics, mandatory  pre-marriage reproductive health counselling, legislating 18 years as minimum age for marriage across Pakistan, mandatory inclusion of bride’s CNIC in Nikah Nama,  mandatory  biometric Nadra certificate confirming couple’s age as well as having received reproductive health awareness, introducing  incentives for  couples to delay the first born by 2 to 3 years, putting  gap between children and limiting the number of children to two are some of the already well known approaches that we refuse to adopt.

Nothing stops Pakistan from emulating Bangladesh and Iran on how they went about managing their population.  Bangladesh dramatically increased access to educational opportunities, especially for girls and received huge dividends in TFR reduction.  Instead of creating political beggars, Pakistan too could easily redefine  its existing BISP programme as an incentive for girls who receive education till the age of 18 and couples who limit the family to two children. Likewise involving clerics to promote and include family planning  in their speeches and Friday sermons could have salutary impact on the family planning outcomes.

No measures to check our runaway  population can succeed if our NFC award for distribution of funds to provinces, is itself the greatest motivation for producing more children.  The current  ratio of 82 % funds being distributed on the basis of population is irrational and ought to be reduced to 50%.  Reducing population growth rate and improving social development indicators  must be incentivised by allocating 10% funds to provinces  for decreasing Total Fertility Rate (TFR), 7% for reducing the out-of-school children, 5% for compliance on minimum wage and EOBI, 5%  for access to clean water, sanitation and sewage treatment  and 5%  for elimination of child labour.

Despite its numerous challenges, Pakistan stands at the threshold of an era of exceptional opportunities.  Traditionally handicapped by a visionless leadership, Pakistan’s turnaround is nevertheless  entirely possible. This responsibility increasingly   rests on the shoulders of Pakistan’s  rational and progressive citizens who must come together to bring energy and ideas to push for the much needed reforms.     It is also a great opportunity for Pakistan’s interim government to take pioneering initiatives to address a dormant  issue that threatens the very survival of Pakistan.

 Naeem Sadiq