The world population is growing and it is growing at a rate which is likely to outstrip its development gains. Pakistan is no exception to this possibility, all the more for its population explosion. Think of the 'progress' we as a nation have made in this area - in 1950, Pakistan's population was 33 million and it was 14th in the world. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNPF), Pakistan is currently the sixth most populous country in the world, with its 208 million people and a growth rate of 2.4 percent. As a result, its development gains fall far short of its needs dictated by its burgeoning population. As to why Pakistan has come to such a sorry pass there are multiple causes, the most telling being poverty, poor contraceptive use, high unmet need of family planning, high fertility and declining mortality, gender-based discrimination, son preference, early marriages and socio-cultural and religious taboos. Not that the world at large has succeeded in meeting these challenges; it has not, and the UNFP report has taken due notice of that failing. But there have been some significant improvements. Out there, the other people have tackled the challenge of population explosion in myriad ways. They prefer to have small families; they've popularized the use of contraceptives, recognized the right of women to decide when to have babies and improved reproductive health of mothers. And the need to control size of family has been felt and met not only in advanced countries; even relatively less advanced countries too have done that. Closer to home, Pakistan is the only exception, as others have greatly succeeded in controlling the population growth rate. Why so, there are quite a few impediments. Successive governments in Pakistan have failed to frame necessary policies and undertake pragmatic measures to educate the people in this respect, both in providing adequate health facilities to degrade infantile mortality rate and improve the chances of survival of newborn babies. There was a family planning programme as long ago as 1950. But it was only trickery then, as it is today. It was taboo to exhibit birth-control devices then and today the situation is even worse. The contraceptives were sold under the table then and so is the case now. Recall the indecent haste with which an ad on a television channel campaign supporting use of contraceptives was withdrawn. And since then such ads are taboo on public media. The opposition to the use of contraceptives stems from the misperception, put forward by religious circles that the said device is programmed by anti-Islam forces who want to keep a check on growth of Muslim population in the world - a mindset that also triggers murderous attacks on anti-polio workers in Pakistan. But that is not the case with other Muslim countries where family planning imperative is justified not only by their governments but also by the religious entities.
The higher rate of population growth is fast outstripping our national resources, a sorry state which tends to promote among the masses a sense of deprivation and provokes them to change the system by use of force. Given that in Pakistan today more than half of the population is under 20, meeting their need for job and work that would be a huge challenge for any future government. The best time to undertake the task of educating people in family planning was the early years of our national independence; the second best is now. The PTI government is committed to improving the quality of life of the ordinary people. One big step in that direction is the birth control, both by creating public awareness of the need to plan the family and by putting in place real, effective and easily accessible wherewithal to achieve that objective. And no less crucially the government should initiate a dialogue with the religious leadership and the so-called custodians of our traditional and cultural norms to concede space to various governmental and non-governmental agencies to popularize use of family planning devices.