Population Peril | Complete Essay with Outline

Population Peril | Complete Essay

OUTLINE

  1. Population – The cause of many of Pakistan’s woes
  2. The population at the time of Partition Vs. Now
  3. The population of Bangladesh (East Pakistan) Vs. Now
  4. Coping Population and Richer Countries
  5. Steps taken to Cope Population in Pakistan
    • Ayub Khan – The Last Leader to take the Problem Seriously
  6. Population Peril and Pakistan
    • Reasons for Overpopulation
      • Lack of Political Will
      • Silence of Media
      • Lack of Awareness to Masses 
      • Male Dominated Society
      • Overpopulation in the name of Islam
    • Problems resulted by Overpopulation
      • Increase in Unemployment Rates
        • Unemployment – The Root cause of many Social Evils
      • Undernourished Children
      • Uneducated Society 
      • Insufficient Healthcare
      • Improper Shelter
      • The Decrease in Farm Lands
  7. Curbing Overpopulation
    • The Chinese Example
    • Formation and Implementation of practicable Plans and Policies
    • Strong Political Will
    • Educating and Empowering Women
    • Awareness Campaigns
  8. Conclusion

If I were to focus on a single issue that has directly caused many of Pakistan’s woes, it would be the sheer number of people now jostling for space and resources.

Consider: at Partition seven decades ago, West Pakistan (and now just Pakistan) had a population of around 32 million. This number has now shot up to 220m.

The 1951 census showed East Pakistan to have a population of 66m, while the western wing was home to 42m. Currently, Bangladesh has a population of 163m with a growth rate of 1.04 per cent, while Pakistan’s numbers have shot up to close to 220m with a growth rate of 2.1pc.

Older readers might recall that when Bangladesh came into being, Henry Kissinger dismissed it as “an international basket case”, while many in Pakistan sneered at the rate at which Bengalis were supposed to reproduce.

Even far richer countries would struggle to cope with such a rapid increase. Had Pakistan a better track record of governance, we still would not have been able to feed, clothe, house and educate these teeming millions. As it is, ineffective politicians and generals have not given the matter much thought or resources.

Ayub Khan was the last leader to take population seriously and to fund a family planning programme. 

The family planning slogan “Kam Bachchay, Khush-Hall Ghrana (Fewer Children, Happier Family”) was hard to miss. It was everywhere; on the walls, bridges, newspapers, magazine, radio and TV.

That was 50 years ago. No serious family planning program ever since! Would the current regime wake up and make a serious and sustained effort towards family planning and population control?

After him, leaders tended to push the problem on the back-burner, expecting their successors to tackle this potentially sensitive subject. But despite the resistance from the clerical community, the fact is that the Muslim belief system is silent on the subject of birth control.

As a result of the lack of political will, successive governments have skirted around the whole issue. There was a time when the media discussed overpopulation; seminars on the subject were organised; and NGOs worked to motivate couples to have fewer babies. Now, in an era of multiple media channels, all we hear is silence.

With Pakistanis breeding like rabbits due largely to our male-dominated society in which women have little say or control over the number of babies they have.

The reality is that politicians tend to think in the short term, and refuse to face down the most backward elements in our society.

Clerics have often attacked efforts to control population as a Western plot to reduce the number of the faithful. Ask them how children will be educated, fed and housed, and you get an answer that shuts down the discussion: “The Almighty will provide.”

According to a report published in this newspaper, Pakistan needs to create around 2m jobs to absorb the young people who enter the market every year.

Currently, 4m youths aged between 15 and 24 years are unemployed; by 2020, this number is expected to rise to 8.6m.

What happens to this huge pool of the unemployed? For most parents, getting a job for their son is an acute and pressing problem. This is why Imran Khan’s campaign pledge of creating 10m jobs in five years resonated with so many voters.

Many jobless youths turn to crime; others to drugs; and some take the jihadist route. The reality is that our economy simply does not create the number of jobs needed to absorb the millions of young people applying for them. A lack of fresh investment, combined with a slowdown in government recruitment, has closed the doors to formal employment.

With population growth of 2.1%, we need over 4.6 million jobs per year to provide employment to youth entering the job market. Even USA, with its 20 times larger GDP, cannot create that many jobs per year.

Most Pakistani children are undernourished and uneducated, hardly the ‘assets’ politicians like to claim they are. Our exploding numbers are, if anything, a time bomb that is destabilising society.

The growth rate of our population growth according to the offical figure from 1998-2017 is 2.4%. For such an increased rate our resources are precipitously dwindling. Subsequently popping up crisis in basic sectors like unemployent, insufficient healthcare, improper shelter and illiteracy

Farmlands are decreasing in size as land is divided up with each generation. There is literally a war being fought within families now. In fighting is a common lament I hear among middle-class families.

If the population has increased by seven times since 1947 then farm area must have shrunk massively. The population explosion was predicted long ago by the experts but our politicians and policy makers like ostriches just buried their heads in the ground.

Instead of providing a better deal to our teeming population having 87 million as illiterate, our previous governments aided in the spread of ultra-conservatism seeping State’s resources and energies to contain security threats created by it. We need to revisit our priorities without further delay.

There is no alternative but to control the population. China had one child policy which has resulted in raising the standard of living of more than 400 million people in that country.

Pakistan should follow that approach. In addition to reducing poverty, it will encourage women to do more participation outside the home than just producing children and remain stuck at home.

Policies and plans focusing on an urgent and demanding issue of rapid population growth whose 64% population comprises of youth having no propspects of getting access to higher education, health facilities and employment opportunities to vouch for a better economic future for themselves and their families.

Unless politicians find the political will and the courage to change this discourse and push the narrative into the 21st century, Pakistan is poised to become the fourth most populated country in the world with 306m people.

While there is no silver bullet to solve the problem, countries like Bangladesh have proved that by educating and empowering women, a slowdown in the growth rate is entirely feasible.

Other Asian countries have had the same experience. But Pakistan, with its criminal neglect of education, has failed its children in so many ways.

By Irfan Husain

irfan.husain@gmail.com

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