By: Hassaan Ahmed Siddiqui
“Animals can be driven crazy by placing too many in too small a pen. Homo sapiens is the only animal that voluntarily does this to himself.”
Opening up with a quote by Robert A. Heinlein; bringing in the notice the major concern of the nation which if kept far reached from the masses can lead to most tormentors repercussions till date. In the midst of Pakistan’s political squabbles and the ragging fight against terrorism, another important subject that has gone almost unheeded requires major concern and attention more so than ever for the future of this country. The debilitating issue has long been ticking and is now on the verge to explode. A preliminary Census Report of 2017, showing an escalating rise in Pakistan’s population moving up further on the populous scale growing by 57% since 1998 making Pakistan world’s fifth most populous country by reaching an alarming count of 207.7 million inhabitants leaving behind many other underdeveloped countries on the scale. Ranking 14th in 1955, with the staggering growth rate of 2.4 % per annum following the footsteps of world’s densely populated countries like China, India, US & Indonesia.
Pakistan has reached around 60% of rural and 40% of urban inhabitants that has caused an upheaval and a major shift of rural population towards the urban areas which has sky-rocketed the population of the urban suburbs one of the highest in South Asia. Increasingly crowded schools, caregiving hospices and clinics have evidently shown the census report to be of importance. The annual birth rate of 22 births per 1000 people is among one of the highest. Other stats include third of Pakistanis living in poverty, around 60% of the population younger than 30, and only 58% literate its said to be a disaster in making. Paralyzing the community with the struggle to get enough to eat, enough space to accommodate, enough to be actually living, we are pushing ourselves towards a tipping point where the corals die and the forests burn and life becomes much and much harder. This massive flow has launched, illegitimate housing societies on the agricultural land, expanding the cities to yards of fertile land giving rise to huge administrative and socio economic crisis. Unavailability of agricultural raw material, less production of cash crops and high prices to name few leading the agricultural sector with a major unrest despite its 20% contribution to the country’s GDP. It has been rightly quoted by Sunday Adelaja in the book “In the mountains of ignorance”: The higher the proportion of adults with low literacy proficiency is, the slower the overall long-term GDP growth rate is.
This continuing surge of the population has said to be caused by religious taboos, ignorance and timidity towards the concept of birth control and total literacy rate, specifically in rural areas. Population experts have highlighted the figures that only a third of married Pakistani women use means of birth control or the need of family planning. It has been observed that very little has been known about the methods regarding the family planning and spacing births. Despite the gravity of the situation, this census has led to the rash arguments over certain areas being over or undercounted or the classification of rural and urban suburbs are justified or not. Instead of flourishing the cause by addressing fresh ideas in regards to the population crisis these squabbles amount to fights over political and financial spoils. It has been estimated that whether the birth rate slows or not the population in Pakistan could double again by mid-century. This could pose threat to water and sanitation systems, swamping basic necessities of life such as health, education services, leaving millions of people jobless causing criminal networks and violent Islamist Groups to shelter such people. An illiterate and unemployed population provides readymade volunteers for militant groups of all hues
Remarkably, many parts of the world have seen a reduction in fertility rates and population growth but in Pakistan, the entire discourse has challenged our society to intervene and defuse the exploding bomb. But the question is, if anyone really bothered? Indeed it’s a scary situation. If we start looking around, countries like Iran and Bangladesh have successfully controlled their population issues; which has also reflected upon their improved human development indicators. With such debilitating stats, it’s not a surprise to know that Pakistan is ranked 147th in the Human Development Index, literacy rate being dismally low at 58% and with close to 30% living below poverty line. This massive population outrage has contributed to environmental degradation, issues like climatic change, deforestation, waste management and pollution attributing to it.
Major factors contributing to the overpopulation crisis is basically the need to educate the masses, empower women to have their say rather than men forcing them into a baby-making machine, presumed by the fact that men have more authority over them. Due to religious extremism, women are too wary and shy to even discuss the topic, as they are taught that GOD wants them to have many children and even if they have any issue concerning the matter they are too frightened to open up about them. Another factor affecting it is the poor and no measures taken by the government. Little to no administrative control over the course of family planning is being set up by the government. Although there are several Sabz Sitara Clinics that provide ‘Chaabi Wali Goliyan’ for a controlled family but people are not used to the term “Bachay do hi achay!” Since our religion encourages expanding the family, our people are mostly driven by this obscene concept. Moreover, it’s not just the general public but Pakistan is currently catering the largest number of immigrants – specifically Afghan refugees leading to the population issues.
In order to circumvent these issues effective and successful family planning should be introduced within the masses or both rural and urban areas, clinics and staff should be designated in underprivileged areas for proper education of women about contraceptive use, legislation should be made against forced marriages and child marriages. More educational facilities should be started in the rural areas to educate young children and adults alike improving over the literacy rate in the country. Only about 29% women take an active part in the economic activities in Pakistan, women employment should be promoted, vocational training centers should provide them with necessary skills to make them able to earn their living and contribute in the society. Employment opportunities for the young, talented, skilled and trained individuals should be increased and promoted as per merit; it will provide a positive impact in the minds of young. Provisions should be made for easy credit facilities for the population in order to adjust the economic activities and reducing the population expansion. Small-scale cottage industries should be inducted in order to reduce the pressure on land, providing employment benefits to both men and women.
Concerning general welfare, Government, semi-Government Institutes and NGO’s should come together for the welfare of the people in Pakistan and should work for the security, accommodation, education, health for the middle and lower middle classes. Proper hygienic food, cleaned and purified water should be made customary for the ALL!!
The writer is a student and interested in raising awareness on social issues of the society.