Three men, 96 children: Pakistan's population booms

By AFP
Published: June 10, 2017
SHARES
Email
In this photograph Pakistani father Gulzar Khan, 57, who has 36 children from his three wives, are surrounded by his children as he speaks during an interview with AFP at his house in the northwestern town of Bannu. PHOTO: AFP

In this photograph Pakistani father Gulzar Khan, 57, who has 36 children from his three wives, are surrounded by his children as he speaks during an interview with AFP at his house in the northwestern town of Bannu. PHOTO: AFP

BANNU: Three men who have fathered nearly 100 children among them are doing their bit for Pakistan’s skyrocketing population, which is being counted for the first time in 19 years.

But in a country where experts warn the surging populace is gouging into hard-won economic gains and social services, the three patriarchs are unconcerned. Allah, they say, will provide.

Pakistan has the highest birth rate in South Asia at around three children per woman, according to the World Bank and government figures, and the census is expected to show that growth remains high.

Population census source of fear and hope for minorities

“God has created the entire universe and all human beings, so why should I stop the natural process of a baby’s birth?” asks Gulzar Khan, a father of 36, citing one of the strongest influences in the region: the belief that Islam prevents family planning.

PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

Tribal enmity is another factor in the northwest, where the 57-year-old lives in the city of Bannu with his third wife, who is pregnant. “We wanted to be stronger,” the 57-year-old tells AFP, surrounded by 23 of his offspring — so many, he observes, they don’t need friends to play a full cricket match.

Polygamy is legal but rare in Pakistan, and families like Khan’s are not the norm, though the beliefs he holds are widespread.

The last census, held in 1998, showed Pakistan had a population of up to 135 million. Estimates suggest the new census — carried out earlier this year, with the preliminary results due by the end of July — will put the figure closer to 200 million.

The economy is expanding faster than it has in a decade, and last month Islamabad hiked its development budget by 40 per cent. But observers have warned the population boom is negating any progress, using up valuable resources in a young country where jobs are scarce and nearly 60 million people live below the poverty line.

“It definitely is a problem because it is affecting health outcomes adversely and also eating into development gains,” says Zeba A Sathar, country director for the UN population council. Sathar predicted the census would show growth has slowed due to lower fertility rates, though she added it would remain among the highest rates in the region.

Man arrested in capital for arguing with census team

“There has to be a clear enunciation of need to slow growth as a positive policy lever,” she said. “And then next a good, effective health system that provides information and services of quality.”

PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

Khan’s brother, Mastan Khan Wazir — one of his 15 siblings — also has three wives. So far, Wazir has only fathered 22 children but, like his brother, he says his grandchildren are too numerous to count.

The 70-year-old, with his bushy moustaches and bejewelled fingers, is a minor celebrity in North Waziristan tribal district, where his blinged out jeep — done in the style of Pakistan’s famous “jingle trucks”, with Pashto music pouring from the stereo — is a familiar sight.

“God has promised that he will provide food and resources but people have weak faith,” he tells AFP, wearing a traditional Waziristani turban.

In the southwestern city of Quetta in Balochistan province, Jan Mohammed — the father of 38 children — agrees, despite having previously called on the government to provide resources for his family.

Jan spoke with AFP in 2016 to voice his desire for a fourth wife as he continues his mission of having 100 children. No woman has yet agreed, he says, but he has not given up.

“The more Muslims grow, the more their enemies will fear them… Muslims should go for more and more children,” he said.

Denied their husbands’ permission to speak, none of the three men’s wives could give their views on family planning in Islam. But there is already ‘abundant’ awareness in Pakistan about the need for birth spacing, or allowing a woman’s body to rest for at least 18 months between pregnancies, Sathar said.

“The need is for clear information about the methods available, how they work, their possible side effects and where to get them. That is missing,” she added.

Giving women more of a choice in the matter could help, argues Aisha Sarwari, a feminist activist who has previously written on population and women’s rights.

“Access to birth control for women can be a game changer,” she told AFP. “Ultimately the impact is that there are more resources to go around … Empowered women have fewer children, and this creates a mindset that leads to prosperity within families that is likely to be emulated across communities.”

Pakistan tops list in child mortality rate: experts

Khan, at least, admitted there could be some benefits to slowing down.

For one thing, tribal enmity in the northwest has decreased in recent years, he said. “Now, with the grace of God, the situation has changed — war and fighting is finished — so, now, a decrease in the population would not be bad.”

PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

It would also free him up for other leisure activities, he says, adding wistfully: “If one had fewer children, one would have more time to make love with his wives.”

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (15)

  • bryan
    Jun 10, 2017 - 10:14AM

    Pakistan’s population will almost double by 2050 as per a population report. This could be a cause of major strain on its economy and overall law and order if economy did not keep up with population growth.
    World migration watch also highlights that Pakistan be a major source of sending immigrants- both legal and illegal in the future.
    Inter state differences will be high and prosperous Punjab could see their own population reducing while the state will be a magnet for other inter state immigrants. This could again cause a law and order problem as job and labour market could see price distortion.

    Family planning is almost impossible to implement in about 70% regions of Pakistan due to the reasons mentioned in this article.
    Looking forward for the Census report.Recommend

  • chetan
    Jun 10, 2017 - 11:07AM

    Do some other work also, producing kids is not the only way to show that u r man. When will they learn ? Recommend

  • Haji Atiya
    Jun 10, 2017 - 11:08AM

    @bryan:
    Pakistan has reached the point of no return; the problem of unfettered population growth has had a catalytic effect on all the rest of the problems facing the country over the last 40+ years, lets say, since the loss of East Pakistan and the situation is indeed dire for the rank and file. Of course the rich and elite are totally unaffected by all this and have had their escape plans in place well in advance.Recommend

  • ab
    Jun 10, 2017 - 11:31AM

    Let’s Allah take care of the population. It’s not human domain to worry about. Recommend

  • Khan muhammad
    Jun 10, 2017 - 1:24PM

    To all those who say its “God’s Will”, be assured that God has asked humankind to use the brains he has so meticulously designed and which is unique to humans on this earth. Recommend

  • Mudasser
    Jun 10, 2017 - 5:06PM

    Its mine Rabbul aalmeen responsible too give meal too his creatures
    Who r u worry about increasing of populationRecommend

  • Khwaja
    Jun 10, 2017 - 11:54PM

    Does he treat all wives equally as in loves them, provides for them equally, does k
    He know all children’s names , does he know what each child wants ? Does he love and care for each child equally ?

    These are truly ignorant people. They should be promoted in our society at all.

    Government should pass China like one child policy and penalize such people.Recommend

  • Sexton
    Jun 11, 2017 - 9:20AM

    Although I am not poor I have to plan in order to buy presents for four grandchildren on their birthdays and other occasions. These guys average 32 grandchildren. One wonders how they do it? Recommend

  • sonu athwaal
    Jun 11, 2017 - 1:44PM

    Our country is so poor therefore this population can create lot of problemsRecommend

  • nazia
    Jun 11, 2017 - 1:47PM

    this is insane. he thinks that women are for reproduction and not a human being. C’mon wake up Pakistanis . educate yourself and others in a good manner.Recommend

  • Khalid rashid
    Jun 11, 2017 - 7:28PM

    Animals are also product of God almighty.may be in West ,they care about animals too but look at their plight in our country .is this logic correct then why do we go after quality of life .it would be interesting to watch this man with 38 children as ti how many become doctors ,engineers or good citizen to ask for the least .Recommend

  • ankur tayal
    Jun 11, 2017 - 11:58PM

    “The more Muslims grow, the more their enemies will fear them… Muslims should go for more and more children,” Only if heads weighed as much as what’s in it. This is insanely stupid. Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Jun 12, 2017 - 1:54AM

    Second try!
    Just where is Pakistan going to get the resources to support a population of 600 million plus if such ignorance is allowed to continue?
    There is barely enough water and food for 200 million plus now, and certainly nowhere near enough electricity, so what is going to happen in some 20 years of absurd population growth?Recommend

  • Ameera
    Jun 12, 2017 - 2:47AM

    That’s disgusting. What a gross man. I feel bad for those women, AND children. Someone needs to keep it in their pants. Recommend

  • David Evans
    Jun 12, 2017 - 2:09PM

    @ankur tayal:
    But true. Some of us in the West now realise this. We will not allow it to continue much longer. Be warned.Recommend

More in Pakistan