Pakistan’s population problem

Pakistan presents a case study of population mismanagement and disproportionate growth

Ali Hassan Bangwar October 23, 2022
The writer is a freelancer based in Kandhkot, Sindh. He can be reached at


The quality of human resources determines the destiny and direction of a country. A double-edged sword, the population of a society can be an asset or a liability — or both. A productive, diligent, dedicated and dynamic workforce guarantees sustainable national development. Though the advanced healthcare, medical technology and ample food production have reduced mortality rates and increased average population growth, countries across the world have been focusing on the pragmatic strategies of balancing its growth and capitalising on it.

For instance, with the highest population in the world, China has capitalised on its human resources so much so that its pragmatic contribution has made it a world power on almost all fronts. Meanwhile, a poorly managed population adds liabilities with lasting detrimental implications for societies.

Pakistan presents a case study of population mismanagement and disproportionate growth. Despite potential demography with a whopping 64% of the youth population, the country failed to capitalise on its human capital. This is mainly because successive governments, comprising chronic power hunger elite, have kept their vested interests ahead of national welfare or human potential. Had they capitalised on the potential human resources, the country could have been doing wonders in all fields of life. However, a traditional systematic neglect, exclusivist approach, chronic elite capture, social disparity, feudalism, lack of social engagement, quality education and healthcare have turned the population into a ticking time bomb.

More worrying, however, is the authority’s lasting stupor to the menace of the ever bourgeoning population of the country. The apathy is manifested in disproportionate population growth in the country. At the time of its inception, Pakistan ranked 14th in the world with 33 million people. However, in three-quarters of a century, its population soared to 224 million and now it is the 5th most populous country in the world. With the current annual growth rate of nearly 2%, the highest in South Asia, the country is estimated to witness a 56% increase with 366 million people in 2050 — indeed an alarming situation.

Many independent and overlapping factors have contributed to the population explosion in the country. Governmental apathy and flawed population planning; misinterpretation of religion and unfounded customs; high birth and low mortality rates; poverty and illiteracy; low contraception prevalence and birth control awareness; the custom of child marriage and preference for the son; lack of public places and recreational activities; and the conflicts and displacements have played their role.

The country’s bourgeoning population has serious implications — undue burden on resources and space; poverty and unemployment; food scarcity and water crisis; housing issues and growth of slums; healthcare problems and illiteracy; corruption and mismanagement; growing crimes and conflicts; populism and ethnic tensions; terrorism and radicalisation; sanitation problems and lethal diseases; child labour and improvised living standards; depletion of natural resources; and environmental degradation.

The worsening implications of overpopulation call for pragmatic population control and management measures at all levels. For this purpose, acknowledgement of overpopulation as an existential threat would be the first step towards a balanced and productive human resources. The government’s will and pragmatic population planning; increasing contraceptive prevalence; engaging religious scholars and realistic interpretation of religion; increasing literacy and women’s education; checking the practice of child marriages and debunking traditional myths; ensuring implementation of limited child policies and rewarding the same; increasing public places and recreational activities; disseminating awareness through media; creating opportunities; and engaging youth in the national affairs would go a long way in building a balanced and proficient population in the country.

It’s time for the leadership to realise that only a limited, inclusive and well-managed population can steer the country on the road to sustainable development and equalitarianism.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2022.

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