What is, or can be, the most devastating threat to society and the state in Pakistan today? We may get several different answers but with one thing common in all: we are facing multiple threats to our individual as well as collective existence. We have written and spoken about a lot of these threats, like extremism, terrorism, political and ethnic violence that all erode or diminish the power and authority of the state. True, they are all threats and we must think of their roots and why we are not fully, or even partially, able to end them. In my opinion, the cause of Pakistan’s growing and unmanageable troubles is population explosion.
I believe one of the best ways to understand any social or political problem is to visit as many different areas, rural or urban, and observe and listen to people. I wish I could do more of this. For the last five days, since I met about seven youngsters walking on my little farm in district Rajanpur, the picture of a real existential threat has emerged very clearly. I have no ambiguity about it anymore.
While talking to these children, I learnt that each of them has several siblings. Every kid I shook hands with was stunted in growth, weak and suffering from serious food deficiency. While looking into the pale eyes of these kids, my thoughts rocketed back to the 1960s when religio-political parties persistently launched campaigns against the family planning programmes of the Ayub regime. Do you remember their political message? A man is born with one mouth but two hands. What bigotry it was then and remains now. There is no rational thinking, no learning from history or human experience or even any sense of how population explosion — the human bomb — has contributed to the multiple threats we confront today.
We haven’t been able to collect genuine figures of our population, all we have are projections based on selective sampling and past trends. Every regime has made half-hearted efforts towards a national head count. All the rival, competing ethnic groups in Balochistan and Sindh exaggerate their numbers and have prevented an honest counting in the past and will do the same in future. But this is an extremely important business of the state without which no future planning can be accurate, focused or realistic.
The concerned demographers and social scientists have begun to raise the alarm of a population threat. Why it is an existential threat? It shouldn’t be difficult to fathom; imbalance between population and natural resources generates conflicts in more than one ways. You will see bigger rallies of disaffected populations, proliferation of militancy and violence. No government will be able to ensure even basic needs. Our production of every consumable item is falling behind demand. Watching the debate on the rising prices of tomatoes and onions, I have yet to see anyone talk about population. For the superficial, it is a non-issue.
Any thinking politician will have sleepless nights over the rising population numbers. But thinking is not the right way of doing politics — populism is.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 19th, 2013.
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The dream of two kids per couple is only possible if the taboo & shyness regarding the contraceptives in our society is removed. Our "Ghairatmand" men can treat women like a slave, can forcefully have a sexual relationship with her but they don't have the courage to go to a shop & ask for a condom.I have seen so many examples of such males.They think that they are a tiger, they act beastly towards their woman, threatens her life by not keeping necessary periods between child births but if you ask them to go & buy a condom even just for a fun,then all the air from their manhood spooks away. It's so much cheap to buy a condom & settle for 2 Kids, then not getting the courage to buy a condom & keep producing kids, financially burdening yourself and deteriorating the quality of your life & your Kids.
Two things that humanity fails to grasp are the exponential function in mathematics and the process of photosynthesis. The Malthusian threat has not materialized with the severity as projected but now climate change,environmental degradation are certainly visible and telling.. We as a conscious species have a very important role in maintaining the ecological balance otherwise nature will take its revenge in ways we have yet to understand. Overpopulation means less of everything.Pakistan has reached its tipping point and we are not yet ready to acknowledge it.
The population bomb could also be converted into a demographoc dividend if the conditions are created for these people o be gainfully employed. This would require a significant change in priorities - increased investment in law and order : more , better trained and equipped and better paid police, intelligence gathering focused on anticipating and preventing acts of terror etc. - investments in literacy and job oriented education - investments in health and nutrition
Since money is not unlimited, this will have to come from improving tax to GDP ratio (everyone talks about it but the elites in power do not have the will to do it) and reduced military expense. It is better to improve the life and future of Pakistanis rather than trying to install a client state in Afghanistan or trying to snatch Kashmir through direct wars or by encouraging non-state actors.
The other point the author mentioned is extremely important i.e. to conduct a census. The last census was conducted in 1998 in Pakistan and a fresh one is overdue. Without having detailed tehsil level data about population as well existence of facilities like schools, primary healthcare clinics etc., well designed interventions are not possible.
@ X Thanx X for your logical explanation, I am sure now the people will get clarity. Akhtar Rao
Malthus... Food : 1,2,3,4,5,6..... Population:2,4,8,16,32,........ rest you can imagine what will happen...
This is the most important thing to do in Pakistan. We are already experiencing the evils of the population time bomb.
@Raza: @Anita: They spend money on useless projects to gain votes such as solving thana katcheri problems, getting jobs for people 'mere ba fail bhateejay k behnoi ko naukri luga dein saab' and indulge in useless projects which project image of grandeur and thaath baath which is what most rural people admire. Investing in REAL and needed projects such as education and grass roots awareness campaigns so that these people actually gain useful employment, become productive and think of the future and future of generations beyond 'beta chahiye k nasal aagay barhay' and 'Allah rozi dega' after producing 9th kid.
The poverty clock is ticking. When the poor have nothing to eat they will devour anything that comes in their way. One doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to understand the threat of survival of the human race from this part of the world. Poverty and terrorism are the children of war. Prosperity and tolerance are the offspring of peace.We can only look forward to more food, water, energy, health care, infrastructure, housing, education, environmental degradation and a host of other crises. Water shortages are common even in places described as the wettest on Earth. Successive governments have shied away from tackling the enormous implications of our growth and have not pursued an active family planning programme
One way to become unpopular in Pakistan is to tell people to practice birth control. I've stopped advising others not to have more than 2 kids. Many people I know think that the ideal family is one with six children at least, if not more.
[email protected] would you please explain " costly struggle" so that common people can understand? Because people will misinterpret it ,as has been done by Mr. Raza...
I fully agreed with you that the people should be guided and taught in their local language. They should be onboard, and their representatives must think about them. That is true that the rulers of the day are busy in costly struggle without any gain e.g. Musharraf's trial.Bshing US and drone etc.They should deliver rather speeches
Well done thoughtful and learned author R B Rais This topic must be the talk of the town. It is not only the people of this region that are on the course of self inflicted catastrophe, there are other Asian nations like the Filipinos and Indonesians. The Chinese have taken the best course well before the quota of having no more then one child has become a necessity for all, living in Asia, Africa and South America. However as one can see that, every well to do Chinese is fleeing China. They feel the suffocation due to the presence of tide after tide of human beings around them. The Africans and South Americans are now seeing the ever increasing catastrophe that is becoming a reality everyday due to the neglect of population control. I have heard from the clerics that there is famine and wars that makes population control unnecessary. Unfortunately the reality is not what they think. In the Phillipines the clerics are the ones who are leading people to catastrophe. But what about Muslims? There is utterly no restrictions in the way for them from the Creator (swt) as far as kwon to me. So what is wrong with them? It is the clerics who give them Opium through wrong interpretations of Lord's commands.
It is a thought provoking piece. Indeed, growing population ratio particularly in rural areas is a grave existing threat and will be more devastating in future. These illiterate, hungrey,and without shoes youngsters would be playing in the hands of religious stakholders.One can imagine then what will happen? Alas, the rulers of the day have no futuristic and pragmatic approach. This problem is increasing in villages because people do not have anything to do, they do not work.They think only about their evening or nights not for their tomorrow or future. To me, ignorance is the mother of all threats, local people should be engaged directly in awareness creating programs instead of the 2-3 NGO's money makers. Community centers can play an important role which is missing in villages, there cab be done several project to indulge the local population. But , our governance and governors ( rular-cum-masters) have no vision. Look at the elected MPAs and MNAs in their areas, how do the perform? It is sad,theri performance during military and civil regime remains worst, they can contribute a lot in their constituencies but they do not have interests. They remain engaged with costly struggle which is useless for common people and this struggle can be seen from top to bottom. Nutshell: People in villages need guidance and awareness, in their own languages
Unlike the author, Governments in Pakistan obviously do not deem population important given the casual attitude to carrying out the decennial census. The decennial census which was to have been conducted in 2008 is yet to undertaken. Further the earlier decennial census of which was required to have been undertaken in 1991 was only conducted in 1998.
The author is correct - without education, healthcare and opportunities, these kids may just become fodder for extremists. A large population of young men without any prospects is the prime ingredient of unrest, conflicts and wars. I hope things never come to that pass for anyone. And frankly, Pakistan (or any other country for that matter) doesn't have the resources to cope with this kind of population growth.
I keep reading off and on about how there is a water shortage in Pakistan and how India is 'stealing' water from Indus. I think a simple explanation here may be that Pakistan's population (and therefore water requirements) have tripled since independence while the poor Indus still delivers the same amount of water - so obviously, there is a problem. Please try to visualize how much worse it can get if population goes up further from this point.
India suffers from the same problem, though to a somewhat lesser extent - even though some states in North India are in the same basket as Pakistan is.
Couples shouldn't have more than two children. If they want to have more than two children, they should adopt.
Fertility rate in Pakistan is on decline for the last few decades----apart from statistics, if we look around in cities, we find families of 8-10 kids rarely. Education and Urbanization is having impact.
In any case, World population is no more growing at maddening level so we can have some peace. Now is the time to invest in education and it will manage population on its own.
A simple way to consider population growth: A family with more than 2 children will end up poorer than their parents.