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300 million Pakistanis

300 million Pakistanis

IT is a staggering prospect. As per a recent UN report, Pakistan is projected to have a population of over 300 million people by 2050.

Already, with an estimated population hovering around 190m, the country is among the world’s top 10 most populous states. The fact that the population is so large — and that it is going to get even more crowded by the middle of the century — should make our rulers and policymakers urgently take notice.

Already, the state is unable to provide for its citizens; what will the situation be like when we hit 300 million souls?

Numerous valid questions pop up about how such a huge number of people can be sustained; primarily, how will we feed, educate, house and provide healthcare for all of them?

Also, large populations need impressive growth rates in order to create jobs — ensuring such rates is not something the Pakistani state can guarantee.

Large populations, if not cared for and purposefully engaged and employed, can easily become liabilities and create security issues. Hence if the ‘population bomb’ is to be defused, we need more effective policies to address population growth.

Experts note that the population growth rate has come down in Pakistan, but there is definite room for improvement. Firstly, we need a fair idea of how many people there actually are, as presently most planning is based on educated guesses.

It can only be hoped that next year’s census goes through, and produces a proper picture. Secondly, efforts to educate the masses about family planning need a boost. Outdated ‘cultural’ norms — such as producing children until a male heir is born — particularly need to be addressed.

For this, it is essential to engage community leaders and ulema so that the cultural barriers that stand in the way of better family planning can be removed. The state should not necessarily be telling people how many children they can have; but it can surely point out the consequences of a rapidly growing population.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2015

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