Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) promised through its manifesto in 2013 that when in power it would bring down the population growth rate to 1.6 percent.
Pakistan is the 6th most populous country in the world with an estimated current population of 191.71 million and growth rate of 1.92 percent.
According to the reports of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, it is estimated that by 2025, the population of Pakistan would increase to 277 million. Unless Pakistan brings the fertility rate down, the dependency ratio, which means the ratio of working to non-working people, i.e. adults versus children and old people will multiply stress on the economy.
- Pakistan’s history of Family Planning initiatives
|1955-60||First Five Year Plan||Limited|
|1960-65||Second Five year Plan||Family Planning services were dispensed through the health infrastructure.|
|1960’s||Pakistan became one of the few countries of the world to formulate a National Population Policy|
|1965-70||Third Five Year Plan||Independent set up was introduced to manage and execute the population welfare program: Pakistan’s first family planning service.|
|1990||Ministry||Independent Ministry was created for Population.|
|1998-2002||Consistent pursuance of population policy|
Source: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics
After the 18th amendment in 2010, population growth became a provincial-level concern. However, each province has given low to no priority to curtail population growth.
In Sindh especially, it took the government almost six years post 18th amendment to allocate funds for population purposes. Studies show that the use of contraception is relatively small in the rural Sindh compared to rural Punjab or KP.
Sindh’s population growth rate is 3 per cent, whereas national rate stands at 2 per cent. This statistic was revealed by a study conducted by Mehtab S. Karim, the Vice Chancellor, Malir University of Science and Technology, titled “Conducting Census in Pakistan: Where do we stand?” The study was released in September 2016.
Sindh’s higher growth rate had two major causes, Karim writes. First, the fertility rate is high in Sindh. Pakistan 2012-13 Demographic and Health Survey estimates the fertility rate in Sindh at 3.9 per woman. Two, Sindh has been the choice destination for migrants coming to the province from within the country and other parts of the country for economic pursuits.
Karim further claims that:
- With its estimated population of 42.4 million, Sindh is second largest in the country. Punjab is the most populous province in Pakistan with an estimated population of 100 million.
- The result of the 1998 census showed Sindh’s population at 30.4 million with an annual growth rate of 2.8 percent.
- Population in Sindh during 1951 was 18% of the national figure that increased to 23% in 1998, and it is increasing continuously due to migration from other parts of the country and abroad.
- Sindh’s population density, per Sq. Km, in 1951 was 43, which increased to 216 per Sq. Km by 1998.
- The population growth rate in the urban areas in Sindh is also very high as compared to other parts of the country.
According to Article 51 (3) 1973 Constitution, the census should be conducted every ten years. It serves to meet the legal requirements for providing the basis for political representation in the National and Provincial Assemblies. A regular census is pivotal for the distribution of funds to the federating units by National Finance Commission Report determining the quota for recruitment to all public posts in the federal government; and delineation of constituencies for National and Provincial Assemblies.
Since its inception Pakistan had only five censuses: 1951, 1961, 1972 and 1981. After the 1973 constitution the census was taken in 1981, but then it took 17 years for another census in 1998 and another 18 years have passed since that count.
Karim’s study further claimed that Pakistan was among only four countries that did not conduct the census in the world since the year 2000. The other countries are Lebanon, (last held in 1936); Afghanistan (last conducted in 1975); and Somalia (last conducted in 1961).
To track the promise made by the government, Truth Tracker talked to Mumtaz Jhakrani, the Minister for Population Sindh. He said that his cabinet had allocated Rs 51.2 million in 2015-16 for family planning for the present government’s term in office.
“We are working at three different tiers to execute and implement this program. At the first level, we plan to integrate the Health Department with the population department. At the second tier, we would make sure that contraceptives are easily available and accessible to the people. At the final level, we are training lady health workers on family planning. All these levels would be working simultaneously,” he said.
When Truth Tracker talked to the lawmaker from Pakistan Muslim League Functional (PMLF) from Sindh Assembly, Nusrat Bano, she dismissed the claims made by the minister Jhakrani. Bano said that in the last four years almost not a single word, let alone any resolution or motion, has been presented in the assembly pertaining to population.
“This issue is not on the PPP radar. I am sure that they have no interest in this matter,” said Bano.
Policy analyst Saeed Shafqat, Dean of the Centre for Public Policy and Governance at the Forman Christian College, Lahore, says that after the late 1970s, no government has been serious about taking up the issue of population. “ I believe that unless the population is made as a core national issue, and is treated as a security concern, it would remain a thorn in our side,” he said. The matter of concern Shafqat stressed is not as much of rising Fertility rate but of human development that, he says the country has abandoned. “I have advised the government to change the name of the Family Planning and Population Department to the Family Welfare and Development Department” said Shafqat arguing that this new paradigm will help us focus on policy formation in the sphere of the reproductive system and the development of human resource. “ I certainly believe that instead of working on making people give birth to fewer children our attitude should shift to making the parents and the children more productive both financially and ethically.”
The Sindh government has created a blueprint of the strategy to combat population growth. However, four years down the road, with the election year only a few months away, the promise to bring the population growth rate down to 1.6 percent remains an unmet reality.