Population Growth is a Security Issue for Pakistan

August 26, 2010

Population Affecting Healthy Living: Pakistan was a

country of 34 million people in 1951, including thethen

East Pakistan and now Bangladesh. By 2000, the

population had risen to 144 million. Pakistan added 110

million Pakistanis in just four decades, and despite the

recent decline in the rate of population growth from 3.2

percent to 2.1 percent, Pakistan is expected to have a

population size of 224 – 226 million by 2020 and by 2025,

population is estimated at a staggering 333 million. From

1981 to 1998, the rate of population growth was 2.69

percent criss-crossing all the way to 3.2 percent in 2002. At

present, there are confirmed estimates that 70 percent of

the Pakistani population is living either under, on or just

above the poverty line and make two or less dollars a day.

Forth-nine percent of the population is living absolutely

below the poverty line. According to a Population Welfare

study, “the impact of population growth on poverty is

obvious, since poorer families, especially women

and marginalized groups bear the burden of a large number

of children with much fewer resources further adding to the

spiral of poverty and deterioration in the status of women.”

The same study established that the contraceptive

prevalence is 30 percent which is nearly 120 percent lesser

than the required standard to help reduce Pakistan’s

population growth to an “acceptable level” of 1.2 percent.

Because of repeated population explosions, Pakistan is

faced with serious a socio-economic and a political crises.

Take the housing sector, as an example. Pakistan has

nearly 7 persons per housing unit as opposed to 3.5 persons

per housing unit in the developed world. At an average,

3.13 persons share a single room per housing

unit. Pakistan also has one of the highest “single room

accommodation” average in the world with 38.11 percent

followed by two rooms housing units at 30.54 percent.

Housing units that have five or more rooms are less than 7

percent. Nearly 46 percent of the total housing is informal

or “kucha” (mud) housing with cement and brick housing

ratio at 54.64 percent. Around 32 percent of all families

in Pakistan have ten or more people living in one unit.

Nearly 51 percent of the total housing units do not have

built-in toilets.

Literacy-Population Connection: In spite of the recent

media boom in Pakistan, total access to TV is 35.32

percent followed by radio at 23.94 percent and newspapers

at 21.20 percent. No wonder a whole host of government

initiatives to control population growth have failed to

achieve much. With an established rate of literacy at 43.92

percent, government finds it extremely hard to evolve and

develop campaigns and mechanisms to convey the critical

nature of the problem that population growth is. These

campaigns then also are faced with fierce resistance from a

dominant part of religious circles who not only

oppose population control but also claim that any

contraceptive practice is against the will of God. Their

stance is not helping Pakistan evolve into a vibrant socialwelfare

democratic state that it was originally set out to be.

State of Affairs: Even with a population of nearly 170

million in 2008, the State is finding it very hard to provide

its citizens with a healthy living environment and other

basic amenities of life. Shortage of electricity, water and

wheat flour has become serious challenges and things are

bound to deteriorate further particularly if and when

population reaches 333 million in 2025. In a recent study

of World Population Council, it was found

that China’s one-child policy had prevented the births of

nearly 400 million children over the past three decades.

The prevention of birth of every child saved the state 1,200

dollars annually and helped create a balance between

resources and consumption. In Pakistan, unemployment

continues to be rampant; 25 percent as of Sept 30, 2008.

Then there’s the power crisis, gas, water shortages,

increased diseases, lack of medical facilities, security,

terrorism and law and order crisis. Our policy makers must

seriously ponder about the implications of an unplanned

population growth. Right now, Pakistan has 872

government hospitals and 9,892 basic health units and they

are all heavily burdened, unable to cope with the current

population.

Our future is our children but 31 percent of our children

under the age of 5 are suffering from severe

malnutrition. Mortality rate per 1,000 is 78 (worse than

some of the poorest African countries). Imagine; a mere

4.38 percent Pakistanis are university graduates with a

paltry 1.58 percent holding a master’s degree. The

technical corps among the educated is 0.41 percent. Only

17.29 percent of the school-going population qualifies the

“matriculation” (10 years of education) examination and

this figure further shrinks to just 6.56 percent qualifying as

“intermediates” (12 years of education).

Education or Arsenal: Pakistan’s future is nothing short

of a Himalayan challenge. The government and the state

machinery can only overcome these challenges by turning

the country into a progressive and a forward looking state

and that would only be possible if we begin investing in

education and health. The State needs to re-define its

priorities from a defense focus to a welfare orientation.

PS: According to estimates, nearly 5.5 billion people in

the world live in underdeveloped nations while the

developed nations’ population is 1.5 billion. India, with

an expected population base of 1.7 billion by 2050, will

be the largest country on the face of the planet.

Source: CRSS Pakistan

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