While we were still bubbling with excitement at the announcement of the appointment of popular singer and social activist, Shehzad Roy, as Honorary Brand Ambassador for Population and Family Planning by the President of Pakistan as Chairman of the Population Task Force, the PPP President roared in the National Assembly that contraceptives were also on the long list of tax exemptions being eliminated. It seems that the president acted against the advice of the Prime Minister of Riasat-e-Madina who assured that the brand would not sell. But this prevention of Malthusian preventive control will not necessarily bring the population from 207 million in 2017 to 403 million predicted by the UN by 2050. True to the reputation of “the left hand does not know what right hand”, the deadliest positive Malthusian controls will be put in place. Baby food and infant formula are also taxed.
Pakistan was among the first countries to launch a family planning program. Bengalis outnumbered Punjabis, Sindhis, Pashtuns and Baluchis combined. It now appears that the unstated objective was to contain the population of East Bengal, first through the creation of West Pakistan unity and political and fiscal parity with East Pakistan, then an effective family planning program. Its greatest champion, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, is believed to have complained that Bengalis are only good at bearing children. Since the departure of Field Marshall and the emergence of Bangladesh, family planning has first undergone frequent name changes, then almost disappeared from the priorities of what is now Pakistan. To its credit, Bangladesh now boasts of having a smaller population and a much higher GDP growth rate and per capita income. In Pakistan, public expenditure on population planning has declined in absolute terms. From 20.5 billion rupees in FY18 it fell to 14.3 billion rupees in FY19 and lower to 11.4 billion rupees in FY20. Sind of Bilawal is no exception. Spending fell from 4.3 billion rupees in FY19 to 4 billion rupees in FY20. Curiously, the least populous Balochistan spends more than double the amount spent by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa . There was a total collapse after the 18and amendment that devolved the subject to the provinces. Total spending before the amendment in FY 2010 was 0.63% of poverty reduction spending. In FY20, it was 0.03%.
For many, the West has an agenda to contain the Muslim population. The Quaid-i-Azam is perhaps too secular. Allama Iqbal continues to inspire respect. His followers should know what he wrote in his very first book, Ilm-ul-Iktisad“Poverty is the source of all crimes. If this great calamity is defeated, the world will present a model of paradise…. But under present circumstances, the only way to break free from the clutches of this evil spirit is a smaller population of humanity so that the economic resources can support him.” L’Allama continued: “In our country, the economic resources are limited but the population is increasing day by day. Nature heals him through starvation and disease. But we must also overcome the constraints imposed by the practice of child marriage and the number of wives… Our only goal here is to have fewer children. The desire to marry is a natural drive, the suppression of which is also not healthy… This goal can be achieved by marrying late or, in other words, by reducing the birth rate and generally restricting sexual urges. Thus, for him, poverty was a social problem intimately linked to a high population growth rate.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 14and, 2022.