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July 12, 2018

Dormant Population Commission on way to being revitalised


July 12, 2018

Islamabad : The Pakistan Commission on Population is being reactivated with revised composition and terms of reference as contained in the National Population Policy 2017. The government is also in the process of setting up a special fund for population initiatives with an allocation of Rs5 billion.

Minister for National Health Services Muhammad Yusuf Shaikhmade these announcements at a World Population Day seminar organised by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) here Wednesday.

Shocking details about the state of dilapidation in which the federal institutions tasked with population welfare exist today were also refreshed at the seminar,where an abridged version of a Heartfile documentary portraying the shortcomings ofthe population programme was screened to underline the need for emergency interventions for population stabilization in a country where “3 million people, or a whole new city, is added to the population every year.”

UNFPA Representative Dr. Hassan Mohtasami, President of Heartfile Dr. Sania Nishtar, Australian High Commissioner Margaret Adamson, and Deputy Director of DFID Kemi Williams were prominent on the occasion, as were provincial representatives.

Expressing concern over rapid population growth in Pakistan, Yusuf Shaikhindicated that the Pakistan Commission on Population is being reactivated, and that the government is in the process of setting up a Special Fund for Population Initiatives with an allocation of Rs5 billion. He recommended that a dialogue be initiated on developing national consensus on freezing the population factor on the basis of Census 2017 in the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, and in determining political constituencies in the provincial and federal governments.

In her keynote talk, Dr. Saniasaid, back in the 1950s, Pakistan was the world’s leader in population welfare “but then the institutional malaise that generally engulfed institutions across the country also left its footprint on the institutions of population welfare; and coupled with lack of political commitment, the agenda fell through the cracks.”

Dr. Sania outlined four imperatives for the way forward. Firstly, she proposed that population be regarded as part of the national security agenda. Secondly, she emphasized the importance of legislative measures such as age of marriage, implementation of Article 25-A for girls’ education, and measures to mainstream the role of women in the labour market. Third, she said that out-of-box thinking is needed for service delivery at the provincial level, such as partnerships with agencies with seamless supply chains, to deliver contraceptives. Lastly, she said, action at the federal level is criticalowing to entries listed in the federal legislative lists I and II. In this regard, she re-emphasized the need to revitalize the dormant Population Commission, operationalise the Population Innovation Fund, resource the sick institutions of the federal government, and commence a dialogue to revise the NFC formula, which is based on population size and creates a perverse incentive for provinces in relation to population control.

Dr. Hassan Mohtasami delivered the message of the UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem. “UNFPA is committed to supporting countries’ efforts to uphold the right of individuals, especially women, to plan a family. We are striving to end all unmet need for voluntary family planning in developing countries by 2030. But we cannot do this alone,” the message stated.

The provincial leadership resolved to implement family planning programmes through a rights-based approach.A pledge reaffirming the collective efforts of the government and its stakeholders towards the FP2020 commitmentswas also signed.

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