Wednesday July 06, 2022

‘Sustainable population growth is central to Pakistan’s development’

May 23, 2022

Islamabad : Population is the centre stage of all national development and national security is not possible without human security. Political parties must leverage on the existing cross-party consensus on attaining sustainable population growth in Pakistan and advocate for inclusion of critical areas of health and family planning in their party manifestos.

This was stated by Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed at the sixth meeting of Parliamentary Forum on Population (PFP). Population Council, with support of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) arranged the meeting in Islamabad to call on national and provincial parliamentary leaders for political support on important population and development issues.

Members of the Senate, legislators from the national and provincial assemblies, and regional body of Gilgit-Baltistan representing all major political parties attended the meeting. The Parliamentary Forum on Population is a cross-party platform to raise parliamentary awareness on population and development, sustain cross-party political commitment and advocate for population stabilisation.

In her welcome remarks, Dr. Zeba Sathar, Country Director Population Council highlighted key areas of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) action plan on reducing population growth and urged parliamentarians to advocate for increased and more effective financial resources at the federal and provincial levels to improve family planning programs.

She further added prioritising population planning through legislation is an effective policy approach to bend the population curve.

Dr. Bakhtior Kadirov, Country Representative UNFPA said that the parliamentarians’ role is pivotal in moving the population welfare agenda forward.

He presented the highlights of UNFPA’s Pakistan country programme that strategizes assisting the federal and provincial governments on partnership building, policy advocacy and improved governance in reducing unmet need for family planning, reducing preventable maternal deaths and gender-based violence.

Presenting the action plan for Parliamentary Year on Population, Zmarak Khan, Balochistan Food Minister said members of the Parliamentary Forum on Population must initiate parliamentary debates on population, review implementation status of the CCI decisions at the district and provincial levels to improve family planning programs, advocate for enhancing finances and leverage media’s role to highlight population issues.

Members present endorsed the action plan for 2022 as the parliamentary year of population with emphasis on greater financing for reproductive health, enhancing access to family planning services for poor and marginalized women through voucher schemes and promoting the new national narrative on population that calls for striking a balance in family size and between population size and resources.

Moderating the panel dialogue, Mahmood Jan, Deputy Speaker, KP Assembly said Pakistan could learn from successful family planning programs of neighbouring and regional countries. He said parliamentarians must make massive efforts for sustained political commitment to expand access to family planning services through increased investment, strong legislation and awareness and advocacy on population services.

Member Balochistan Assembly Sanaullah Baloch said that the government must focus on alternate political strategies to de-link population size with ‘three Rs’ namely: Representation, Resources and Revenue which impedes country’s development on achieving sustainable population growth.

MNA Romina Alam stressed on advocating for reducing the alarming population growth by highlighting its cross-sectoral impact on other areas of life particularly water emergency and food insecurity. She emphasised parliamentarians to engage young people from their constituencies and stressed on empowering young people through health, skilled education and gainful employment.