LAHORE - Punjab Higher Education Commission Chairman Prof Dr Muhammad Nizamuddin has said there is a need for imposing an emergency in the country on population growth and investment in human resource development.

“The 2017 Population Census has brought critical issues to the forefront that has far-reaching implications for the development of Pakistan. Unprecedented growth rates, emerging urban poles, youth bulge and a growing elderly population are some of the many challenges that our country faces today,” said Prof Nizam while addressing a press conference at the Government College University Lahore. Objectives of the 18th National Population Research Conference were floated on this occasion.

“If the current pattern of fertility continues, then on the 100th birthday of Pakistan, our population is estimated to be around 390 million. We require making concerted efforts now on the federal and the provincial levels in order to address these issues in a timely manner,” said Prof Nizam who is also president of the Population Association of Pakistan (PAP).

Prof Nizam revealed that the GCU, PHEC and PAP were holding the Population Research Conference from December 20, 2017 where all stakeholders were convened at one platform to deliberate upon all issues related to population growth and human resource development.

The PAP president said the onus of population growth could not be put on the government alone; it is rather shared. “And, I believe that universities and non-government organisations have a bigger role in creating awareness,” he added. He proposed to establish the Population Welfare Studies Centre in all universities, saying that GCU must take lead in this regard.

The PHEC chairman said that average population growth rate of Pakistan was 2.4 but it was less than 2 in cities which meant that NGOs or government’s population control programme were not reaching the rural areas.

GCU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Hassan Amir Shah said that population growth should be handled proactively rather reactively. “We know that our population is estimated to be around 400 million in next 30 years, so we have to start taking concerted steps now on all levels instead of taking reactive measures later,” he added. He also proposed that population studies should be part of curricula at all levels of education.

University of Education Vice Chancellor Prof Rauf-e-Azam said that population control is a sensitive issue for which we need to take all stakeholders on board to suggest pragmatic solutions. “This conference by PAP is a right step in a right direction and its proceeding will be sent to the government and policy makers for developing a future roadmap,” he concluded.

Bargad Executive Director Sabiha Shaheen believed that they could not control population growth rather initiatives must be taken to manage it now. “There is a huge youth bulge in the country which should be managed so that they could play an effective role for the development of the country instead of becoming burden on the economy,” she added. She also laid stress on cultivating entrepreneurial mindset among youth.

GCU Political Science Department Chairman Prof Dr Khalid Manzoor Butt said that many models were available for population control such as Chinese and Malaysian models but there was a lack of political will in the country.

He said there were pressure groups, which don’t allow the government to introduce radical reforms in this direction.

Eminent historian Prof Dr Tahir Kamran also spoke at the press conference.