Amongst the incredible amount of topics that need to be written upon in these days of non-stop news on the smutty doings of our politicos and the establishment in general is one of the many ignored matters which is steadily dragging Pakistan backwards. In an account of visits to the many relief camps set up for the flood affectees was this alarming sentence: “Almost all women around 30 years of age are either pregnant or carrying an infant and have a minimum [yes, a minimum] of three offspring in tow.”
But it is not so with only the poorest of the poor, who are the sole ones badly hit by the unprecedented floods and silently suffering whilst the government makes noises and remains on its backside. This is the situation all over the country. The mass of illiterate, ignorant and deprived have little to do but proliferate and no government since the heady days of the first martial law has seen fit to tackle the problem of population growth — it is not on their lists of priorities and besides, since all have been in thrall to the religious right the phrases ‘population control’ or ‘family planning’ have been treated almost as four-letter words. A newspaper hawker who prowls Karachi’s Bath Island area has eight children with another on the way. When asked how can he possibly afford to even feed them properly, let alone educate them, his answer: Allah ki marzi.’ With such an attitude it will indeed need a revolution to get any message across.
Anyhow, Ayub Khan, who managed for a while to do a few good things, instigated a family planning programme and had it working to a fair degree, although then the population had not reached dangerous limits. West Pakistan in 1961 had a population of 43 million. The country has now reached 180 million, which is no joke considering the state of the nation. Governments have pussy-footed around whilst the population has exploded, whilst the poverty line has steadily risen and whilst economically the country has slowly sunk. There is no department that deals with population control and family planning in any serious form — the ministry that should be doing so is coyly named the ministry of population welfare, which is quite a different matter. The nervousness exhibited by the establishment, political and military, towards the mullah/maulvi fraternity, which never manages to assert itself in elections, is not understandable.
Neither the prime minister nor the president nor any of their minions have voiced any concern on the subject of the dangerous population growth. They are too occupied fighting conspiracies, imagined or real. With the wild daily talk of ‘change’ one says he has no objection to an ‘in-house’ change — whatever that may signify — and the other maintains that either he completes his turn or will be carried off in an ambulance. They should not get so het up about the overworked rumour mills as in all probability there is no one insane enough to want to take on the mess they both have managed to make. The head of the MQM may talk about revolution but with the Allah ki marzi mindset that prevails the awam are not about to stir themselves?
The disturbing news is the killing of two more journalists in the lawless wasteland that is the rechristened K-P province. Mujeebur Rehman Siddique of the Urdu Daily Pakistan was shot in Dargai on September 15 as he was leaving a mosque. Two days earlier Misri Khan of Ausaf and Mashriq was gunned down in Hangu. Seven journalists have been murdered since April, in the line of duty. The murders remain ignored and unsolved by the government. Allah ki marzi?
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2010.