–CJP Nisar and PM Imran agree Pakistan’s survival is linked with population control
–CJP says population would reach 450m in next 30 years if not controlled timely
–PM says population growth and cities’ expansion leading to environmental degradation
ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar and Prime Minister Imran Khan are on the same page to deal with the issue of population growth in the country as both believe that bringing it under control is the key to Pakistan’s survival.
A symposium titled “Alarming Growth in Population” was organised by the Law and Justice Commission and was held under the oversight of the chief justice at the Supreme Court (SC) building on Wednesday. The prime minister attended the symposium as the chief guest while Maulana Tariq Jameel, Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) Chairperson Dr Sania Nishtar and Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination (NHSRC) Secretary Zahid Saeed also shared their thoughts on the matter.
Furthermore, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, provincial chief ministers, federal ministers, government officials, academics, foreign diplomats and delegates, apex court judges and the members of the legal fraternity, and media persons were also present on the occasion.
Addressing the symposium, CJP Nisar said that population growth is an issue that requires the utmost attention of the authorities. He regretted that nobody had paid heed to this issue during the last 60 years.
The top judge further said that that there was a water shortage in the country and the growing population was making the problem worse.
“Our water is decreasing but mouths hopeful for water are increasing,” he remarked. He also regretted that there was no water management system in the country and referred to draining of the aquifers by the bottled companies as per year, about 7 billion gallons of underground water was being extracted. He also called on the president and the prime minister to investigate why nothing had been done for the construction of dams during the past 40 years.
The chief justice said that there were various plans and strategies devised by other countries for controlling population growth and Pakistan only had to implement them and create awareness through the media.
If the situation is not controlled timely, Pakistan’s population would reach 450 million in the next 30 years.
The top judge said that the apex court had created a task force which presented its recommendations after holding a few sessions but added that “that was the extent of their power”. “The judiciary does not have any mechanism to act on these recommendations,” he said. “The only person who can get any implementation done is the prime minister,” he added. He said that the apex court has played its part in amplifying and understanding human rights and now it was the executive’s job to take them forward.
CJP Nisar said that the burden on the judicial system did not go back to just the past five to seven years but it was centuries old. “The tools have to be given to us by the parliament,” he said, regretting that so much time had passed but laws had not been updated. “Perhaps the time has come to stop boycotting the parliament and sit in the parliament and [start doing] our actual duty,” he said.
He also stressed the importance of education, saying that it was necessary for a nation’s growth. “The faculty of thinking is of utmost importance and only nations who have pursued education have progressed,” he said.
Expressing optimism, he said, “I am hopeful that with good intentions, we will reach our dream in a few years.”
PM SUPPORTS CJP’S POPULATION CONTROL INITIATIVE:
PM Khan began his address by thanking the top judge for inviting him to the event. “I’m glad I’m not appearing in courtroom number one,” he joked.
He said that the previous governments did not think beyond their five-year tenures and paid no heed to the growing population of the country. He lauded the judiciary for taking up important matters, including water scarcity and population control, which the previous democratic governments should have focused on.
“The previous governments, with their short-term thinking, were only focused on devising strategies to win the elections after the completion of their five-year terms,” he said, adding that the establishment of furnace-oil based power generation plants in the country was an example of such short-term thinking
The prime minister recalled that the construction of Mangla and Tarbela dams during the government of Ayub Khan were good examples of long-term planning, adding that with good education system, effective bureaucracy, the country was moving ahead in the 60s decade. He recalled that “Kam Bachay Khushhal Ghanara” was a good campaign on population control.
He said that people were under the impression that (formerly) East Pakistan had been a burden on the country’s population, but today Bangladesh had gotten ahead of Pakistan because of their long-term thinking. “As the population continues to grow, our food security will be affected,” he cautioned.
He linked the issue of population growth with environmental degradation. “The rate of population growth and the expansion of cities are having a devastating impact on our environment,” the prime minister said.
“The recent Paris conference on environment had set the alarming bells ringing for the third world countries, especially Pakistan which had been severely affected with the global warming and currently ranked as the seventh most affected country in the world,” he added.
“I have always been an environmentalist. I remember that when I was young, there would be a different temperature in every area of Lahore. Back then the city was green but now it is all concrete. People would drink from the tap and Ravi used to be a nice river but now it is nothing but a garbage dump,” he said.
“Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) used to offer lush green forests with fruit-bearing trees, but now the ever-growing population was inhibiting the inaccessible areas of the country as well,” he observed.
He said that he wanted to break the walls of Governor House in Lahore so that the citizens can see its gardens.
He also said that children need to be educated about family planning and the environment in schools. “Pakistan is on the seventh spot in the list of nations which will be most affected by climate change in the future,” he said.
The prime minister said that the government was concentrating on some of the urgent issues the country was facing, including the economy.
“All the provincial governments are on board over the population issue as the task forces have been set up,” he said, adding that the issue required determination as it was halfheartedly tackled by the previous regimes. “The issue can be effectively addressed if all the stakeholders own it,” he emphasized and cited examples of Bangladesh and Iran where the role of clerics through mosques was utilised. PM Khan said that now the world was passing through a digitalised revolution in which the public could be kept well-informed through the dissemination of vital information on the issues.
PM Khan further said that the rule of law is the foundation of a civilized society to move forward and achieve its development goals, adding that democracy and rule of law move in tandem.
He termed the decision of the top court in the Panama Papers case as “a landmark judgment” which laid the foundation of ‘Naya Pakistan’. He said it had set the new direction of rule of law in the country as it made a sitting prime minister accountable for the first in the country’s history. He further said that for the first time, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) was proceeding with the issue of regularisation of his residence under the direction of the apex court. “Imagining something on the lines of this had been impossible in the past,” he added.
PM Khan said that the Panama Papers case had also educated him over various other issues, including the reluctance of the accountability watchdog to proceed against the sitting premier. He expressed his satisfaction that the state institutions were now becoming autonomous and working within their legal parameters.
Maulana Tariq Jameel underscored that illiteracy and poverty are the primary reasons behind population growth and stressed the importance of making education accessible.
“This symposium is being held in Islamabad but the problem is more prevalent in the rural areas of the country,” he remarked.
BISP Chairperson Dr Sania Nishtar, while addressing the symposium, said, “The show of strength of various stakeholders is critical to the cause.”
In the end, the chief justice also presented a memento to the prime minister.
Earlier, the prime minister and the chief justice held a one-on-one meeting ahead of the symposium. The 30-minute long meeting took place in the top judge’s chamber as the prime minister arrived at the venue ahead of time.
During his visit to London, the chief justice had said that he would kick-start a campaign in December to raise awareness about the importance of population control. He had taken a suo motu notice of population growth in the country and had constituted a task force to control growth.