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KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has said that balancing resources and the population is crucial in developing a nation.

Population control transforms a country into a vibrant equal-opportunity society with peace, tranquility, and prosperity. In a statement issued from the Media Cell Bilawal House, on the occasion of World Population Day scheduled to be celebrated worldwide on Sunday, July 11, the PPP chairman felicitated the people of Pakistan on commemorating the World Population Day.

The theme of the event this year is, "Rights and Choices are the Answer: Whether baby boom or bust, the solution to shifting fertility rates lies in prioritizing all people's reproductive health and rights." Discussing issues relevant to changes in population, the chairman PPP stated, "On one hand, there are countries that witness low fertility rates. In these countries, the older population is more," he explained. "On the other hand, a large number of developing countries are facing the challenge of high fertility. This means there is a high number of dependent population; adolescents and young people. The result; issues of unemployment, education, and an absence of health services," he added.

The chairman PPP pointed out that Pakistan is one of the countries with a high level of fertility and low use of contraceptives. This results in population growth. "The Census result of 2017 (though disputed) has shown that Pakistan's population has grown at a higher level of 2.4 percent per annum with more than 208 million people," lamented Bilawal.

"One of the major factors is that out of 100 married women of reproductive age, only 34 are using contraception." He also said that 18 more women in this category intend to use contraceptives but do not have access to them. "Pakistan People's Party and its government in the Sindh province have reservations on the Census results," Chairman PPP declared. "However, as far as balancing the population growth is concerned, we have been providing support on fertility and family planning issues on a country level," he stated.

Bilawal further said that PPP was committed to initiatives like Recommendations of the Council of Common Interest (CCI) i.e., establishing federal and provincial taskforces; ensuring universal access to family planning and reproductive health services; committing finances; introducing legislation; initiating advocacy and communication; inculcating life skill-based education through curriculum and training; ensuring contraceptive commodities security; and support of opinion makers and ulema.

"It's disappointing that the "selected" Prime Minister has been avoiding chairing the Federal Taskforce on Population, despite the Supreme Court decision on suo moto," he stated, condemning PM Imran Khan's lack of interest in controlling the population of Pakistan. "The President of Pakistan chaired all four meetings of the Taskforce," he continued. "Thus, the CCI recommendations in terms of resources and implementation have not materialized. Out of the allocation of Rs10 billion of the population fund by the Federal Government, only Rs1 billion could be allocated." Bilawal also said that the PPP and its government in Sindh are leading from the front on initiatives regarding population growth and maternal and child health.

The chief minister Sindh, too, chairs a multi-sectoral Sindh Taskforce on population. He added that Sindh was the first province to formulate its flagship Costed Implementation Plan (CIP) on Family Planning in 2015 due to the global FP2020 initiative announced at the London Summit, 2012. The CIP is being implemented and transformed into FP2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and FP2030 global agenda.

He further reminded the nation of PPP's stance to control the population and help women in need by mentioning the Lady Health Worker's program introduced by Prime Minister Shaheed Benazir Bhutto. This workforce has been refocused on family planning, whereas the health and population departments are functionally integrated after the landmark 18th Constitutional Amendment led by President Asif Ali Zardari.

"Sindh has since then, enhanced its allocations more than eight folds by its Population Welfare Department," stated chairman PPP.

"Women's access to family planning and reproductive health services have been increased in rural and remote areas by more than 1 million users thus, doubling the rate of annual women who use contraceptives. Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey shows a four percent increase in FP in Sindh during five years."

Appreciating the progressive laws such as Reproductive Health Rights Act, 2019, Child Marriage Restraint Act 2013, and the Prohibition of Domestic Violence passed by the Sindh Government, Chairman PPP highlighted that a Marital Counseling Bill is underway.

"PPP is committed to the empowerment of women, gender equality, their right to have access to informed choices; and the rights of adolescents and youth," concluded Bilawal, assuring the nation that the PPP will introduce such reforms in Pakistan when elected.-PR

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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