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Leadership and population planning By Iftikhar Ahmad

Pakistan’s number one problem is the increasing population and critical economic and socio-political state

“Stunning elections win. Congratulations Prime Minister again, Dr Mahathir Mohammad. A great Struggle and Resolve to win. You were a leader, you are a leader, you will be a leader always.”

This was the message for my all times favourite Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad, now 92 years old.

Friends were enthusiastic in indicating a reaction and said, “Behind this good leader, there is a sensible nation also.” In reply, I said, “True. But leadership leading from the front with good intentions is capable of creating a sensible nation. It is leadership that leads not the nation”.

It is the leadership that helps confront all emerging challenges and manages to convert challenges into opportunities. Cooperation and consultation are the tools to identify and solve problems. For example, Pakistan’s number one problem is the increasing population and critical state of economic and socio-political status. What should the leadership do?

If the political leadership was wise and sincere, it would make use of the biggest resource in the current circumstances and develop human resource and build what is known as human capital.

Western Europe, Japan, and many other industrialized countries are short of human resource and are going to face drastic problems in near future due to declining population and its implications. There is a big gap which can be filled by equipping our youth to be ready to compete with skill-exporting countries like Philippines, India, and Bangladesh.

Western Europe, Japan, and many other industrialized countries are short of human resource and are going to face drastic problems in the near future due to their declining population and its implications. There is a big gap which can be filled by equipping our youth to be ready to compete with labour-exporting countries like the Philippines, India, and Bangladesh

Trained manpower has the opportunity of employment abroad. The bulk of our population in its size and structure is not trained to contribute to strengthening the local economy and promoting exports. Loans and aid/assistance can’t support development process for long. The pie is shrinking. Demand for resources is fast growing.

There are many issues that have not received due attention of lawmakers. It is unfortunate that prejudice and selfishness have deliberately created the water problem. Building dams were the real solution. Sanity has not prevailed yet, very sad indeed for lack of socio-political cooperation, coordination, integration, consensus and any kind of reconciliation among the provinces of the federation. In a way, this serious situation of provinces, other than Punjab, not having agreed on building multi-purpose dams is a threat to the federation.

The attitude of prejudice and hate is perhaps the major hurdle or roadblock that is the cause of many of our national problems, including poverty and ignorance.

Feudal leaders (Vaderas) take undue advantage of poverty and ignorance of the people. Unfortunately, non-traditional influential people like businessmen, without vision and long-term thinking, are as bad as Vaderas. They are all exploiters who have never thought of welfare and good of the people and reform of the society.

There is still time to pay attention to human resource development and management issues and providing direction to upgrade economy and society. Priority has to be given to modernisation and improving infrastructure and administration in the fields of health and education. Improved standard of living for the people requires rethinking and practical measures to develop a positive culture.

In all aspects of life, we in Pakistan need to adopt ‘knowledge-based’ approaches and performance standards and measurement techniques. Eradication of poverty and ignorance need top priority for prosperity.

Employment and improvement in real income are important issues especially, in view of inflation and devaluation of our currency and rapidly increasing the cost of living. Most families don’t have houses of their own. The poor cannot afford to pay for respectable living accommodation. The rich are getting richer, the poor becoming poorer. Life for most of our citizens has become very difficult, scary, and worrisome.

Haphazard growth and development have its own consequences and problems for the general population who have to confront multiple problems in addition to earning a living and looking after their families in an environment of crime and terrorism.

Population planning/family planning and birth control have been the focus of development planning in Pakistan for many years. My thesis submitted in 1960 had recommended measures to improve the social and economic status of the people. ‘Higher the socio-economic status lowers the birth rate’ was my hypothesis.

Through field research based on comparative study of two population samples, my hypothesis was upheld. It established that desire to keep the family size small was, in fact, a desire to aspire to higher social and economic status. Having small families means more opportunities for higher educational, economic, professional and social status or standing in the community and society.

Many more factors are involved in individual family’s choice of family size. The desire for a male child for example and need for more earning members result in bigger family size. Security of family is another factor related to family size. Big landowners look forward to seeing their family size as a fighting force against family enemies and security reasons.

The study was based on structured questionnaire on high-status population sample and one low-status population sample. So, it was stratified random sampling. Standards were set for ‘social status’, ‘occupational status’, ‘income status’, ‘educational status’ and other aspects of family heads.

What can make family planning programmes succeed, to bring down the bulk of population or to reduce the rate of growth of population? I am not talking about exceptions but scientific research-based principles. We can look at population from various angles.

This study was looking through one of the windows, how to bring down the rate of growth of population? It was not an approach to look on use of contraceptive pills or other methods. It was an integrated sociological approach. And a long-term educational strategy that works. It works because leadership leads from the front.

The writer is a former Director, National Institute of Public Administration (NIPA), Government of Pakistan, a political analyst, a public policy expert and an author. His book Post 9/11 Pakistan was published in the United States

Source : https://dailytimes.com.pk/241362/leadership-and-population-planning/

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