File photo of the author Asghar Harifal, the former secretary food department government of Balochistan

Muhammad Asghar Harifal: 

Recently, Balochistan held its 2nd Task Force meeting on population growth, a critical issue identified by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. This intervention in 2018 led to the formation of Task Forces at national and provincial levels, focusing on key areas such as legislation, financial resources, advocacy, family planning services, contraceptive security, and the support of ulema.

Effectiveness of Task Forces: The Task Forces, comprising various stakeholders, have proven to be effective tools in addressing urgent and complex issues. These bodies, meeting every three months, bring together departments like Population Welfare, Planning and Development, Health, Education, Social Welfare, Women Welfare, donor partners, and activists. This collaborative approach is crucial, considering the limited attention and funding typically allocated to social well-being agencies in the public sector.

Lessons from China and Regional Disparities: Examining successful models like China’s one-child policy, it becomes evident that population control is intertwined with economic growth. China’s shift from the most populous country to the highest-growing economy highlights the correlation. Unfortunately, the success factors in birth control models are lacking on a national scale, especially in Balochistan, where the population growth rate is 3.37%, higher than the national average of 2.55%.

Balochistan’s Unique Challenges: Compared to other provinces, Balochistan faces similar issues but with heightened severity. The province’s population growth rate is alarming, estimated to reach 24 million by 2050 if the current trend persists. Institutional crises, coupled with resource limitations, pose a significant hurdle to effective population management.

Institutional Effectiveness and Political Processes: The quality of political processes directly impacts institutional effectiveness. Political appointments compromising specialization have weakened public institutions, creating a detrimental environment for addressing population-related challenges. The collusion in appointments for political gain further undermines public service effectiveness.

Lack of National Narrative: Population growth and its consequences remain inadequately addressed in the national narrative, despite being a critical challenge. Balochistan, with its low literacy, women exclusion, widespread poverty, scattered population, and traditional values, needs increased investment in advocacy and public outreach. The rise of social media offers a potential platform for disseminating information and engaging with the public, but significant public sector investment is lacking.

Resource Allocation and National Finance Commission: Balochistan’s discontent with the National Finance Commission’s resource distribution, particularly concerning population weightage, is a point of contention. The province advocates for a formula considering factors beyond population due to its high poverty rates, vast area, low literacy, and health indicators. The divisible pool distribution gains significance as it constitutes nearly 90% of Balochistan’s revenue, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive approach to revenue generation.

Conclusion: Balochistan’s population growth challenges demand immediate and comprehensive strategies. The Task Forces provide a platform for collaboration, but resource allocation, institutional effectiveness, and a national narrative are essential components in tackling this critical issue for the province’s prosperity and well-being.

The author is the Secretary Family Planning Government of Balochistan 

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About the Author

Quetta Voice is an English Daily covering all unfolding political, economic and social issues relating to Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province in terms of area. QV's main focus is on stories related to education, promotion of quality education and publishing reports about out of school children in the province. QV has also a vigilant eye on health, climate change and other key sectors.