Enumerating Pakistan has always been a complex issue for decades. Certain political parties have demanded a fresh census before the next general elections. The matter is sensitive and needs to be handled carefully. Earlier, data as large as 208 million in the form of census 2017 appeared to be beyond the powers of our political and defence experts. As soon as the summary results of the census were declared, bickering ensued and alarm bells set in over the figures and demographic trends. Of course, numbers matter a lot because of political and financial implications. But no one is bothered about the impact of the rising population on security and extremism, which has plagued every corner of Pakistani society. Whenever security is discussed, we are always obsessed with national security, which is further translated into military or defence security. Well, security involves a good ecosystem, which includes many types of security, such as food security, physical security, job security, movement security and so on. There were days when the number of family members was also a kind of security. The bigger the family, the more secure they are, which used to be the prevailing trend in urban as well as rural families. People would see security in male issues. Now, more children in a family have been seen as a sign of insecurity.
The rising population
of Pakistan is showing a sign of insecurity. Brazil, China and India proved that a large population could be used as an asset. But these examples should not be glorified. Pakistan was a peaceful, liberal and forward-looking country when it was not faced with a population bulge and it was just a 60 million country back in the 70s. The rising population brought about several bad changes to the ethnic, sectarian, and demographic layers of the country. These challenges are likely to be stronger and more difficult to handle in the days to come. Ethnicity and sectarian divides, which would have made our country full of diversity, are now a threat to our security. Policing of cities has become a critical issue. Street crime and ensuing litigation is taking a toll on police and security officials and court officials. Unemployment is rising and it seems we have lost creativity and options to create more jobs. It all happened because we failed to handle the population bulge.
As insecurities grow, people look around for shelters. In the last two decades, religion has become a handy shelter and because of its enormous use, it has gained the status of an industry in our society. Seminaries are a thriving industry. English medium schools offering religious education are thriving all over Pakistan. Since there has been no policy and debate on how to use religion for peace, semi-illiterate clerics have exploited people’s sentiments and have turned them into blind followers and extremists. Their influence has reached the institutions offering education of modern liberal, humanities and natural science subjects. The ultimate result is the rising extremism, militancy and jihadism. Policymakers brood over the impact of the rising population on the fabrics of the Pakistani society. Population bulge, which also has a bright side, should be diverted to develop the basic foundations of the society. Moreover, there should be a check on the commercial use of religion. After all, religion, a great tool for promoting peace, should be used for the very purpose it is meant for.