By Zubeida Mustafa
THE IMPLEMENTATION OF FAMILY PLANNING PROGRAMME IN PAKISTAN: SUCCESS OR FAILURE
By Dr Nadir Ali Agha.
Published by author from Justice Lodge, 95-B, Gulshan-e- Faisal, 15th Street, Bath Island, Karachi.
One of the most crucial issues which has had a profound impact on Pakistan’s economy, politics and sociocultural development is the high population growth rate. With its population having more than quadrupled from 32 million to 128 million in 47 years, the country can ill-afford to neglect the demographic sector. Seen against this backdrop, any attempt to analyse elucidate the family planning programme in Pakistan is a welcome endeavour. Dr Nadir Ali Agha, the author of the book under review, presumably prepared this manuscript as his dissertation for his master’s course in health management from the University of Birmingham. He has managed to compress a lot of information about Pakistan’s population programme in this little book.
In a nutshell the reader is provided the relevant and important demographic data, a history of the official strategy (from the target oriented approach of the sixties to the continuous motivation system and the contraceptive inundation policy of the seventies and the mutli-sectoral approach of the eighties) and an analysis of the factors which have proved to be obstacles in the successful implementation of the programme (illiteracy, lack of motivation, improper contraceptive use and counselling, inefficient programme structure and inadequate financial resources).
Dr Agha’s efforts notwithstanding, it is plain that he has no practical experience of working in the field in the population sector. The knowledge he has acquired through books and documents (obviously official publications) is of a theoretical nature and divorced from reality. Thus it is strange that the author has found no link at all between the population problem and the status of women in Pakistan. It is now widely recognized that a major factor for women having a large number of children is their lack of empowerment. In any society where women lack esteem and are excluded from the decision-making process, be it at the family level or in the national structure, they tend to have many children.
Male offspring provide them the social and economic security which they otherwise lack. This fact is not disputed and if Dr Agha had followed the proceedings of the Cairo conference on population and development closely he would have detected this link. The author’s inadequate grasp of the sociological dimension of the family planning programme in Pakistan would explain why his recommendations are so of the mark. He focusses on the information and education component of the programme giving suggestions as to how birth control should be popularised. But surveys indicate that most couples already know about the importance of small families and many of them (28 per cent) want to restrict the size of their families but have no means available to them to do so. There are others who opt for many children to ensure that they have a number of surviving sons. Yet others are under social and family pressure to have big families. A population programme which does not take into account the gender factor cannot hope to succeed. Dr Agha should also take note of it.
Finally, one can add that a good editor would have given the book the professional treatment which goes into the making of a well-produced book. Why our writers are neglecting this aspect of publishing is difficult to understand.