ISLAMABAD: Expressing his dissatisfaction over steps taken so far at the federal and provincial levels to check population growth, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar observed on Tuesday that the ballooning population needed to be controlled on a war footing. He was heading a three-member Supreme Court bench comprising Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, hearing a suo motu case pertaining to increasing population in the country.The court asked the authorities to take immediate action to control the burgeoning population. The chief justice said it appeared that plans to control the burgeoning population existed on paper only. He said the country required a unified policy to tackle the population challenge. He directed all stakeholders to immediately submit recommendations to tackle issue of population growth.Expressing surprise that there was a debate on family planning and its connection with religion, the chief justice wondered whether the country could afford families supporting up to seven children. He said the rate at which the population was growing in the country was alarming, adding that there was not enough water and food for the children being born in the country. In his remarks about whether birth control was permissible in view of religion, Justice Umar Ata Bandial said there were relevant verses in the Holy Quran regarding a gap between children.Appearing on notice, the health secretaryapprised the court that there was no government monitoring system in place to regulate health centres or to keep records of growth in the country’s population. Citing Indonesia’s example, he said the authorities over there run awareness campaigns in mosques to sensitise and educate the public about the importance of population control.A representative of the Punjab Population Welfare Department, however, argued that during the 1970-80s, the growth rate of population was reported at 3.7 per cent, whereas now it had reduced to 2.4 per cent. He said the government could not stop anyone from procreating.The chief justice noted that there were 2,100 welfare centres in Punjab but their performance was poor and plans for population control existed on paper only.To a question by the chief justice about the budget allocated to welfare centres, the Punjab deputy secretary said that in addition to Rs3.6 billion provided by the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), the department received around Rs1.5 billion per annum.The chief justice regretted that the Population Welfare Department was doing nothing to control the population growth.“The country does not have the resources to feed so many people,” the chief justice said, adding that a unified policy must be implemented throughout the country for population control.He said he would personally visit health centres to inspect the state of facilities. He regretted that no serious step had been taken to raise awareness amongst the masses on the matter.The additional attorney general apprised the court that Pakistan was now the fifth most populous country in the world, and at the existing rate of growth, the country’s population would double in the next three decades.Published in Daily Times, July 4th 2018.