Everyone talks about population control but no one wants to talk about it publicly. It thus came as a surprise to many people watching television on Wednesday to see Maulana Tariq Jameel take up the topic.
“Just a year after marriage if there’s no sign of a child, the [girl’s] mother-in-law starts saying that they aren’t able to conceive,” said Jamil. He was speaking at a symposium organized by the federal government in Islamabad on Wednesday. “This is a grave injustice.”
Jameel is one of Pakistan’s more popular religious scholars and preachers. He has 3m followers on YouTube and 1.3m on Facebook.
He said that this is why people in rural areas mostly have children. “The man thinks, if he doesn’t have a child, his friends will start saying that he isn’t capable.”
It is this peer pressure that is forcing couples into having children. This kind of pressure is also forcing men to consult ‘quacks’ who promise to improve their fertility. “If we just went by the wall chalkings across the country, we would be led to believe that [infertility] is the only problem in Pakistan,” he quipped. He was referring to the graffiti that quacks have put up as a marketing tactic.
The census puts Pakistan’s population at 207 million, making it the sixth most populous country in the world.
Poor people have more children because they believe that the more children they have, the more they will be able to earn, Jameel said. “They don’t care about whether they have two or 50 kids, they think the more kids they have, the more labourers they will have.”
On the other hand, the rich have children because they want heirs, said Jameel. “They think that if they don’t have kids, after their death, their wealth will go to others.”
“The real reason behind this kind of thinking is ignorance.”
Jameel took a jibe at the government for not paying attention. “You are holding a conference [on population] in Islamabad, while the real problem is in the rural areas where people have not been educated.”