By Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)
May 03, 2019

“If we want to rise as a nation we need to value human development indicators and formulate policies that ensure sustainable growth and development of the country. Investing in target oriented policies from a future perspective is a trump card to save the future generation from vices of poverty and terrorism.”

Population growth is at the heart of all global problems and is a matter of grave concern to control before the world run out of space and resources. As believed by Malthus, “population control is necessary for humanity in order to overtake the world’s carrying capacity.” The current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to a new United Nations report. This calls for addressing population challenge in a broader framework. The developed world has made some remarkable progress in controlling their population growth; however some countries in the developing part of the world are struggling to infuse the rational of family planning.

Unchecked population growth and lack of an effective policy framework are among the serious challenges faced by Pakistan. The phenomena of population growth inadvertently effects states’ plan to strike self-sufficiency in different human development indicators. Not surprisingly, Pakistan is ranked 150th in the Human Development Index (HDI) with close to 29.5 percent of the population living below the poverty line. As rightly identified, “one of the biggest worries of Pakistan’s young population is not terrorism but ‘insecurity of jobs, justice and economic inflation.” With thousands of new-borns added to the population each day, even this ranking on the development index would be hard to sustain. To pursue on the path of sustainable development, Pakistan as a state needs to revisit its approach towards population control. Population Planning has to be treated as a priority because of two main reasons i.e. correlation between population growth and resource management and secondly, for maximizing the outcome of development efforts.

The struggling economy as that of Pakistan with poor health and development indicators is lagging behind in addressing the needs of its population and provision of better facilities and opportunities. The main reason behind this poor functioning can be attributed to weak governance strategies and certain cultural and religious restraints. Pakistan at the moment is struggling with the placement of its surplus and unemployed manpower for whom basic human and fundamental rights are no more than luxuries. This mismanagement of manpower is making the situation more alarming as such segment of the society is more susceptible to criminal activities and exposure to extremist ideologies. To counter these worsening outcomes and to steer the population to a sustainable future is a foremost duty of the state as well as a shared responsibility that can only be addressed by keeping all relevant stakeholders on the board.

The Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (UN 1994) implied that policies and programmes should not focus only on population numbers and growth rates. It argued instead for an integrated approach linking population action to development, including human development, women’s empowerment, gender equality and the needs of young people. It was the sixth five year developmental plan of Pakistan that demonstrated the interaction of fertility management with other development programs. The plan illustrates that population welfare and planning is a national responsibility.

An overview of the five year developmental plans of Pakistan will give us an insight into the steps already taken and the causes of their failure. It is of no doubt that population planning has remained part and parcel of each developmental plan; however its weak implementation in the absence of proper plan of action has remained an issue at large. Keeping in view the basic hurdles in the implementation of population control measures, a target oriented approach is the need of the time to address the specific nature of hurdles both in a rational and culturally acceptable manner. Other than this collaborative approach of governance between the state, society, community building institutions and inclusion of new and modern techniques and tools of population control can aid countries struggling with the challenge of population growth.

A mix of ethics, cultural and religious values and practices is making the scenario complicated. Such societal complications disrupt the provision of sexual and reproductive education and services. Family planning has served as a traditional and cost-effective model but in case of Pakistan it has not been strengthened over the period of time. This policy implementation gap is further pushing Pakistan in the midst of crisis on other fronts as well. Government goals for family planning shall also be defined in terms of unmet needs for information and services. To create a broader understanding in the domain of family planning and population growth there is a need to develop population control narrative from a multiple lens. This narrative can then be infused in the society through social, political, legal and economic incentives and interventions.

Keeping in view the socio-cultural settings of Pakistan a community based approach would be more effective to bridge the gap of understanding between rural and urban areas. The second most important social measure is to educate the girls and ensure gender equality. As said, “If you educate a girl, you educate a whole nation.” The education will enable the girls to determine their rights and use their freedom in family planning. Thirdly, Public awareness programs, seminars at the educational platform with equal representation from the religious scholars would serve as a most effective tool in promoting a population control narrative. The ‘Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority’ (PEMRA) can play a central role in the diffusion of knowledge, awareness regarding the effective use of contraceptives and run programs that promote the population growth narrative. Monetary and health and educational incentives can complement the family planning and population control program.

There is now global recognition that the effectiveness of programmes promoting reproductive health and rights depends critically on broader health system issues which affect both the demand for and the supply of health services. Public-Private partnerships can also play a dominant role in collectively addressing the challenge of population explosion. It is a growing belief that partnership between public and private sectors can lead to increased efficiency, equality, accountability, quality, and accessibility in the health system. Monetary and health incentives can complement the family planning and population control program. National action plan on population control is required to be introduced in order to train our human resource and match skills to the available opportunities.

It is imperative for Pakistani legislatures to take a leadership role in complementing and reinforcing the above mentioned recommendations. For example the Government of Pakistan can take an initiative in introducing a legislation on the size of the family, just like what is happening in other highly populous Asian countries such as China and India. Legislations based on rights based population policies and restriction on child marriages can add to the practicality of the efforts made.

To address population challenge in Pakistan, the government of Pakistan must strive to put in order a regulatory framework of policies that address the determinants of the population control and family planning accordingly. The population control tools that can prove to be effective are termed as education for all, ensuring gender equality through proper legislation, increased awareness and modernization of technical and delivery services. Other than addressing the challenge of population control, Pakistan as a state has to keep in mind its international obligations as well i.e. the fulfillment of the criteria stipulated in the sustainable development goals (SDG). Measures taken to control population will help Pakistan climb up the ladder in the status of SDGs.

To pursue on the path of sustainable development, Pakistan as a state needs to revisit its approach towards population control.

Same version of the article appeared in The Nation

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Pakistan-Russia Relations: An Overview

Pakistan-Russia Relations: An Overview

‘Pakistan and the Russian Federation are connected by a deep historical and cultural affinity, geographical proximity, and a convergence of strategic and economic interests’

Senator Sehar Kamran (TI)


Pakistan and the Russian Federation share a long historical and cultural affinity, as well as a tumultuous past. In 2018, we stand at the precipice of a new era of cooperation, especially as we mark 70 years of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Russia. Over the past decade, the increased collaboration in various sectors and enhanced consensus on matters of strategic as well as regional importance has helped to pave the path for a durable, respectful and constructive bilateral relationship. Now, more than ever, it is vital that both sides remain cognizant of the incredible potential for growth and development between the two countries, and vigilant of the challenges that could hinder this, in order to prevent a repetition of past mistakes. This paper attempts to explore this fine line by presenting an overview of how these relations have developed over the years, as well as the milestones, pitfalls and opportunities that have brought Pakistan and Russian cooperation to their current apogee.

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Senator Sehar Kamran

 Outer space is ‘global commons’ and ‘common heritage’ for all mankind. It has a tremendous amount of significance for socioeconomic development. According to the Bank of America, the current space market is valued at roughly $350 billion and will continue to grow to reach roughly $2.7 trillion within the next three decades. Countries and commercial entities are investing in telecommunication, earth observation, and orbital manufacturing and private habitat and it will further develop and increase the share of space economy in the future. Apart from civilian and peaceful use of space, high tech advanced countries are using the space for military purposes, and hence their defensive and offensive military activities have the spectre of the arms race in the outer space. That in turn, will further increase the potentially ruinous consequences by creating the space debris and risking the relative stability in the outer space.

The issue of prevention of arms race in the outer space (PAROS) has been on the agenda item of the Conference of Disarmament (CD) but up till now, no substantive outcome or legally binding guidelines have emerged.

On 27 March 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in a national address that India carried out maiden anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test for the first time. According to India’s DRDO press statement, the ‘Mission Shakti’ took three minutes to destroy the intended target i.e. satellite at an altitude of 300 km, in low earth orbit (LEO). With this test, India joined the league of three nations namely USA, Russia and China, who already demonstrated that capability in the past.

India’s ASAT test once again highlighted the ineffectiveness of international regimes governing the activities of outer space and failure to formulate the binding rules to regulate countries space endeavours. Moreover, the absence of ‘no rules’ opens a window for states to exploit these legal loopholes for their geopolitical and geostrategic considerations while threatening the global prosperity on one hand and setting of a precedent for other states to follow suit. Unchecked ‘weaponization of outer space’ and ‘prestige’ led space arms race has the potential to trigger lethal ‘cascading effects’ for international peace and stability.

“Unchecked ‘weaponization of outer space’ and ‘prestige’ led space arms race has the potential to trigger lethal ‘cascading effects’ for international peace and stability.”

Pakistan condemned the Indian ASAT test and according to Foreign Office press statement “Pakistan remains a strong proponent of non-militarization of outer space.” Furthermore, it stated that it’s a “matter of grave concern for the international community not only in terms of generation of space debris but also because of its ramifications for long term sustainability of peaceful space activities. And if these moves were unchecked, it could pose serious consequences for “global and regional peace, stability and security.”

In the context of the current state of play in South Asia, where strategic stability is under tremendous pressure due to Modi’s irrational and delusional blunders, since 14 February 2019, the threat of ‘nuclear nightmare’ has been looming large on the horizon and currently, there is no hope that the security situation will be diffused till the conclusion of Indian ‘General Elections’ in May 2019. According to Indian domestic political analysts, the primary purpose behind the ‘Balakot Misadventure’ and ‘ASAT test’ was to woo its electorates to win the elections; and for this very purpose, Narendra Modi could go at any length.

The recent statement of Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi added further context to that premise. He said “India is planning a new attack on Pakistan… this could take place between April 16 and 20,” and it is the “responsibility of the international community” to shun their silence for the larger stability of the region.

Given post-Balakot domestic and international scrutiny of India’s Ministry of External Affairs and Indian Airforce false narrative regarding the tally of casualties of alleged militants in Balakot and downing of F16 jets, subsequent international reports regarding Indian claims tell different story and for instance, the ‘Foreign Policy’ magazine’s exclusive report on ‘F16 Controversy’ further embarrassed the Indian air force and pushed PM Modi into tight spot. According to Lara Seligman, “two senior U.S. defense officials with direct knowledge of the situation told Foreign Policy that U.S. personnel recently counted Islamabad’s F-16s and found none missing.”

Amidst increasing domestic criticism, Indian Air Vice Marshal R.G.K Kapoor held a press conference and refuted the assertion of FP story. Air Vice Marshal Kapoor stated that India has “irrefutable evidence” that Indian jet downed Pakistani F-16 in a dogfight. Interestingly, in his concluding remarks, he said that IAF cannot provide more information to the public due to “security and confidentiality concerns.” That essentially means that there exists no such information and if it had, India would have made it public to embarrass Pakistan.

In a quid pro quo, DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor while commenting on Indian Air Vice Marshal’s presser said that “repetitions do not make [the] truth a lie” and fact is that PAF shot down two IAF jets, wreckage [has been] seen on the ground by all.” Likewise, MIT Assistant Professor, Vipin Narang said that “it looks worse and worse for the Indians,” and it seems India “failed to impose significant costs on Pakistan, [instead] lost a plane and a helicopter of its own in the process.”

That said, India’s testing of ASAT capability again perceived as an attempt of face-saving by the Modi government on one hand and divert the ‘microscopic’ scrutiny on the other. However, the abrupt response from NASA administration was a setback as it briefly halted working with ISRO after the Indian ASAT test. The NASA administration not only visualizes the test from the strategic stability perspective but also as a threat to the concept of space as global commons.

In the background of these dangerous developments in the region, it appears that Indian government narrative is not finding traction in national and international level. Also, it remains to be seen how testing an ASAT capability would elevate the socioeconomic status of a country whose seventy-five percent of population is living under the abject poverty, 200 million people don’t have sufficient access to food and 25 percent children do not have access to education.

Senator Sehar Kamran is the President of Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) and member of the Senate Forum for Policy Research (SFPR). She has also served as a member Senate of Pakistan for the term 2012-2018)

Same version of this article is posted on DailyTimes

Same version of this article is posted on Pakistan Today

SCO Expansion: Exploring Future Scenarios

“Shifting Strategic Landscape of South Asia: The Role of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation”

Pakistan enjoys cordial relations with all members of the SCO (except perhaps India). Geographic contiguity as well as shared cultural and historical bond have added depth and
dimension to the relations;

Pakistan has high stakes in the security, stability and prosperity of the region.Consequently, Pakistan supports the principles, purposes, objective and the activities of the SCO, of which it was an observer even before it became a formal member.

Over the past seventy years, Pakistan has been trying to promote peace in the region and beyond, but its efforts have not been reciprocated by some regional countries, particularly India;

Pakistan and Russia have a long history of bilateral relations, but unfortunately, both nations thus far, have not been able to achieve the full potential of to this relationship. Nonetheless, Pakistan has supported Russia’s membership in the Organization of Islamic
conference (OIC), and Russia is supportive of Pakistan’s membership of the NSG in principle.

There are ample possibilities for great relations between Pakistan and Russia in the future. Pakistan and Russia have a tremendous potential to improve their bilateral relations and lay down a stronger basis of economic and defense cooperation. The SCO provides an additional forum to develop and strengthen the interstate relationship

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Mainstreaming Extremist Religious Organizations in Pakistan: Challenge or Opportunity?

“Mainstreaming Extremist Religious Organizations in Pakistan: Challenge or Opportunity?”

The event is being organized in light of a series of recent events that have highlighted the attempted entry of known and generally acknowledged extremist religious entities – most prominently the ‘Tehreek-e-Labbaik ya Rasool Allah’, which is now politically known as the ‘Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan’, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s ‘Milli Muslim League’ – into the mainstream political arena, and the potential consequences of such moves.

The argument often put forward for the mainstreaming of such entities is to encourage a move away from radical or violent activities by creating space and giving these organizations a voice within regulated power structures. However, what we have witnessed instead are situations where the government finds itself a hostage of the demands and ideas of these parties, most recently at the Faizabad ‘dharna’ that held the twin cities hostage for over 20 days, and resulted in the resignation of a Federal Minister on the basis of pressure from a fringe element, whose position and values become validated by allowing their formal entry into the political arena.

The purpose of the Roundtable will be to discuss the impact of the use of ‘street power’ to threaten state institutions and challenge its jurisdiction/authority, the resultant emboldening of other fringe elements, and the impact on the political, legal and socio-economic aspects of public life at large. We hope to encourage an open, candid and productive discussion, aimed at better understanding and devising possible policy recommendations/ways forward for tackling these challenges.

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