Minister of Health and PPP member Abdul Qadir Patel Monday offered an ‘out of Pakistan’ solution to the population problem—couples wanting more kids should leave the country and add to the Muslim population in nations where they are in minority.
At a seminar in Islamabad, the minister said that by 2030 the population of Pakistan is expected to cross 285 million. “We do not want to decrease the Muslim population. We want Muslims to be better, more educated and provide them with better health care facilities,” he said.
Pakistani media outlets such as Geo News termed the health minister’s suggestion ‘out of the box’.
Population is a big reason for Pakistan’s troubles, especially when it remains fragile and debt-ridden. According to a UN projection, Pakistan is set to see a 56 per cent population increase by 2050, which amounts to over 366 million people.
A recent Dawn editorial titled The population bomb highlighted the seriousness of the issue: “We are fighting a losing battle, slipping inexorably towards a dystopian future where want and deprivation will be our lot. The reason? There are simply too many of us: the pace at which Pakistan’s population is growing is fast outstripping our ability to provide for the millions that call this country home. Unbelievably, there still appears to be no well-thought-out and cohesive population control programme in the offing.”
Patel stressed the importance of family planning and awareness while saying that citizens need to stop believing the misinformation that is spread about state’s family planning measures and vaccinations, be it polio or Covid-19. He called this as “very dangerous behavior” on part of the Pakistanis. The United Nations report titled World Population Prospects 2022 lists Pakistan as a leading contributor to population growth. “We are a lot in numbers, masa’Allah,” the minister remarked at the seminar.
While some Pakistanis assume that the minister’s remarks came in jest, others didn’t let his very “childish” statement slide. “What do you expect when Qadir Patel is the Director and Producer of such Comedy,” a user wrote.
Policy statement by our Health Minister on Family planning, “Those who wish to give more births, should go to muslim minority areas(countries).”
What a fall from Zafar Mirza, Faisal Sultan to Lyari Gangwar Qadir Patel.
My heart bleeds.
SCREW YOU BA*WASEER
— Jerry. (@JerryTribbiani) July 18, 2022
Qadir patel has more hair left on his head than he has cells in his brain. https://t.co/2aLPemuhT0
— Maaz (@ghams_and_roses) July 18, 2022
Many others wrote Patel off as rather foolish and incompetent and lamented his appointment as the health minister, going as far as to call him a downgrade from ministers like Dr. Faisal Sultan and Dr. Yasmin Rashid.
We went from Dr. Faisal Sultan, Dr. Yasmin Rashid etc to Qadir Patel https://t.co/12GVw9WOkk
— Arsalan (@arsalanfcb_) July 19, 2022
Some said the minister lacked common sense and brought up his past scandals and controversies — calling him Professor holding a post-doctoral degree in money laundering and gang war crimes.
Presenting you The Federal Health Minister of Pakistan "Prof. Dr. Qadir Patel" having PhD in Gang war crimes and Post Doc in Money Laundering and 30 years of experince in Killing civilians https://t.co/X9FiVvlfP1
— Ahmar Khan (@Ahmarkh90420402) July 18, 2022
Controversy not a first for Patel
Abdul Qadir Patel was on trial for alleged links with the Pakistani mafia and evidence had surfaced regarding his role in getting said gangsters’ treatment in a local hospital.
The case was registered on the complaint of the Rangers, a federal law enforcement organisation, which alleged Patel’s links with local gangsters and al Qaeda terrorists.
In March, the Sindh High Court turned down his plea to suspend non-bailable warrants against him. “The worst part is @BBhuttozardari an Oxford graduate smiling walking by criminal Qadir Patel”, wrote a Twitter user. Patel was also in the news for his conflict with the PPP and his appointment as the health minister has also come under sharp criticism.
Akansha Sengupta is a contributor to The Print.