NRDF - National Research & Development Foundation, Peshawar


Views of Religious Leaders on Population Programme

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A Report on: Views of Religious Leaders on Population Programme

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Views of Religious Leaders on Population Programme

Executive Summary of the Report

The Population of Pakistan is growing at the rate of 2.9% per annum – a tremendous ratio in the world, which has ultimately constrained economic stability and prosperity of the county. Thirty five to forty percent of our population is living below the poverty line having limited access to even the basic amenities including clean drinking water, adequate food, shelter, health as well as other needs of life. Most of them are not inclined to exercise any control over the increasing population, which in turn has defeated the efforts of planning for development. A major reason of this general attitude is considered to be the influence of religious leaders over the people, particularly in rural areas.

To have a true picture of the situation, Population Welfare Department, Government of Pakistan, Peshawar requested National Research and Development Foundation (NRDF), Peshawar to undertake a mini research study for eliciting views of rural religious leaders in NWFP towards population welfare programmes, for identifying the existing level of constraints and for suggesting measures to overcome these constraints. NRDF constituted a five members research team to interview fifty Ulama in six districts and one political agency of NWFP.  These interviews were conducted in April, 1995.  The interviewers obtained basic socio-demographic information about the respondents for determining their social and economic stature, educational level, degree of influence over the masses, their knowledge about population welfare programmes and activities, degree of contact with population welfare functionaries and the extent of willingness or otherwise to assist and cooperate with the population welfare programmes.  The study also attempted to determine the extent of the use of contraceptives amongst the target group and their families.

The findings of the study show that all the respondents belong to Sunni sect and Hanafi-Deobandi school of thought. They fall in the low-middle class as well as economic and social aspects are concerned with a wide difference in both their religious and secular education. Majority of them (85%) have limited knowledge of Quranic injunctions and Hadith regarding population control. Their knowledge and consequent contention is rather based on traditional religious information that they have received so far from their teachers. They look up to more knowledgeable Ulama (Mufties) for guidance in this respect, who are generally positioned in important Madaris located through out the province.

Majority of the respondents lead prayers in mosques as Imams, command reasonable respect and have adequate influence over people of their respective jurisdiction particularly in matters where there is a consensus. They declare clear religious injunctions. Population welfare is one such issue. They view modern means of controlling population as unethical, un-Islamic and contrary to their culture and traditions. However, eighty per cent of them consider Azal as the most and only lawful method to birth control. They also suggest it to those who seek their assistance in this regard. Under certain conditions such as need of maternal and child health, most of them are ready to review their contention concerning population control.

The existing hostile attitude of rural Ulama towards population welfare programmes is not simply based on religious grounds. The cultural and traditional aspects equally contribute in shaping their opposition. The situation is further aggravated by the fact that functionaries of the Population Welfare Department have a very limited contact with them i.e., they have never been contacted properly to elicit their support.

Based on the findings of the study, following recommendations are made: -

There is a need to improve the degree of contact between Ulama of rural areas and population welfare functionaries. Maulvis/Ulama need to be regularly invited to participate in activities under population welfare programmes. They also need to be involved in the planning, implementation and monitoring of programmes/activities.

The functionaries of Population Welfare Department should have a proper knowledge of religious injunctions regarding their profession. For this purpose, proper lessons need to be developed for them.

As a first step, a joint workshop for selected Ulama, policy makers and experts of Population Welfare Department could better serve as means to develop a mutually benefiting atmosphere of confidence.

The existing demand for population control should be managed through awareness raising campaign and involvement of local voluntary organizations in each phase of the programme. In few selected areas the services of population control could be offered along with the services having greater demand.