96 children from three fathers because birth control is a “heinous sin” – do you understand what’s happening, Pakistan?
When I read about Gulzar Khan, Mastan Khan Wazir and Jan Mohammed, the three Pakistanis that fathered 96 children, I was reminded of a man in our neighbourhood who had 17 children (from one wife) in the 1960s.
Most men in those days had six children, though one sometimes did come across couples with 10 or 11. In fact, I know a few even today who have nine or 10 offspring. Now these are not average illiterate Pakistanis. Some of them are engineers and doctors; one is a chartered accountant, while the rest are executives in banks and offices. If you ask them why they need to multiply so much, their responses are the same as those of the three fathers of 96 kids. One of the engineers said,
“The more Muslims there are, the more their enemies will fear them… Muslims should go for more and more children.”
“That’s what my maulvi says; they will get the best in this life, but after death they will burn in hell throughout eternity.”
How was I supposed to respond to that?
I remember when I got married and was asked how many children I planned on having, to which I said,
“Two, or at the most, three.”
“You’re mad!” said an oil company executive. “It’s best to keep your wife pregnant as much as possible, otherwise she’ll keep asking awkward questions like why you left the office at five and reached home at 10.”
Although our average virtually illiterate clerics oppose birth control strenuously, there are scholars who say that it is not prohibited. But as long as our people continue to believe what their local clerics say, there is no hope for the country. Our masses will go on believing that limiting the number of their children will get them consigned to hell. The population will double within a few years and the country will descend into chaos, with millions dying of starvation.
Then there was a clerk from Shadadpur who wanted leave from work to get married. Upon pointing out the fact that he was already married, he said,
“My wife has stopped getting pregnant after producing seven children, so my friends think I’m impotent. I’ll get more children from my second wife to stop them from saying that I’m no longer a man.”
Oh, but it only gets better, as the best is yet to come. A factory worker had the following to say on the topic:
“Here I am, away from home every day for 12 hours, and back home is my wife. I have to keep her pregnant most of the time, so she won’t even think of having an affair with the neighbour’s handsome son.”
Is this really the real reason why these men with primitive mindsets want so many children? Is it truly because they fear their wives will become promiscuous and immoral if they are not kept busy with taking care of their countless children?
One of my neighbours wanted a boy so badly that he went on trying until he had fathered seven girls. He then started looking for a second wife. That’s when I told him the gender of his children was not due to his wife being sexually stronger than him (as he thought), but she was giving birth to only girls because of the greater amount of the wrong kind of chromosomes in his sperm. In fact, I told him,
“Even if you take another wife, there is no guarantee that she will give you sons.”
He wasn’t convinced, married again, and fathered five more girls before giving up.
“I think I have 15 or 16, or maybe 17,” most of them said.
These desperately poor people don’t have TV sets or any other forms of entertainment, and cannot afford to pay for other entertainment activities either, so indulging in reproduction is the only fun they have. However, my three maids who live in the city and have a TV set at home, they too have seven or more children. The poor women commute for two hours daily, work eight to 10 hours, then submit to their husbands’ demands and get pregnant every two years. They earn barely enough to feed themselves and their existing children, yet they cannot see that having more children will make them even poorer.
Sending their children to schools is out of the question, so the male children are either given away to madrassas or they indulge in criminal activities. The girls of course are married off to the highest bidder as soon as they are old enough to bear children (around the age of 11 or even earlier).
But the most intriguing thing is that the father with 36 children from three wives, Gulzar Khan, wishes he had more time for leisure and making love to his wives. Here is a man who forces each of his wives to have more than 12 children and then talks of making love to them; because his wives have not endured enough already.
The most serious issue which Pakistan faces today is that of overpopulation. Even though we have 200 million men and women in the country, and increasing exponentially, the authorities are reluctant to address the issue, perhaps because they are afraid of the religious lobby.
If our population continues to rise at the current rate, it won’t be long before we run out of water, and most of our food will have to be imported.
All I can say is that I’m glad none of my friends think it’s odd for a man to have only two or three kids.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.