Census results: Baffling and disappointing

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The census results are really disappointing and it can be gauged from the fact that not only the senators are up in arms against the results but also the mainstream political parties are criticizing the government. Analysts criticise the government for not comprehending the impact of further delay in addressing provinces’ reservations over ‘flawed’ census results, and suggested re-verification of the results through a post-census survey of selected areas. Earlier this week, the upper house members were of the view that the government should seriously consider the reservations of the provinces regarding the Census 2017 as the prevailing situation could cause a constitutional crisis. Irrespective of the party affiliation, legislators from Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Fata unanimously challenged the census results, saying it is time for the government to either accept or reject claims of flawed counting by holding recounting of selected census blocks. The house commenced debate, in the absence of the minister concerned, on a deferred motion moved by PPP Senator Taj Haider regarding the situation arising out of the reservations on the conduct of the population census. Calling the figures ‘highly unreliable and inaccurate’, he said, “The government is trying to manipulate the situation and making efforts to push the matter under the rug instead of rectifying its mistake. Such an approach will cause generation of further complications.” As a matter of fact, the census results did not match the figures compiled by the Bureau of Statistics in 2011 on the basis of the house count in Sindh, and even the NADRA data put the population of Sindh on a higher side. Experts say the census results contradicted the previous population figures released by the bureau and NADRA. It may be recalled here that when the census was in progress, the Sindh government had requested the federal government to share primary results with it but the request was turned down. An environment of mistrust between the provinces and the federal government will not favour anyone. It’s not merely an issue of increase or decrease in the assemblies’ seats, but of just distribution of resources and right future planning. To move forward and to select future targets, the country needs accurate and reliable statistics. Unfortunately, the government had failed to ensure it despite spending billions of rupees. The results of national population census which was held this year after a long delay and that too on the orders of the Supreme Court, have unfortunately, disappointed the people of Sindh. First it was the MQM-P which raised objections about the result of the census in Karachi. The party’s leader Dr. Farooq Sattar complained that 14 million dwellers of Karachi were not counted which amounted to depriving them of their rights and representation in the elected bodies. He argued that the population of Karachi was now over 25 million. But it was shown to be 14.9 million. He has even announced plans to hold a rally against the controversial census results in the city. However, a bigger setback to the census results came at the Thursday session of the Sindh Assembly when the Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, speaking in the assembly, pointed to various anomalies and refused to accept the results of the census. He also complained of under representation of Karachi in the census figures. He said the population of the city was shown as 9.39 million in the fifth census in 1998, and now after 19 years it was shown as only 14.9 million. He said millions of people were shown with double addresses and counted in their home provinces, though they worked and lived in Sindh. This was an unfair treatment to Sindh which, he said, ‘could not be allowed’. The chief minister expressed the determination to ‘get back what is rightfully ours as our resources and our representation in the National Assembly depend on the population census’. This is a serious situation. Both the major parties of the province, one representing the rural areas and the other the urban areas, have expressed dissatisfaction with the census results. Experts believe that Karachi’s population has been intentionally misrepresented. The census data for the country’s districts, sub-divisions and cantonment boards makes startling disclosures about headcounts in some localities of the city. No one heeded our reservations and recommendations in this exercise. We had suggested they provide us one copy of each block and update the REN form [census block summaries] on their website, but they refused,” said Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah during the assembly session. Murad has been a strong opponent of the census results and repeatedly called for the statistics to be publicized. The population of Sindh, especially Karachi which is the capital of province, has deliberately been shown as less than it i,, many people from other provinces have shifted to Karachi, but its growth rate has been shown as less than Lahore. Not only have people from other provinces moved here, but a large number of people from rural Sindh have also shifted to Karachi, making it the largest city for Sindhi-speaking people. PPP government has serious reservations over the census and the federal government must resolve them.

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