ISLAMABAD: A Mutta­hida Qaumi Movement’s resolution urging the government to immediately conduct a population census in the country is on the agenda of the Senate’s sitting to be held on Monday.

“This House recommends that the government should take immediate steps to conduct 6th housing and population census in the country,” says the resolution submitted by retired Colonel Tahir Hussain Mashhadi of the MQM.

Also read: Amid ‘rays of hope’, MQM turns guns on PPP

Talking to Dawn on Sunday, Mr Mashhadi said he had moved the resolution to remind the government of its constitutional and legal responsibility to conduct the population and housing census every 10 years. Since the last census was held in 1998, therefore, the census was due in 2008, he added.

The senator alleged that the census was being delayed on political grounds as the ruling elite wanted to retain maximum powers and resources in its hands.

“The ruling elite, including MNAs and senators, want to retain development funds and resources in their own hands and do not want to devolve them to provinces or local bodies,” he said.

The MQM senator said that those who did not want to hold local bodies’ elections in the country were actually reluctant to hold census as they knew that after the census they would have to go for new delimitation of constituencies and would have to give share in resources and development funds to local governments.

Giving an example, he said, the population of Karachi had now crossed 20.5 million, but the city still has 10 seats reserved in the National Assembly.

Issue is on agenda of Senate session starting today

“Karachi’s seats in the assembly will be doubled after the census,” he claimed.

Terming it an important and complicated matter, the MQM leader said it was necessary for a government to have exact information about the population and number of houses to ensure good governance and to take adequate measures for development of areas and welfare of people.

“How can a government make plans for development if it does not have any idea of the population of an area? How can it expand the tax-base without having an accurate data?” he asked.

On the other hand, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal, when contacted, blamed some provinces for delay in holding the census.

He said the federal government wanted to have census, but the process was delayed after Balochistan and Sindh raised some reservations about it. He said the matter was now pending a decision before the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

The minister said that during the last meeting of the CCI he had suggested that like India, Pakistan should also freeze delimitations and resources distribution for at least 20 or 25 years and census should only be held for allocation of development funds and projects. He was of the view that the census should be delinked from political issues and it should only be a development issue.

He, however, expressed the hope that the issue would be resolved at the next CCI meeting which was due in the current month.

The Election Commission of Pakistan has sent a summary to the prime minister, informing him that the census is essential for carrying out delimitation of constituencies for the national and provincial assemblies before the next general elections.

Published in Dawn February 2nd , 2015

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