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Census delay

Updated Feb 16, 2015 04:54am

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People visit a crowded weekly bazaar in Lahore.—AP/File
People visit a crowded weekly bazaar in Lahore.—AP/File

THIS week a year has passed since the Council of Common Interests debated the census as part of its agenda item, yet the demographic exercise is no closer to being held today than it was last year.

Everybody agrees that the last census conducted in 1998 is hopelessly out of date, and they all believe that this is a serious problem.

Consider the important issues that are built around the availability of census data: the NFC award, delimitation of electoral constituencies, seat shares in parliament, local bodies polls, targeted subsidies, and all other policy matters that rest on population data.

Also read: ‘Politicisation of data’ one reason behind lack of current census

With the census data from 1998 practically obsolete, it is fair to suppose that all of these important matters today are actually based on suppositions that have no grounding in measured reality. Without a clean and impartial census, we don’t really know the face of the country that we are trying to run and govern.

A new census is badly needed but the obstacles that stand in its way are formidable and need to be acknowledged. At the heart of the foot-dragging is the demographic make-up of Sindh that nobody is very keen to talk about. With the massive population influx over the years, it stands to reason that Sindh has changed in important ways, and the ethnic balance as well as its share in the total population has undergone a profound transformation.

The Sindhi, Mohajir and Pakhtun populations can shift the internal balance of the province, while the influx of people into Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur over the years can alter the share of the province in the total population of the country.

Parties that seek their electoral fortunes in Punjab are reluctant to confront the real picture of what the new population shares of the respective provinces are, since this could affect NFC allocations as well as deal a psychological blow if Punjab’s share of the total population were to dip below 50pc.

Sindh is already reeling from a complex ethnic-based power struggle and any new numbers on the ethnic make-up would upset an uneasy status quo.

With no takers at the national level, the census exercise is being endlessly delayed. But continuing with a fictitious status quo and making policies for a population mix that doesn’t exist any longer is no solution either.

The ruling party must take the lead in initiating a credible move towards a new census, while finding a way to make the exercise agreeable to everyone.

Perhaps the case of India can serve as a model, where they decided to freeze all seat shares in parliament irrespective of what the census revealed. That compromise paved the way for a political consensus around a new census, and could serve as a model for Pakistan too.

One way or another, this government must ensure that a census is held during its term.

Published in Dawn, February 16th, 2015

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Comments (21) Closed



I. Ahmed Feb 16, 2015 03:26am

Your concern in editorial is completely understandable. But as Faiz Sahib said “Aur bhi dukh hain zamane mein muhabbat ke siwa” (Other pains exist than those that love brings). Perhaps for the government, census is not a pain, it is their love not to have it!

hani Feb 16, 2015 02:05pm

it is remarkably quoted in our national language, ''mujhe jab apne gher k afrad ki tadad ka e pata na ho tu ma un k expenses kase decide karon ga. '' This is what our government must realise that how can it estimate the utilisation of resources while it hasn't contain a figure of its masses...

Faisal Feb 16, 2015 04:09pm

No need at all, collect data from NADRA. In any way no one shall go to slum areas.

Cyrus Ho Feb 16, 2015 04:19pm

What a good idea. Pakistanis might find out exactly how much trouble they are actually in. Farmers can always feed themselves and their families, They work very hard but have no cash to buy electronics, shoes, clothing, new automobiles or luxury goods. That is the state of the entire Third World. The Second World is the middle class. Poor farmers everywhere are chained to the land. They are the de facto Third World.

Cyrus Ho Feb 16, 2015 04:29pm

"Each generation must discover it's mission and fulfill it or betray it."

     Frantz Fanon
PUNE-india Feb 16, 2015 04:52pm

If there would not be any partition then today India's population would be more than 1.5 billion World's largest and most unstable country in the world..Thanks Jinnah for making Pakistan

sreejesh Feb 16, 2015 05:22pm

Pakistan should seek help of US census bureau and collect all required data.Otherwise Pakistan may be wasting money and time.It is not money Pakistan asking for but technology.Definitely they will help

I. Ahmed Feb 16, 2015 05:43pm

@PUNE-india Well, minus 200 million still unstable!

Sadiq Ali Bohra Feb 16, 2015 05:46pm

Badly needed!!!! Let the true facts and figures prevail.

Tranquil Feb 16, 2015 05:52pm

@PUNE-india Yes Thanks To Jinnah Whatever we have torn , broken , damaged, unstable, but its ours , OUR OWN Pakistan We OWN it.

Let See if DAWN can published this.

Kashmiri34 Feb 16, 2015 05:58pm

there are about 1% minority in 1998...what will now?...India conducted 2 times since then..and will conduct in 2021...

Pakistani by Heart Feb 16, 2015 06:30pm

In your editorial you have mentioned towards most dangerous problem for Pakistan. Whenever I visit Pakistan, I always feel like people flood on streets and that is 24 hours long. Where I live presently there even in a big city you see only counted people on street. I know Pakistan has so many other problems but perhaps this problem is mother of other problems. Govt has zero interest in this problem as in local bodies election too. I always wonder on those who support present govt and those who support the previous one.

gisum Feb 16, 2015 06:30pm

@PUNE-india But still we have fast breeding reactors left in India from partition and it will not be long when population crosses 2 billion.

Anwar Feb 16, 2015 06:33pm

...and I am afraid we might be challenging India and China with our population size The world cup that sooner or later Pakistan will win :D

Fazal Karim Feb 16, 2015 08:49pm

Without census elections held after 2008 are illegal.Why Election Commission and Supreme court do not take serious notice?

Mustang Feb 16, 2015 11:14pm

Census is likely to take place in Pakistan in 2018 (after 30 years of turmoil). Hope its population will be around 200 Million (20 Crore).

kumar swami Feb 17, 2015 12:01am

Pakistani government knows exactly how many people are in the country at any given time, thanks to the folks at the Pakistan Depart-ment of Vital Statistics and their efficient computers, Islamabad. All deaths reported, including murders, are subtracted and of course the births, new arrivals and illegal and legal freedom fighters counted in! The government knows that census is tome consuming and at the same time wasteful!

atif Feb 17, 2015 12:39am

census is counting ppl and perhaps our govt has 'left this as a bad job'

Zeeshan Aziz Barlas Feb 17, 2015 04:03am

What will be changed after getting this data? Headless Govt. suddenly become sensible? or Pakistani Awaam start giving rights and honour to fellow Pakistanis?

Malik Feb 17, 2015 07:33am

Pakistan's original population is more than 30 + crore.

JAVAID BASHIR Feb 18, 2015 04:11am

The importance of census can not be ignored. our present figures does not reflect the real proportion of population among the different units of the federation.It is a much needed measure to all of us.

We are presently depending on false information, to make important policy decision. Th developmental process and spending suffers from flawed policies. We are handicapped in decision making.

the government must conduct the Census immediately to ensure progress of the nation.Leave aside political consideration, which may have to be compromised.