ISLAMABAD: The census should be postponed till all Afghan refugees have returned to their country and till the Baloch who have left their province due to insurgencies have returned to Balochistan, said president of the National Party (NP) Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo on Wednesday.

“It is also not wise to talk of the Afghania province because if that Pandora’s Box is opened, it will lead to a crisis for the whole country,” Mr Bizenjo said at a news conference at Parliament Lodges.

Senators Mir Kabeer Mohammad and Dr Ashok Kumar and the president of the Punjab chapter of the party, Ayub Malik were also present.

If census is held now, it will disrupt population balance in Balochistan, KP, NP chief warns

The press conference seemed to have been held as a reaction to demands made by the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai on Dec 18 in Islamabad, when he had said that the Pakhtuns who have been living in Pakistan for decades should not be sent back to Afghanistan.

He had also demanded that the 150,000 square kilometre area from the Durand Line to Mianwali be declared the ‘Afghania’ province.

Addressing the press conference on Wednesday, Mr Bizenjo said his party had been speaking against the settlement of Afghan refugees in Pakistan since the 1980s and had been demanding they be sent back to their country.

“According to government records, there are around three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and if the census is held now, it will affect the population balance in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP),” he said.

“As most Afghan refugees live in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, they will upset the population balance in these provinces.

A large number of Baloch have migrated to. The census should be held in these two provinces after the Afghans have left and the Baloch have returned home,” he said.

Mr Bizenjo said some Afghans have managed to get fake CNICs and that the Ministry of Interior has taken action against a number of officials in the National Database and Registration Authority in this regard.

National Party Punjab President Ayub Malik said holding the census was not as important as the federation and that it should be delayed so that the people of Balochistan accept it.

“If a census is held now, the Baloch will be recorded as a minority when they are the natives of Balochistan,” he said. The Constitution requires the census to be conducted every 10 years and this requirement has not been fulfilled since 1998.

After a number of interventions by the Supreme Court, the federal government has announced the next census will start on March 15, 2017.

In reply to a question, Mr Bizenjo said the matter will be taken up in the Cabinet and the SC may be requested to postpone the census to avoid unrest in Balochistan.

The Bureau of Statistics has said foreigners will be counted in the census, which is why it is important to postpone it, he said, adding that the issue of insurgency in Balochistan will be addressed in six months.

When reminded that NP and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party were part of the coalition government in the centre and Balochistan, Mr Bizenjo said they have different policies and are free to make independent decisions.

Published in Dawn, December 22nd, 2016



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