QUETTA: The Qaumi Yakjehti Jirga (QYJ) — an informal traditional council comprising tribal, political and Baloch and Pashtun nationalist leaders — has expressed serious concern over the holding of census in Balochistan in the presence of refugees in the province.

After marathon deliberations held at the Sarawan House on Saturday with jirga convener and former senator Nawabzada Haji Lashkari Khan Raisani in the chair, the QYJ urged the federal government and the census department to take effective measures to keep foreign nationals out of the count during the census slated for next month.

According to a declaration adopted by the jirga with consensus and read by Mr Raisani, Pakistan has been facing serious political, economical and social problems for the past three decades because of the presence of foreign nationals. In particular, it said, people of Balo­chistan were passing through an insecurity situation.

The jirga was attended among others by Balochistan National Party-Mengal chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal, former chief minister Dr Malik Baloch, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl leader Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, Bismillah Khan Kakar of the Pakistan Peoples Party, BNP-Awami’s Syed Ehsan Shah, former caretaker CM Nawab Ghous Bakhsh Barozai, Maulana Abdul Qadir Luni of the JUI-Nazaryati, Hazara Democratic Party president Abdul Khaliq Hazara, Abdul Mateen Akhundzada of the Jamaat-i-Islami and former senator Sanaullah Baloch.

The statement expressed apprehensions that the foreigners living in the province would be included in the census because they had not been recognised by the authorities concerned as foreign nationals as yet.

“The demography of local Baloch, Pashtun and people of other communities living in Balochistan would be changed if foreign nationals were included in the census,” the Jirga participants observed.

The jirga asked the federal government, the census department and other institutions concerned to take such steps before the census as would ensure these foreigners were kept away from the exercise.

It demanded that the return of the internally displaced people, who migrated to other parts of the country due to law and order situation in certain districts of Balochistan, should be ensured for their inclusion in the census.

It was demanded an alternative strategy be made so that the census staff could reach people living in far-flung areas of Balochistan.

The Jirga emphasised that the government must remove all reservations and apprehensions expressed by the political parties and other communities over the census in order to make its result transparent and uncontroversial.

The Jirga warned that if the government failed to take the required steps and did not show a `responsible attitude’ then this process would not only prove to be controversial but would also cause a serious crisis for the federation which would negatively impact the future for which rulers would be responsible.

The leaders of different political parties and tribal elders, however, made it clear that they were not against holding of census as it was very important for the future planning in different sectors.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2017

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