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ISLAMABAD: Opposition parties on Saturday voiced serious concerns over the preliminary results of the national census, questioning the authenticity of the figures released by the statistics division.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which did not conduct a census in the five years it was in power, had been quite vocal in its criticism of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) for delaying the enumeration exercise beyond 2016.

However, following the release of the provisional census results, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah called the numbers into question.

Call to compare data obtained by statistics division with figures collected by army

In a statement issued on Saturday, the PPP leader demanded that the data collected by the statistics division and the Pakistan Army should be compared to get a true picture.

He claimed that the government had treated the enumeration exercise as a mere formality, adding that no one was satisfied with the way the census was conducted.

Veteran PPP leader Nawab Yusuf Talpur accused the authorities of releasing the wrong figures under a preconceived plan. He alleged that the results had been doctored, adding that the population of Sindh had been deliberately reduced by at least 10 million, while the population of Punjab was overestimated by 10 million.

He said that giving 50pc per cent representation to Punjab in the reconstituted Council of Common Interests (CCI) was part of the same conspiracy.

Describing the preliminary results of the census as an attempt to usurp the rights of Sindh, he called on his party to convene a provincial multiparty conference to discuss the matter.

PPP Senator Aijaz Dhamra also rejected the preliminary results, pointing out that the populations of Karachi and Lahore — the provincial capitals of Sindh and Punjab — had not shown major differences, which was not possible.

Awami National Party (ANP) leader Bushra Gohar also expressed her dissatisfaction with the census results. “There were nearly 2 million registered IDPs from North Waziristan alone. How can Fata’s population be just 5 million? Fudged figures?” she tweeted on Saturday.

Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) Senator Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah told Dawn if the provinces had objected to the exercise during the CCI meeting, it would have been reflected somewhere.

“I did not see any such report,” he remarked, calling on the Sindh government to brief lawmakers on the results that had been shared with them.

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) MNA Murad Saeed also appeared thrown off by the provisional results announced. Taking to Twitter to voice his concerns, he said that according to the census results, there had been a 57pc increase in the population since 1998.

“For policy formulation, we were working with population growth projections of 2.05pc, census revealed it is 2.4pc,” he tweeted.

PTI Senator Shibli Faraz also seemed dissatisfied by the entire exercise, saying it had been conducted in a shabby and non-transparent manner.

In a related development, the Senate Finance Committee will meet on Aug 29 for a detailed briefing on the preliminary results of census from the statistics division.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2017