Rare unity in Sindh Assembly over demand for third-party census audit

Updated 11 Dec 2019

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Echoing the longstanding reservations over the results of the sixth population census, the Sindh Assembly on Tuesday unanimously demanded a third-party audit of five per cent of census blocks in the country. — APP/File
Echoing the longstanding reservations over the results of the sixth population census, the Sindh Assembly on Tuesday unanimously demanded a third-party audit of five per cent of census blocks in the country. — APP/File

KARACHI: Echoing the longstanding reservations over the results of the sixth population census, the Sindh Assembly on Tuesday unanimously demanded a third-party audit of five per cent of census blocks in the country.

The opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan moved a resolution in Tuesday’s session chaired by Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani. Interestingly, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party supported the MQM-P and signed the document.

The resolution reads: “This assembly resolves and recommends to the government of Sindh to approach the federal government to conduct a third-party audit of census, on an experimental basis, in 5 per cent area of the country to judge the fairness of results as decided by the major parties PPP, MQM-P, PML-N, PTI and other political parties present in the parliament and also showed reservations on the results of Census, 2017.”

Information Minister Saeed Ghani said the Sindh government had minced no words in expressing its concerns over the way the last population census had been conducted.

The ruling PPP supports a resolution moved by opposition MQM-P seeking audit of 5pc of census blocks

He said new delimitation of electoral constituencies were to be made in the light of the census results. He said promises were made to the PPP, MQM and the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional two years ago that the government would allow conducting an audit of five per cent of the census results.

He said the population of other provinces had been shown phenomenally greater in comparison to that of Sindh.

“Such a ridiculous thing is done despite the fact that Sindh is the key recipient of most of internal migration. Our population has been shown much lesser than what it is and that has happened everywhere, from Karachi to Kashmore.”

He appreciated the MQM-P’s stance over the issue and said: “[MQM-P convener] Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui is a federal minister who should discuss this issue in the federal cabinet. We support the Muttahida on this matter.”

CM urged to take up census issue in CCI moot

MQM’s parliamentary party leader Kanwar Naveed Jameel demanded that the population of five per cent areas of the country be selected for a fresh census and the figures be compared with the ones that had been obtained in the past exercise.

He said it took two decades to conduct the population census in the country. However, after its conclusion the MQM-P was among several parties which expressed their concerns over the results.

“We took up the issue with [then] Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and got it agreed that the government would get a third-party audit of the results of five per cent of the census blocks to remove all such concerns. But sadly, this promise has not been kept.”

Grand Democratic Alliance lawmaker Nusrat Sehar Abbasi also expressed her party’s concerns over the figures of the population in Sindh and extended her party’s support to the resolution.

Women Development Minister Shehla Raza said those residents who went elsewhere twice a year from Sindh should also be counted as the permanent residents of Sindh.

MQM-P’s Mohammad Hussain maintained that the population of Karachi and several other cities of Sindh had been shown much less in the last census, which barely reflected the actual number of people living in the province.

He asked Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to raise the issue in the meeting of the Council of Common Interests scheduled to be held on Dec 23.

Dadu girl’s ‘stoning’ issue

Information Minister Ghani apologised to the parents of a 10-year-old girl [Gul Sama] living in the mountainous regions of Dadu district, who it was earlier stated was stoned to death after a jirga verdict, as well as a prayer leader for arresting them despite the fact that they had committed no crime and the parents were in fact still trying to deal with the tragic death of their child.

The parents and the prayer leader had been arrested on the unconfirmed reports on social media that were later picked up by the mainstream TV stations and newspapers, claiming the girl had been stoned to death for being ‘kari’ on the order of a son of Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind, chief of the Rind tribe who presided over a jirga — a charge the tribal chieftain denied.

Mr Ghani said the parents and the prayer leader had been arrested by the police out of compulsion due to great pressure put on the provincial authorities through unverified reports on social and mainstream media.

He said the tribal chief who had been unfairly accused was a leader of the PTI and it would have been a blessing in disguise for the PPP had it exploited it for political gain. The PPP, however, decided to explore the truth.

He said the preliminary results of the autopsy of the girl and reports by the investigating team clearly showed that all those reports were baseless.

He requested the media not to publish or air reports without obtaining concrete and irrefutable evidence.

Student’s abduction termed a police failure

About the kidnapping of a female student [Dua Mangi] from the Defence Housing Authority who returned home a couple of days ago, the minister said the police should be blamed for not taking appropriate measures despite reporting of similar incidents from the upmarket area for the past two months.

He said the chief minister had ordered a detailed inquiry of the incident and those involved in it would be arrested.

He said several cabinet members, including him, were in contact with the family of Dua Mangi and the latter were offering total cooperation.

He said a friend of the female student, who was wounded by the gunshots fired by the kidnappers, was being treated at a hospital and the provincial government was bearing the expenses of his treatment.

However, he said it was not generosity on the part of the government, but, “it is our responsibility”.

Published in Dawn, December 11th, 2019