KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday directed the maritime affairs minister and federal secretary planning, development and special initiatives ministry to expedite the proceedings of finalisation of census result.

A two-judge bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar also sought a progress report on Nov 4.

When a petition of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan against delimitation of local government jurisdictions in Sindh came up for hearing, Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Kafeel Abbasi filed a reply on behalf of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) along with some documents stating that authorities concerned were serious in finalising the result of the 2017 census.

He further submitted that the last meeting of a cabinet committee, constituted on the instruction of the federal cabinet for finalisation of the census result, was convened on Oct 9 in the committee room of the ministry of maritime affairs under the chairmanship of federal Minister Ali Haider Zaidi and at least 11 members attended the meeting.

A federal law officer seeks two weeks to file a progress report

The DAG argued that the issue was at the verge of finalisation and requested for two weeks’ time to file a progress report.

The reply/report prepared by the ministry of inter-provincial coordination on behalf of the CCI further said that the first meeting of the committee was held in March and second in July while the third meeting was conducted in August which was also attended by the secretary of parliamentary affairs and chairman of the National Database and Registration Authority on the request of the chairman of the committee.

It was decided that in the next meeting after rechecking and re-verification, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) will present the data regarding five census blocks identified by the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen), it added.

The report further said that the fourth meeting of the committee was held on Sept 10, but further progress was awaited from the ministry of planning, development and special initiatives.

It added since the report/recommendations of the final results of the census were pending at the planning ministry, it was requested to apprise the committee about the directives of the SHC.

The bench said that its order be transmitted to Minister Zaidi and secretary of the ministry of planning, development and special initiatives to ensure that they would expedite the proceedings and a progress report must be submitted on the next hearing with regard to finalisation of the census result.

On an earlier hearing, a joint census commissioner had informed the bench that the final result of the census had already been sent to the CCI and after its approval the same would be announced. The provincial election commissioner and another officer of the PBS had also given their statements that the local government elections were not possible without the notification of the final result of the census.

The MQM-P challenged the constitution of committees for delimitation of LG jurisdictions in the province stating that according to the Elections Act, 2017, the exercise of delimitation could not be carried out unless the final results of the population census were officially published.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2020