MQM-P seeks SC directive for fresh census in Sindh

Updated 23 Oct 2020

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The Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan has approached the Supreme Court to seek an order for the conduct of a fresh, transparent census in Sindh. — AFP/File
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan has approached the Supreme Court to seek an order for the conduct of a fresh, transparent census in Sindh. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Questioning results of the 2017 census, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) on Thursday approached the Supreme Court to seek an order for the conduct of a fresh, transparent census in Sindh, especially in urban areas such as Karachi and Hyderabad.

Moved by the party’s Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and senior party leaders like Mohammad Amir Khan, Kanwar Naveed Jamil, Waseem Akhtar, Faisal Sabzwari, Hamidul Zafar and Mohammad Jawed Hanif Khan, the petition requested the Supreme Court to direct the federal government to conduct a fresh census for Sindh with guidelines that the census process should be transparent, independent and accurate.

Senior counsel Salahuddin Ahmed has instituted the petition with a plea that the Council of Common Interests (CCI) as well as the federal government should be restrained from publishing or notifying final results of the 2017 census.

In addition, the federal government should also be ordered by the apex court that a five per cent randomised audit be conducted through a reliable third party of all census blocks to ascertain the accuracy and quality of the 2017 census exercise in Sindh.

Highlighting discrepancies in the 2017 provisional census, the petition feared that the census results seemed counter-intuitive.

Petition says CCI, federal govt should be restrained from notifying final results of 2017 census

The average annual population growth rate throughout Pakistan from 1981 to 1998 was 2.69 per cent, but in comparison for the same period, the average population growth rate for Sindh’s urban blocks was 3.52pc and for rural blocks of Sindh it was 2.19pc.

Karachi by itself makes up the major share of the urban population of Sindh, the petition said, adding it was clear from these points that up to 1998 the population growth rate for urban areas of Sindh far outstripped the rest of Pakistan, including the rural areas of Sindh.

This is consistent with the generally observed pattern of internal migration from all parts of Pakistan to the commercial hub and magnet of Karachi. It is also consistent with the national and international trend of migration in developing countries from agricultural and rural areas to urban/industrial/commercial centres, the petition said.

In Karachi’s peculiar context, numerous reports, papers, articles and studies have pointed out the massive increase in migration to Karachi from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, erstwhile Fata and even Afghanistan after the events of 9/11 and the ‘war on terror’, as well as from rural areas of Sindh during the first decade of the 21st century.

Astonishingly, however, the provisional results of the 2017 census show that from 1998 to 2017, the average growth rate for Pakistan has declined slightly to 2.40pc while the average growth rate for rural areas of Sindh has increased slightly to 2.36pc, but the average growth rate of urban areas in Sindh — by way of stark contrast — has fallen by 1.06pc to 2.46pc.

Where Tharparkar district has seen a growth of 3.15pc and Jamshoro district has had a growth of 2.85pc, Hyderabad district has seen a substantially smaller growth of 2.05pc and the entire Karachi division has seen only 2.60pc growth.

In other words, as per these 2017 provisional results, Karachi has grown slower than even rural areas of Sindh and most of Pakistan, and that there has been practically no net migration to Karachi during the last 20 years, according to the petition.

Every study, report and article on Karachi written by any researcher or agency in last 20 years as well as other statistics such as electricity and water consumption, sale of housing units and motor vehicles tend to contradict such a finding, the petition argues, adding it was inexplicable how the growth rate for urban Sindh was falling while the growth rate or rural Sindh was rising. This fact contradicts consistent findings and reports from every relevant agency that the migration pattern in Pakistan (especially in Sindh) was from rural areas to cities and not the other way around.

The deliberate undercounting of Karachi’s population is also reflected by the unique and unprecedented decline of population in Arambagh and Saddar areas of Karachi as per the 2017 provisional census, the petition said.

This trend of declining populations (in the heart of Karachi) over the last 20 years is contrary to that of every other region in Pakistan. Any citizen of Karachi can testify to the fact that there has not been any such population decline in these areas rather the population has grown exponentially as bungalows have been replaced by high-rise residential towers, the petition said.

The 2017 census process is also defective as it completely fails to count and include refugees and illegal migrants in Karachi. Whatever the legal status of such people, it cannot be denied that they consume valuable public resources and goods.

The policymakers in Pakistan are effectively clueless about the massive illegal populations — including Afghans, Bengalis, and Burmese, to name a few communities now living permanently in Pakistan — most of whom reside in urban Sindh, particularly Karachi.

According to the petition, the failure to carry out a fair and accurate census, that too in a timely fashion, has violated fundamental rights of the people, especially those of urban Sindh as enshrined in Articles 9, 17, 25, 25-A, 27 and 28 of the Constitution, as well as the Principles of State Policy enumerated in Articles 33 to 39.

The constitutional principle of “one-man one vote” is entrenched in practice internationally, as well as in Pakistan, but this principle has been neglected and perpetuated minority rule in Sindh, the petition says.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2020