ISLAMABAD: The Jamaat-i-Islami’s Karachi chapter has moved the Supreme Court to seek a directive that the process of conduct of Population Census-2017 in the city was contrary to the mandate, obligations and standards set by the United Nations.
Filed through Advocate Aftab Alam Yasir, the petition argues that the decision of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) cannot be overridden by the federal cabinet and a post-census audit ordered by the CCI cannot be ignored while confirming the census.
Moreover, the General Statistics (Reorganisation) Act, 2011 is ultra vires as it does not meet the standards laid down by the UN and the questionnaire framed under Section 23 of the Act and used for Census-2017 is against the UN standards, the petition contends.
Therefore, the Act should be declared ultra vires, it pleads the apex court.
No mechanism for appeal has been provided under the Act to challenge validity of the census, it says.
Argues that counting process was contrary to UN standards
According to the petition, the census is offending to the public at large and against the national interest since the people cannot be counted in un-realistic counting which may render them un-facilitated and unblessed with permanent development work coupled with social and economic up-gradation.
The census should be tested at the touchstone of Article 8 of the Constitution and should be declared to be in derogation with the fundamental rights of the people, the petition contends.
Earlier in a different case about the absence of the local government in the country, Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan had told a two-judge Supreme Court bench that the 2017 census still awaited approval by the CCI after which it would be notified.
The AGP had conceded that the Sindh government had objected to the census results, particularly with regard to Karachi, on the ground that the numbers counted were considerably less than what they should be.
The JI petition contends that the census issue is of public importance since it forms the basis of electoral college for National and provincial assemblies as well as local government institutions and has a direct impact on planning coupled with development works affecting the rights of the provinces and their relationship of federation.
The petition argues that the Census-2017, especially of Karachi, does not meet international standards.
It says that the problems of Karachi are important for Pakistan as being the most tax generating city, it has one-sixth population of the country which is a sufficient ground to exercise the extraordinary jurisdiction of Article 184(3) of the Constitution to enforce the fundamental right of the public at large to advance public interest.
It says that the electoral college should reflect real population besides the statistical data should be clean from erratic and miscalculated population with fraudulent intent.
The petition argues that according to the Census-2017, Pakistan has been ranked as the fifth most populous nation in the world, with a population of over 200 million. While all nations and economics rely on population growth and future younger generations, such growth must be sustainable and proportionate to the resources available.
About 14,000 babies are born in Pakistan (every year) which is already struggling to feed, educate and provide employment to its existing population. Pakistan has experienced unchecked population growth since its creation in 1947 and from 1998 to 2017, its population has increased by 57 per cent with the addition of approximately 76m people to the population. Projected growth trends by the UN suggest that if this population growth rate does not slow considerably, Pakistan can expect to have its population increase by 50 per cent resulting in an estimated 306m people, surpassing the United States, Indonesia, Brazil and Russia to become the world’s third largest country in terms of population trailing behind India and China, the petition fears.
The steadily increasing population rate in Pakistan is a ticking bomb and what follows this population explosion will be starvation, famine and poverty, the likes of which are already visible in areas like Thar, the petition fears.
Other indicators of overstretched resources and infrastructure are apparent in Pakistan’s unemployment rate, maternal and child mortality rate, literacy and educational enrolment figures, and access to clean water and adequate food.
These figures make it clear that Pakistan is not equipped to handle the addition of another 100 million people to its ranks, the petition fears.
Published in Dawn, February 7th, 2021