KARACHI: The ongoing census faces a fresh controversy as both the federal and Sindh governments went public with their differences over the issue on Sunday.

The PPP-led Sindh government expressed concerns for excluding those parts of the province where “population growth rate has been recorded higher than a certain benchmark” and warned that the province would reject the result if its reservations were not addressed.

The Sindh government’s concern came soon after Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal directed all the provincial governments to complete the field verification/coverage of the population and housing census till May 15 in “areas where population growth is not in line with normal demographic trends” and “close the field operation in all areas exhibiting natural trends”.

On the other hand, both a federal government ally and the opposition PTI expressed their reservations over the census results.

Murad says result won’t be accepted if reservations not addressed

In a strongly-worded letter to Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah made it clear that his government would reject the census result if its reservations were not addressed.

The letter, a copy of which is available with Dawn, stated that following a meeting held on Sunday to review the progress of the field operations of the census it was conveyed to the provincial government that the “census activity will immediately be closed in those talukas/tehsils where population growth rate higher than a certain benchmark has been recorded”.

“We have a strong reservation on this decision as this benchmarking is totally arbitrary,” he said.

“Citing reasons for his objections, the CM stated: “It is wrong to judge the population growth of all the districts/talukas against a single universal benchmark. If such a benchmark was universally applicable, [then] there would have been no need to conduct the census at all, as the population growth could have easily been calculated based on that benchmark.”

He further said that there are many blocks in almost all the districts of Sindh, which have still not been fully counted.

The CM urged the federal government to continue the census process in all the districts of Sindh “till each and every household and individual is accurately counted”.

In Islamabad, the planning minister while chairing a meeting said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had taken strict notice of the repeated extensions of field enumeration activities, APP added. Therefore, the meeting was informed, targeted verification and enumeration operations should be carried out in areas with abnormal population growth, where gaps have already been highlighted using the digital systems architected by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics for the first-ever digital census.

Mr Iqbal stressed that special efforts should be made in urban areas of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and ICT to counter issues of under coverage and low coverage.

A uniform data-driven policy must be adopted to conclude the field enumeration in all the provinces.

He stressed on the completion of the exercise by May 15 for timely handing over of data to the Election Commission of Pakistan.

On the other hand, MQM-P, an ally of the PDM government in the Centre, alleged that the population of urban Sindh had been shown in the census less not because of any mistake but under a particular plan.

“Through the media and government institutions sources, it has been proved that population of urban Sindh is being shown less under a well-thought-out plan,” claimed MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqi at a presser.

In Lahore, PTI Senator Ejaz Chaudhry termed the ongoing census a “fraud” and said his party had already rejected the census.

In a statement, he said political parties were protesting against the veracity of the census and added that the “imported government was busy [doing] rigging in census activity too”.

Mansoor Malik in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2023



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