• Moot hosted by MQM-P informed about flaws in census
• City’s political stakeholders asked to stand together for the cause
KARACHI: Suggesting a redo of the entire exercise of Digital Census 2023 considering the doubts surrounding the enumeration process, former finance minister Miftah Ismail has said the growth rate of country’s population is “grossly overstated” as it is shown at about three per cent, which means nine million babies are born annually in the country.
Speaking at a seminar titled ‘Consensus for fair census’ organised by the the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan here on Tuesday, Mr Ismail said the difference in the growth rate of Karachi and rest of the country’s population was casting serious doubts on the census.
“I believe the census must be done all over again,” he said, adding: “Tablets have been bought already, and it will take some Rs17-18 billion to hold it [census] again. There is no problem if it’s done again since the money will be spent on the country.”
Highlighting the flaws in the recently held census through a presentation, Dr Asim Bashir of the Institute of Business Administration said the growth of Karachi from 1851 to 2017 was greater than the rest of Sindh, but it got reversed in 2017, and in 2023 the urban growth went negative.
He said the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics was only a custodian of census and had no authority over enumerators.
The seminar was started by a presentation given by MQM-P leader MPA Jawed Hanif, who highlighted statistical fallacies and other flaws in the census.
Explaining why census is important, he mentioned that it decided political configuration, resource distribution, allocation of job quota, creation of administrative units and planning and development, but, he alleged that “the feudal lords of interior of Sindh” and the provincial government did not want a power shift in the hands of middle class urban population, which was why they did not let this process to be fair.
He mentioned that according to the data of the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), the population of Karachi was almost 26 million to 27m, while the K-Electric data showed a population of nearly 27.4m.
He also shared the data by the polio campaign, according to which the number was almost 26.77m.
Ahmed Bilal Mehboob of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) said the census was carried out on the de jure method which only counted people on the permanent residence basis. “This is the biggest reason behind counting problem,” he said.
He said it had happened for the first time in the history that census deadline was extended multiple times and every time a significant change in the number of population was witnessed. “This proves that the process is flawed and requires review,” he added.
Grand Democratic Alliance leader Irfanullah Marwat said his own house was not enumerated and added that it was another attempt to maintain ‘supremacy of rural Sindh’.
Renowned economist Dr Kaiser Bengali said the establishment of Islamabad and Larkana adjusted the numbers game as per their own interests. He said a large number of people had come to Karachi from south Punjab.
Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas said that Karachi was never counted. “And I am not talking about census. Census is a political issue, and if it wasn’t, East Pakistan would never have separated.”
He said: “There might be a reason that a former president said Karachi’s population was 35 million. Whoever talks about the issue, never mentions the number less than 30m, but the population of Karachi won’t be counted 30m.”
Awami National Party leader Shahi Syed commended the MQM-P’s efforts for a fair census and said whatever complaints would be there with respect to the census and delimitations must be addressed. He questioned how Pakistan would progress without a fair census.
Journalist Abdul Jabbar Nasir said that Balochistan witnessed a mind-boggling increase of 78pc in the population that made no sense.
Participants reject census in Karachi
In his thanking note, MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui questioned that Karachi received wheat flour for 30m people, if the population was not that much, where did all that wheat go.
The party convener asked the participants whether they accepted the census that showed Karachi’s population at 19m, to which the audience unanimously replied in the negative.
MQM-P senior deputy conveners Farooq Sattar and Mustafa Kamal also spoke, while party leader and Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Senator Faisal Subzwari hosted the event.
Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2023