UMERKOT: Sindh Bureau of Statistics Director General Ishaq Ansari has said that facts and figures, supposed to be recorded by the institution, used to be intentionally manipulated in the past as per the will and wishes of highly influential elite. Certain international organisation had been raising objections over the deceitful practice. “However, this institution has now been made an independent authority and can upload true data/statistics on its website without any approval or interference from any individual or quarter,” he revealed.

Mr Ansari was speaking to journalists, coming from across Umerkot district, at the one-day workshop on ‘Importance of data/statistics for print, electronic and digital media’ organised by the Centre for Media Development (CMD) in collaboration with the Sindh Bureau of Statistics.

He disclosed that due to the interference, the data/statics recorded by the bureau had no credibility as the staff would manipulate them, resort to the practice of “cut & paste” and let information seekers share them very late thus causing them (statistics) to lose their importance.

“But now time has changed; it has been realised that planning and policies fail because we don’t have true statistics. International organisations and donors cannot be convinced to support the country if we don’t have credible facts and figures. Therefore, we have initiated multiple surveys. One is completed, the other is being started,” said Mr Ansari, adding that a health survey was also being started next week.

SBS director general reveals facts and figures used to be manipulated by influential elite until recently

He said: “We have started work on collecting statistics of minerals in Sindh. It will be completed soon”.

The survey project is funded by World Bank, he said, and revealed: “World Bank has asked us to work honestly, diligently and properly on the indicators set for the mother & child health during the three-year project”. It will be examined again and again to see whether any change is witnessed or not. Multiple indicators cluster surveys (MICS) will be started at the end of this year.

“Until recently, we used to visit academia, departments, etc but now we feel that the mass media can use these statistics in a better way by educating people and updating world community regarding the state of various clusters. Therefore, we have started training journalists and are encouraging them to make use of credible statistics in their reports,” said Mr Ansari.

In reply to a question, the SBS chief said: “Yes, we have data and statistics regarding climate change, global warming and environment.

Regarding the new mode of operation, he said contrary to the practice of using the term ‘government’ alone, the SBS had now included terms ‘federal government’, ‘Sindh/provincial government’ and ‘district government’ in surveys. Although local government is not part of the SBS, surveyors would go up to the tappo, union council and deh levels to survey the targeted areas’ population and record all sorts of data and statistics such as enrolment in schools, available facilities, dropout ratio etc. Same goes in the cases of industry, agriculture, water and other sectors as well as standard of living in these areas.

“Previously, the bureau had no professionals and it used to keep the collected data secret. Now, we intend to let people know all facts.

Mr Ansari termed statistics ‘public property’ and argued: “Why should it be kept secret?”

He also revealed that ‘Sindh Statistical Act’, on the pattern of the ‘Pakistan Statistical Act’ was intended to be introduced to punish those who were found to have manipulated information, hidden it or refused to share it with others. The draft was passed by the legal department and would now be tabled in the assembly for approval, he added.

The SBS chief disclosed that around 40pc of his institution’s offices had been encroached upon and their furniture stolen. The Umerkot office is currently in the use of a law enforcement agency and the SBS officer posted there has to sit in the Mirpurkhas office, according to Mr Ansari.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2024

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