Asif Khan, 14, center, sells shoes in a market in Islamabad. – File photo by AP
Asif Khan, 14, center, sells shoes in a market in Islamabad. – File photo by AP

The new electoral rolls displayed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) show a surge of 100,000 voters in a span of five years in the federal capital. This is despite the fact that a large number of multiple entries – voters listed in more than one spot in the country – have been scrapped.

According to the officials, the reason behind the increase is the influx of settlers from other parts of the country, especially Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).  Migration has also been observed from Balochistan and Punjab.

Officials of the ECP told Dawn that for the first time, multiple entries have been struck off and registered voters have only one vote in one constituency. “Earlier, some voters were registered in more than 10 places,” admitted an official of the ECP.

Even though the government did not conduct a national census in 2010, a housing survey conducted in Islamabad revealed that the capital’s population has more than doubled since the last census in 1998.

The housing survey, conducted by the Census Department in collaboration with the Federal Directorate of Education and the local administration in April 2011, estimated the capital’s current population at around 2 million, while the 1998 census put it at 800,000.

The housing survey also revealed that the number of houses has risen sharply.

“A hundred per cent increase has been seen in localities on the outskirts of the capital like Bhara Kahu, Banigala, Tarnol, Golra, and sectors I-11, G-11, G-12, F-12 and H-13,” said an official of the local administration.

According to Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Amir Ali Ahmed, “there are two types of settlers who are coming into Islamabad: first, those who are fed up with unprecedented terrorism and security concerns in the KP, tribal areas and Balochistan, and second, a big labour force coming from central Punjab to get some work.”

He said there was no bar on migration of citizens to Islamabad. “Actually every Pakistani has a right to live anywhere in the country without any restriction,” he stated.

“Many of our friends who have their business in Peshawar or other parts of KP have sent their families to Islamabad so that they can live in a comparatively peaceful environment,” added Munawar Mughal, a senior office-bearer of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) who had fought elections for the National Assembly seat in Islamabad.

A large number of people (non-Baloch) have migrated from Balochistan after the recent incidents of killings, arson attacks and kidnappings-for-ransom.

“We preferred to leave Quetta and settle in Islamabad because of threats that Punjabis face from the terrorists there,” said an immigrant Sarwar Mehdi.

Affluent migrants are busy purchasing houses in upscale localities whereas those from the lower income group are settling down in slums and suburbs of the capital.

In fact, locals of Turnol and Sangjani have complained about the influx of Afghan nationals and militants and criminals from KP (Hazara Division) many of whom have purchased properties and houses in these areas.

Some residents believe that they have also penetrated into urban areas of Islamabad and contributed to the rise in crime rate.

Similar complaints have also been coming from other parts of the federal capital such as Bara Kahu, I J Principal Road and Rawat, but there is no way to verify it independently.

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