Nationwide issue: Speakers demand accuracy in upcoming national census

Published: February 17, 2017
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KARACHI: Sindh must independently carry out the census by selecting two to three random blocks in any of the 28 districts to challenge the tampered data of census carried out by the federal government, suggested economist Dr Kaiser Bengali.

He demanded the issuance of ward-wise census data in order to minimise the fear of tampering rather than holding accumulated figures for months before announcing it centrally. He made these demands during a seminar titled ‘National Census and Reservations of Sindh’, organised by the Save Sindh Committee at Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) House on Wednesday.

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“However, I don’t expect political or intellectual honesty in upcoming national census, which is being held after a gap of 19 years due to discriminatory attitude by the census commissioner,” he said, adding that we will only be able to counter the federal government if we work hard to get our voices heard in Islamabad.

Researcher Dr Haris Gazdar remarked that the census is a technical issue and must be conducted as it is connected with constitutional and political rights of the people. “The census is the people’s right and the state’s obligation,” he said.

However, Dr Gazdar expressed dismay at the way the figures of the last national census were distorted. “If it were to happen again it would raise questions about the upcoming censuses for years to come,” he said, adding that seats in the National Assembly and National Finance Commission awards are directly related to population census.

He told participants of the seminar that the ratio of population in Sindh in relation to the rest of the country did not change in the 1981 and 1998 censuses and remained almost same at 22.58% and 22.9% respectively. This cannot be possible considering that migration, fertility and other factors were on the rise, he said.

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According to him, the 5.47 household size in rural areas of Sindh in the 1998 census is nothing short of miraculous. He said the figure was tampered with heavily and these figures were rejected by the Sindh Assembly at the time.

He stressed that in Sindh, especially in the rural areas, the population will increase dramatically in the upcoming national census and tampering with the census data is like a time-bomb which can go off at any time, saying, “A transparent national census can benefit all the stakeholders”.

Political activist Abdul Qayyum Chandio stressed, “If the federal government becomes sincere, fear, hatred and animosity between the provinces can be reduced”.

Lawyer Arshad Siraj remarked that the census should deliver micro and macro level information so that income, education and health indicators of people in different areas can be ascertained and addressed.

Former PMA Centre secretary-general Dr Habib Soomro said that no province should oppose the census; however, if the data is not up to the expectations then we must show a strong dismay over the results.

Political activist Nasir Mansoor was of the view that it would be a bombshell if the results of the census are already decided and this would envelope the country in darkness.

“The census has created and disintegrated countries in the sub-continent and we need to pragmatically deal with the issues related to the national census,” said historian Dr Jaffar Ahmed. He added that political turmoil is expected in the near future and politicians must get ready to address such eventualities.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2017.

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