The people of Sindh must actively take part in the census if they want to become “a majority in their own province,” urged speakers at a conference on the census, that is being held after 13 years.
By proving their majority, the residents of Sindh would be able to get their legitimate share in the distribution of the government’s resources and government jobs. Members of the Indus Peoples Forum and Alert Citizen Welfare Organisation shared these views at the district council hall in Sukkur on Tuesday.
This meeting was backed by Pakistan Peoples Party MPA Rai Naz Bozdar, Pakistan Muslim League – Functional MPA Nusrat Sahar Abbasi, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Maulana Hizbullah Jhakro, Tanzeem-e-Pakistan’s Dr Saeed Awan, human rights lawyer Hadi Bux Bhatt, Awami Tehreek’s Sachal Bhatti, Sindh Taraqi Pasand Party’s Nazir Soomro and Sukkur Women Complaint Cell incharge Safia Baloch.
The focus is on the second part of the census, which many people are calling the most crucial – the one in which the actual number of Sindhis living in the province will be calculated. Giving an example, one speaker said that if four brothers are living in one house, they should register their families separately.
Once the counting of housing units is complete by April 19, the list of every locality will be displayed in a nearby school. The speakers urged the people to check this list and make sure their house is included. It was noted earlier that residents of rural areas were reluctant to register women, said one speaker. This is wrong and an atrocity on the Sindhis, he said.
The speakers also requested the people to tick ‘Sindhi language’ in the form, even if they belong to any other linguistic group. “If we failed to do so, then Sindhis will be converted into a minority in their own homeland,” said a speaker. They also demanded that the government exclude people who have migrated to Pakistan, especially Sindh, after 1954.
After 13 years
The census started across the country on Tuesday after 13 years. Sindh has been divided into five divisions, including Karachi, for the listing of houses. More than 14,000 staffers have been hired to do this.
In Jacobabad, DCO Sajid Jamal Abro inaugurated the listing from DCO House. Abro said 391 teachers will work in the district’s 40 union councils to complete the task. The teams have been advised to take special care to count flood survivors.
In Karachi, the administrator started the drive from Governor House by marking the first number on its gate.
“Unlike the past when all flats in a multi-storey plaza were given a single marking, each flat will now be marked as a separate housing unit,” said City Administrator Lala Fazlur Rehman.
Each residential flat will now receive its own census identification number.
During this house listing phase, each unit marked will specify if it is a katchi abadi, posh area or a multi-storey plaza, he said. This arrangement is especially suitable for Karachi, where a majority of people live in apartments, he added.
Flats would be given separate numbers. A single worker has been instructed to cover a one-kilometre radius which covers around two to three blocks. The teams would also gather data on voters during this phase.
Sukkur city has been divided into 27 circles that are further divided into 155 blocks.
Nine DDOs of nine talukas have been declared Taluka Census Officers while 177 teams have been formed for the first phase. Work would be supervised by 94 teams.
Is this dangerous?
This conference is not the first discussion generated on the census. The Awami National Party has already said it will try to round up the Pakhtun. But is tying the census to ethnic and linguistic backgrounds a good idea given the violence it can precipitate?
For former diplomat M Ali Siddiqui, the phenomenon of a particular ethnic group trying to claim a majority through the census was a positive development. “At least people now have accepted the concept of demographic representation,” he told The Express Tribune.
But if people want to use that information — the majority figure — against another group, then that is different. “And I do not foresee something like this happening.”
There is no harm if groups want to formally identify themselves, he argues, basing his claim on the fact that people saw a demographic change during the last census. “I don’t understand why people try ruling out ethnicity in a multi-ethnic country like Pakistan.”
During the first quarter of the century, the census took place on the basis of land – now it is population-based. “We must realise that the root of all this is the representative nature of democracy, that is why every group wants a majority for more rights and a bigger voice,” Siddiqui said.
There would be no conflict and one should expect a little of exploitation from pressure, but at least we will have an accurate census, he sanguinely added. “It’s a healthy sign.”
Problems during first day
There were a few coordination problems that the DDOs and the enumerators faced during the first day but immediate steps were taken to resolve them, said Karachi DCO Muhammad Hussein Syed, during a press conference at the DCO Camp Office on Tuesday evening.
The arrangements made for the census are based on experience, said Syed. He added that he is not in a position to deploy the army for the process. Such decisions are made at the federal level. The city government has also arranged for fuel and will be giving the DDOs 50 litres of petrol every day, he said.
Officials told The Express Tribune that the workers faced problems entering certain neighbourhoods, which remained “untouched” on the first day of the census. “The poor quality paint for the markings is coming off and we do not have kerosene oil to dilute it properly,” said one worker. The DCO promised that he would give them Rs40 every day from today to buy kerosene oil.
“There is no logistic support as the federal government has given only one vehicle for the entire city and the deputy revenue district officers do not have money to pay for fuel.”
A DDO told The Express Tribune that a lack of coordination in the city government is creating problems for them on the field. He also complained that there is no response from the police, especially in those areas where crime rates are higher. The authorities gave outdated maps that do not match the actual neighbourhoods, another official complained.
With additional input from APP
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2011.