In an apparent attempt to turn attention away from irregularities committed in conducting the sixth population census, the statistics ministry is trying to penalise a female officer for allegedly leaking a technical evaluation report of the national headcount to the media.
The ministry has censured Rizwana Siddique for leaking a confidential report, showed official documents of the ministry.
Siddique – a grade-19 officer – drafted the technical evaluation report, which cast doubt on the conduct of census last year.
In June this year, The Express Tribune published a story on the irregularities pointed out by the evaluation committee.
The female officer submitted a representation to the statistics ministry secretary on August 16, but she was not given an audience. The secretary forwarded the representation to Senior Joint Secretary Nasir Jamal, but no action was taken.
“The only fault due to which I was allegedly declared accused is … to complete the fact-finding report on Census 2017, which adversely affected the interest of many individuals,” Siddique stated in her complaint.
She alleged that leakage of contents of the report to the media was an attempt to make the findings controversial and prevent authorities from ordering the audit of budget funds utilised for the census.
The findings of the technical evaluation showed that the enumerators inferred or directed responses to questions relating to ethnicity and religion, which might raise serious questions over the new ethnicity data, showed a significant increase in Pashtun and Baloch population and reduction in Urdu and Punjabi-speaking people.
The evaluation committee recommended that “final result of the 6th Population and Housing Census 2017 needs to be verified by a committee of eminent demographers and experts, before its final release.”
The findings also showed that the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) mostly used untrained people for the census.
The census was conducted between March and May 2017 and its final results were presented before the Council of Common Interests (CCI) in May this year, which the CCI did not approve due to objections by the provinces.
The then Ministry of Statistics secretary constituted a team comprising two committees, namely the Supervisory Expert Group and Technical Evaluation/Audit Committee, to evaluate all aspects of the census and highlight weaknesses for possible remedies.
The female officer stated that the elements who felt threatened with the contents of the report attempted to distract attention of the higher authorities from taking action on the points raised in the report.
She also said that the warning letter had been issued to her without conducting a fact-finding inquiry in light of the Efficiency and Disciplinary Rules of 1973 for allegedly leaking the confidential report.
The officer requested to “withdraw the illegal and unlawful warning” issued without observing legal course of action.
The Technical and Audit Evaluation Committee has also recommended fixing responsibility against the authorities concerned of the PBS for the glaring lapses.
While claiming innocence, Siddique noted that she submitted final draft of the technical evaluation report to the statistics ministry secretary on May 23.
She went on to say that after that she gave three copies of the report to Jamal, the senior joint secretary.
Jamal then gave these copies to Chief Statistician, Member Social Sector and Member Census & Survey. On the same day another copy was given to Member National Accounts.
Siddique said three days later Jamal sought six more copies without giving a justification.
Siddique claimed that these people themselves leaked reports to the media to hatch a conspiracy against her. “Confidentiality of the report was compromised when it went into the hands of several persons,” she argued.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 7th, 2018.