Sindh’s census concern

Controversy over census gain momentum as CCI and federal cabinet approve its results by ignoring province’s concerns

August 26, 2021

The Sindh government is lawfully on the right side of the fence as it brings to the fore its reservations on the disputed census of 2017. It is joined by the MQM, irrespective of being a political adversary, which also believes that the province has been wronged during the head count. The controversy over census gained momentum as the Council of Common Interests and the federal cabinet approved its results by altogether ignoring the province’s concerns. MQM’s sitting minister had written a dissenting note, too. The issue, which has been simmering for almost three years, is now gathering storm as local bodies elections are on the cards. Political parties believe that delimitations of constituencies on the latest census will rob them of their clout.

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah wants a joint session of the parliament to threadbare discuss what he calls the faulty and fraudulent census count. His earlier calls have fallen on deaf ears. It is interesting to note that even Prime Minister Imran Khan has sympathised with Sindh over the irregularities reported in the 2017 census, and promised to allocate funds for a recount. Likewise, the Sindh government had agreed to partially foot the bill, but the Trojan horse hadn’t made any headway.

Apart from being a constitutional issue, it also pertains to the fundamental rights of the people of Sindh. Sindh’s population should be around 61 million as opposed to 48 million reported in the 2017 census. Karachi, being the bastion of development and revenue, had attracted millions of people from upcountry in the last two decades. Yet, the urban population has been underreported by 25 per cent.

This issue demands immediate attention and a lawful solution. Lingering it on will widen the trust deficit between the federation and the province, which already carries a list of grievances against the Centre. At the same time, it has a political connotation, as allocation of resources under the NFC Award is made on the basis of population, as well as seats in the legislative assemblies. The Centre and the province would be advised to sort it out amicably without hardening their respective positions.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 26th, 2021.

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