Federal Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar on Saturday said the next general elections in the country would be conducted on the basis of a new census.
In May, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) had posted the final results of the 6th Population and Housing Census 2017 on its website, according to which the country’s total population stands at 207.68 million, with an annual growth rate of 2.4 per cent.
The population includes 106.018m males, 101.344m females and 321,744 transgender persons.
“The Karachi census has been a long-standing issue,” said the minister while a news conference. He was accompanied by Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi.
The minister claimed that former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf had done a lot for the city but could not conduct the census. He said the census would be carried out by using modern technology.
“The census was conducted 19 years later in 2017. We want the facts about the census to come out, involving all stakeholders. The summary will be sent to the stakeholders after the cabinet’s approval.”
He added that the census was expected to be completed in early 2023, and constituencies would be demarcated following the conclusion of the exercise.
After a three-year delay, the federal cabinet had approved the 2017 census in December last year in a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan — with a dissenting note submitted by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, one of the federal government’s allies. Since Sindh had opposed the exercise, it also rejected the release of the final results that were approved by the CCI last month.
Taking into account the objections raised by Sindh and other stakeholders, the government also decided to hold the next census in October by using the latest technology to avoid chances of any mistakes/errors, as reported in the previous exercise. It also committed to releasing the results of the new census by 2023.
He said the government would now use "digital technology" for the census. "We had constituted a team of experts and they have completed their consultations on the matter," he said.
The minister said that the Ministry of Information and Technology, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, National Database and Registration Authority, National Telecom Corporation and Suparco will be taken on board during the process.
"We don't want any discrepancies. We will keep the census transparent," he said.
Umar said Sindh would not be allowed to proceed with its proposal to collect taxes on behalf of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) through electricity bills.
Two days ago, the Sindh government had announced its plan to recover the KMC’s fire and conservancy taxes through K-Electric bills.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had said Rs100 and Rs200 would be charged respectively from two categories of consumers in the bills.
However, Umar said at a news conference in the city that he had spoken to Federal Energy Minister Hammad Azhar and decided “not to approve Sindh’s proposal".
In response, Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab requested the federal government not to create “hurdles” in the affairs of the KMC.
He added that said he would ensure the revenue generated through the taxes in bills was spent on Karachi’s development in a transparent manner.
“The KMC is trying to stand on its own. I hope Prime Minister Imran Khan will support Sindh [for this purpose].”
He promised that the collection of municipal utility taxes would be released on the KMC’s website.
The minister said the PPP had ruled over Karachi and the province for 13 years, yet the city was facing several issues including waste disposal.
Umar maintained that PM Imran was aware of the problems faced by the metropolis.
“The federal government would heal Karachi’s wounds. Work is under way on five major federal projects in the city,” he added.
“The Green Line project is a modern transport project. Several of its phases have been completed whereas 80 buses are being bought for it. Some buses will arrive on September 12 while another 40 buses will reach Karachi by next week.”
The minister elaborated that drivers had been recruited and a command and control centre has been set up. The IT infrastructure for the project would be completed soon.
About garbage collection and disposal, the federal minister said around 1.1 million tons of garbage would be removed from the drains of the city.
“Sidewalks, underpasses and overhead bridges are being constructed on these drains,” he said. “About 15ft wide roads will also be constructed along them.”
He added that the situation for draining rainwater was now much better and around 90pc of the drains had been cleaned.
“The recent rains have not caused any problems due to the storm drains being cleaned earlier.”
The planning minister said the third project by the federation was of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR).
“The chief justice of Pakistan helped us with the circular railway project. The project is from Karachi to Pipri and will cost Rs70 billion. It will cover 43 km, out of which 29kms would be elevated.”
The minister further said the KCR would service 22 stations and the entire project will be run by the private sector.
Umar revealed that the premier would visit the port city before September 30 and inaugurate the KCR infrastructure.
Referring to Karachi's water woes, the minister said the K-4 scheme had been delayed for the last decade, but work on four projects will resume in five months.
“We are trying to complete four projects by August 14, 2023. The Sindh government is responsible for water supply.”
Under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, Rs7 billion was distributed in Karachi and Rs65 billion in Sindh, Umar said.
He added that Rs21 billion had been allocated for small schemes in the city in the current budget.
Umar further said the Sindh government was not ready to hold local government elections.
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