Next polls to be based on digital census: Iqbal

Planning minister urges PTI to return to assemblies


Irshad Ansari December 07, 2022
Ahsan Iqbal. PHOTO: PID

ISLAMABAD:

Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday said that the next general elections in the country would be held on the basis of data compiled through the 7th population and housing census (digital census) in October 2023.

Addressing the inaugural ceremony of training of master trainers for the 7th population and housing census, the minister said the new general election will be held in October 2023 based on the results of the digital census. The results of the census will come in April and the Election Commission of Pakistan will then delimit the constituencies.

The minister said an election based on the results of the last census would be controversial as the government in Sindh had reservations over it.

He said that the government would spend about Rs34 billion on this exercise of vital importance that would help in framing economic policies and ensure equitable distribution of resources among all the stakeholders for the development of the country.

He said that the government is providing Rs13.5 billion to the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), which would arrange digital solutions, adding that it would be the first digital census that would help swift completion of the process.

He said that an offline data collection system would also be available for areas out of internet coverage, adding that this census would also determine whether the population was on an increasing or decreasing trend.

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The minister said that the census was a constitutional obligation on the basis of which the government determines the National Finance Commission Award and distributes national resources for the just development of all areas.

Ahsan Iqbal said that Pakistan was ranked among the rapidly population-growing countries. He said, due to the increase in population, the availability of basic civic facilities like education, health and clean drinking water were reducing whereas the per-capita availability of water and agricultural land was also on the decline.

He said that a huge bulge of the local population comprised of youth, which was a blessing if we could provide them proper education and skills for the economic development of the country. He said that in the meantime, the increasing polarisation would push this national dividend into extremism and called for creating a balance between resources and challenges.

The minister said that economic stability was not possible overnight, adding that it required proper time and continuity in policies and political stability. He said the crisis which was faced by the current government was created by the previous regime and it was the result of its incapability and bad governance.

However, he said that the government has successfully averted the default challenge on the external front and took tough decisions and was honouring all commitments made by the last government with multi-lateral agencies.

He said that the country tolerated another shock worth $30 billion due to recent flash floods and rains that hit the country particularly Sindh and Balochistan provinces.

He said that the government was also able to overcome this challenge. He said reconstruction and rehabilitation work in all affected areas was in progress and that would continue till the settlement of the last affected person.

Ahsan Iqbal said that the government intended to organise Climate Resilience Conference next month to mobilise about $16 billion for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of flood-affected people, adding that the conference would be attended by friendly countries.

‘Powerful quarters’ and Imran

Later, talking to the media, the minister claimed that the narrative developed by PTI chief Imran Khan had been “badly beaten and exposed” in the local body election in Azad Jammu and Kashmir where 70 per cent of seats were won by other parties.

He said that Imran had launched a “comprehensive propaganda campaign” against national security institutions and had not even forgiven the officers who were martyred in a helicopter crash.

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Ahsan Iqbal said that despite the full backing from powerful quarters, the former prime minister could not govern the country due to his incompetence. He added that Imran was given a free hand to run the affairs despite the fact that he had been given "a free hand".

He went on to claim that had the 2018 general elections been fair and transparent, the PTI would not have been able to form a government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa either. “His [Imran’s] government was the first government which was supported by the establishment and the judiciary,” he added.

The minister bemoaned that contrary to all this, discriminatory treatment was meted out to the PML-N.

Ahsan alleged that Punjab – where the PTI is in power – was today plagued by loot and corruption. “Today, no officer wants to be appointed s chief secretary and IG in Punjab.”

The minister urged the PTI to return to assemblies and become part of the electoral reforms process to ensure a free, fair and transparent general election.

"The country cannot afford another political crisis in the wake of the next general election, and needed stability and continuity of policies to move forward in the right direction," he added.

Economic challenges ‘temporary’

The minister cleared that there was no fear of economic default as the economic fundamentals were on sound footing, adding that the current economic challenges, created by the last government, were temporary.

Ahsan Iqbal stressed the need for promoting exports, controlling the imports of luxury goods and encouraging foreign direct investments, besides generating more revenues.

(With Inputs from APP)

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