Long-delayed count: Govt drops census plan for fear of backlash

PM Nawaz took decision in a bid to avoid political and national turmoil till a new mechanism is developed.


Abdul Manan February 14, 2014
PM Nawaz took decision in a bid to avoid political and national turmoil till a new mechanism is developed. PHOTO: AFP

LAHORE:


The ruling Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) is caught between a rock and a hard place. Despite its eagerness to reap political dividends from holding the long-delayed sixth census, the ruling party has decided against conducting the population count for fear of unrest following its results. The country’s fifth and last census was carried out in 1998.


Sources privy to the February 10 meeting of the Council of Common Interests revealed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dropped the most critical feature of the council’s agenda after consultation with stakeholders.

It was learnt by The Express Tribune that no major political party expressed willingness to have the population census. The ruling party asked Nawaz to defer the exercise to avoid ‘negative repercussions’.

The statistics division put the population census on the CCI’s agenda, but Nawaz issued directions to drop it for an indefinite period when almost all participants of the meeting requested a postponement to avoid political and national turmoil till a new mechanism is developed.

Sources also said that Nawaz was apprised about the merits and demerits of the Statistics Division report and political implications of the fresh census ahead of the meeting.

The crux of the Statistics Division report shared by officials states that the census would involve a distribution of resources under the National Finance Commission (NFC) and an allocation of seats in the National Assembly and the provincial assembly concerned.

It proposed that the CCI should take a decision like the one made in India, and freeze the relevant articles of the constitution regarding NFC and seat allocation before the census.

The division proposed that the CCI should bring an amendment in the constitution to freeze article 51 for 10 years or more in order to avoid controversy.

Another suggestion floated was that the Pakistan Army should carry out the census.

Sources said Nawaz was informed that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) opposed a military-supervised census as it fears discrimination. They said that the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and other political groups did not want the army to carry out the exercise in rural Sindh as they want a favourable result.

Baloch and Pakhtun political blocs in Quetta said the census will expose the true ethnic percentage.

Sources said representatives from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa felt the issue of Pakhtun and Hazara representations may emerge after a census while the PTI also requested that Nawaz defer the count.

In Punjab, the PM was told that the PML-N may also come under the threat of the Seraiki and Punjabi issue. If the census in Multan shows that the Seraiki population is smaller than Punjabi-dominated areas, then there will be unrest over the issue of allocation of resources in the name of Seraiki South Punjab.

While PML-N’s Central Information Secretary Mushahidullah Khan did not confirm the PM’s decision, Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed was not available for comment.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 14th, 2014. 

COMMENTS (10)

Walayat Malik | 7 years ago | Reply

Fear of unrest after census!! This proves we don't have a brave&bold head of government. Nawaz Sharif is not acting like a sher (lion) that he claims to be.

Asad Khan | 7 years ago | Reply

@akhtar:

To freeze the population census in the prevailing circumstances and shortage of funds by the govt in the best interest of nation has been well received by all citizen of Pakistan.

It is highly appreciable that one needs to freeze nonsensical comments amid in the prevailing circumstances where acute shortage of Common Sense & Ignorance relating to Matters of State running havoc already in the nation as well in the Govt. Plz

regards,

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