No Consensus on Census in Sindh Government
KARACHI: As the government struggles to finalise plans to conduct a nationwide census next month, political groups approved a 14-point charter of demands at an all parties conference on Sunday, voicing concerns over the unequal representation of Sindh and other small provinces.
Representatives of 28 political and religious groups, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F), attended the conference, chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah at his office in Karachi.
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was also represented at the confab.
Without hesitation, the political groups presented their reservations at the way the census was being conducted in addition to suggesting means to improve the national exercise.
“No one has taken us into confidence over this crucial exercise so far,” Shah said as he opened the conference.
“All six executive council members of the census body belong to Punjab while only one member has been nominated from Sindh in the governing body,” the Sindh chief minister complained.
He alleged that the post of federal census commissioner had been given to a ‘biased’ bureaucrat.
“We need free, fair and transparent census. So in the presence of impartial officers and having no representation from all provinces, this practice will be questionable.”
The conference went on to discuss at length the federal government’s decision to appoint retired bureaucrats from Punjab as members of governing council of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
The conference though went beyond the census body in its demands for equal representation, seeking distribution of 20 high ranking posts in the National Database Regulatory Authority (NADRA) among the provinces on merit.
“This conference also demands law enforcement agencies to make sure that no party or group influences the census exercise by pressurising or threatening the census staff to alter the result in their favour” one of the resolution’s point read.
All parties were of the view that the time period set for house counting should be increased from three to 10 days, while census should be enhanced from 15 to 30 days.
“Many people live in far flung areas and it is not possible for enumerators to approach them within the given time,” PPP Sindh Secretary General Taj Haider explained.
MQM’s Kunwar Naveed Jameel questioned why the PPP had failed to conduct the census during its five years in power. At this other participants pointed out the massive irregularities which took place in the 2011 exercise. Haider explained that the exercise was cancelled by the government after the census commissioner uncovered massive discrepancies in the house count at the time.
The PML-N agreed to all points in the resolution but it later expressed concerns over Sindh’s intent to initiate the census using its own government employees. “We have witnessed massive irregularities in delimitation of union council. How can we trust the Sindh government?” asked Kheal Das Kohistani of the PML-N. “We demand that this process should be initiated under the cover of the army.”
One of the key issues on census for the Sindh government was the presence of migrants in the province – both internal and external.
“Sindh must be given more resources in respect of illegal immigrants,” the resolution read as consensus was evolved on demanding registration of illegal immigrants in a separate column.
“The government should make arrangements to repatriate these illegal immigrants to their respective countries and develop under-privileged areas of other provinces of the country from where a large number of people have migrated to Sindh seeking livelihood.”
Adopting the resolution, the APC expressed its ‘dismay’ over the intent of federal government to convert Sindh, which generates 70% of Pakistan’s revenue, into a minority. Shah said that he would take up the reservations of different political parties at the upcoming meeting of the Council of Common Interests scheduled to be held on February 29.
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