Wednesday, February 1

Census results: SHC gives final chance to PBS committee to file report

KARACHI:The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday gave final chance to the census committee of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) to submit its report regarding the census results by December 15; otherwise the court would decide the matter itself.


A two-member bench of SHC, comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Arshid Hussain Khan, heard the constitutional petition filed by Pasban Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman Altaf Shakoor.


It was submitted before the court by respondents that a census committee of PBS led by federal minister for ports and shipping Ali Zaidi had met six times but failed to reach any conclusion.


The court gave the committee a last chance and ordered it to file its report by December 15; otherwise the court will decide the matter on its own.


Advocate Irfan Aziz, the lawyer of petitioner, submitted that there are serious reservations about the results of the national census and inordinate delay in announcement of the final results have cast doubts on holding of the local bodies election in time. The court adjourned the hearing by December 15.


It may be noted that in his petition Shakoor had submitted that the human capital is the most important asset of any society and conducting periodical national census is important to compile a numerical profile of this human capital and conduct national planning and related decision-making processes at all levels on the basis of this data. He submitted that the Constitution of Pakistan gives an obligation of conducting census after every 10 years.


He submitted that the first census was held after the independence of the country in 1951, the second in 1961, and the third in 1972. The fourth population census was scheduled to be conducted in March 1981 and the fifth one was due in 1991 but could be held in 1998. The recent sixth census was held in April 2017 as per the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It began on 15 March 2017 and ended on 25 May 2017. It was conducted by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.


The petitioner submitted that, though the process was completed on time, the provisional results were delayed by a month. Resultantly, different political parties raised questions about the credibility of the results.


The petitioner said that the census results also play a crucial role in parliamentary democracy. The Article 51(5) of the Constitution of Pakistan 1973 says: “The seats in the National Assembly shall be allocated to each Province, the Federally Administration Tribal Areas and the Federal Capital on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published.”


The petitioner said in August 2017, the Sindh government of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) rejected the initial results of the recently held population census saying that showing a lesser population in the province is a “conspiracy” by the federal government against Sindh and called a multiparty conference to consider the issue. The then Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmad Khuhro in his policy statement said that showing a reduced population of Sindh was a calculated move of the federal government, which had conspired against Sindh to deprive it of its increased share in the divisible pool on the basis of the census in the National Finance Commission Award.


The Sindh Assembly has also shown reservations on the census results. In November 2017, the members of both treasury and opposition benches in the Sindh Assembly passed an unanimous resolution to convey the reservations to the federal government on the census outcome, claiming that the province population was shown 10 million less in the head count surveys.


In December, 2019, the Sindh Assembly in another resolution demanded the federal government to conduct a census audit of five percent areas of the country as decided in the Council of Common Interest meeting presided over by then Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in 2018.


He also prayed to order the holding of the new local bodies’ elections in Pakistan including Sindh as per their schedule, which is within 120 days after the expiry of the term of elected local government bodies, i.e., 29th August 2020.