Politics of census by Abdul Quayyum Khan Kundi

We are a weak state because every major project we initiate runs into controversy, delays, cost overruns and confusion. Hundreds of unfinished hospitals, schools and other projects littered around the country are an evidence of it. We have spent billions on these projects from national exchequer but never got the much-needed benefits from these projects.

Census 2017 as a national project is not much different. After the announcement of its provisional results, there are cries of irregularities and questions raised about its authenticity and credibility. Incapable and inept politicians are not interested in creditable census but rather a political card that they can use to appeal to the parochial emotions of their political base. None of the political parties have the technical depth or think tanks to make qualified comments on the census but they still have the temerity to declare it rigged and unacceptable. Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), like other bureaucratic institutions, has also been lacking in providing information and ensure complete transparency of the process. For instance different criteria used for Urban area in Karachi and Lahore has caused political disagreement. Why PBS did not provide statistics based on one uniform criteria of Urban-rural across the country. So both sides are equally to blame to mess up the census which is critical to ensure a well-functioning society where social justice prevails.

Census is a technical exercise using arithmetic, statistics and other such tools to count Pakistanis (not Punjabis, Sindhis, Pashtun, Mohajir, Baloch, Saraiki, Hindu, Christian, Sunni or Shia) as well as gather pertinent demographic information to develop a credible statistics that help the government make an informed decision about resource allocation. It is not a political exercise to give cards to political parties to play poker with the destiny of the nation.

Here is what I suggest to sort out any disagreements or discrepancies:

1. All political parties should nominate one technical expert of their choice to form a review committee to look at the detailed data of the census.

2. Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) should form a committee to work with the committee of the political parties to answer all their questions and concerns. Once all issues are taken care of the members of the political party committee should sign off on it.

3. Statists Departments in major Pakistani universities should be given access to census data so that they can conduct their own research and write technical papers to help remove deficiencies as well as develop solutions for our social issues.


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