Politically motivated decision

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THE Council of Common Interests (CCI) had, by majority, approved the release of population census results of 2017 with Sindh the only province opposing the move.

In an apparent attempt aimed at striking a balance, the government also decided to hold the next census in October this year by adopting the latest technology in order to, what it said, avert the mistakes committed in the last census, pledging that the census results would be made available by 2023.

The 6th Population and Housing Census 2017 was conducted from 15th March 2017 to 24th May 2017 and the provisional results at block level were approved by the CCI in November same year but unfortunately approval and publication of the entire results was withheld due to objections raised by parties with power base in Karachi.

It is rightly said that human capital is the most critical capital for contemporary societies’ well-being and progress and with this in view provision of an accurate and reliable assessment of this capital (through population census) at small-area, regional and national levels is of paramount value for evidence-based action by governments, civil societies, academics, researchers and other stakeholders.

No such exercise can be made hundred percent authentic and accurate but necessary safeguards were put in place to ensure sanctity of the 2017 Census.

Around 118,000 “enumerators” in 63 districts carried out the 70-day data-gathering campaign amid tight security as personnel of law-enforcing agencies including 200,000 military personnel accompanied the census teams to ensure safety of enumerators and their intimidation as had been the practice in the past censuses.

Punjab was the main loser of the census as its overall population declined resulting in re-allocation of its nine seats to Balochistan and KP.

Karachi’s population also increased by 2.2% as compared to the previous census but critics claimed the population of the city was under-counted.

As against this there were arguments that the population of Karachi was grossly over-counted in the past and its actual population was reflected in the 2017 census.

There were other factors as well like the decision of migrants to let themselves be counted in their native provinces and outflow of people during serious law and order situation in the metropolis.

With this in view, the decision of the Government to approve the census result symbolically and go for fresh one can, at best, be considered as an attempt to please its political allies.

In the given scenario, it would be next to impossible to have total unanimity on the outcome of the census irrespective of repeat of the exercise and evolution of proper safeguards including use of technology.