To address the reservations raised by the PPP — a key coalition partner — over the digital census, the federal government has decided that Pakistan Bureau of Statistics Chief Statistician Dr Naeem Uz Zafar and his technical team would meet Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Wednesday (today) to allay the concerns of the provincial government.
The decision was made on Tuesday during a meeting of the 7th Census Monitoring Committee to review the progress of the country’s first digital census, presided over by Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Ahsan Iqbal.
The other participants of the huddle included the Sindh chief minister, chief secretaries of Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) chairman and PBS chief among others.
The planning minister said the government would take all the provinces on board in connection with the census and the concerns of Sindh would be removed immediately.
The Sindh CM appreciated the efforts of the planning minister to address his province’s reservations.
The PBS chief statistician briefed the participants of the meeting on the activities related to the census.
It was decided that the Census Monitoring Committee would meet every week for better coordination and to resolve all the problems being faced immediately.
Planning Minister Iqbal maintained that the next general elections would be based on the new census, but some miscreants wanted to sabotage the process.
“It is our responsibility to focus on this exercise by ensuring its transparency and accuracy,” he continued.
The minister further elaborated that the digital census would have an impact on the future of Pakistan.
“I cannot afford any kind of controversy and won’t compromise on its transparency,” he added.
The minister said all resources were being provided by the federal government to complete the process as it was a matter of national agenda.
He had already given a deadline of April 30, 2023, to complete the census as after the exercise, the ECP would take four months for the delimitation of fresh constituencies.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who is also the PPP chairman, recently termed the digital census a “flawed” exercise.
He added that the Sindh government had a mandate and would not allow the people’s rights to be “snatched”.
Bilawal said the census was also important for ensuring the fair distribution of resources between the provinces, adding that any “wrong measures” in this regard would not be tolerated.
Later, his father, PPP Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari while speaking to the media in Vehari warned that the PPP might not remain part of the federal cabinet if its concerns over the census were not addressed.
A day earlier, the Sindh Assembly adopted a resolution expressing serious concerns over the digital census.
It demanded to extend the date of self-enumeration and the period for house listing as well as head counting.
Irrigation Minister Jam Khan Shoro, who moved the resolution, maintained that there was not sufficient publicity and media coverage given to the ongoing digital census.
“The people of Sindh were also kept in the dark about the outcome of the pilot census, which was conducted in July 2022,” he remarked.
During the current exercise, the authorities concerned were reluctant to give a proper response to the Sindh government about access to the data set, the resolution read.
“The dashboard is also not operational [and that] casts serious doubt on the quality and quantity of enumeration,” it added.