By Zia Ur Rehman
January 30, 2016
With the sixth national population and housing census scheduled to be held in March this year, political activists and civil society members announced the formation of a committee, at a multi-party conference held on Thursday, to see the survey through as a means to ensure transparency.
Organised by the Awami Jamhoori Party (AJP), the meeting was attended by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz minister for communication Abdul Hakeem Baloch, Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Taj Haider, head of the United Sindh Party Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah, AJP head Abrar Qazi, prominent Sindhi nationalist leaders Niaz Kalani, Dr Mir Alam Marri, Qamar Bhatti, economist Dr Kaiser Bengali and other civil society members.
Being organised after a period of 18 years, the exercise was observed to be crucial for determining future allocation of resources and representatives’ seats in all tiers of the government in accordance with population figures.
While relaying concerns over the alleged gradual conversion of locals into a minority due to illegal immigration, the meeting attendees observed that illegal immigration was giving rise to socio-economic problems in the region.
The speakers adopted a resolution demanding the Federal Statistical Department to count Seraiki, Katchi, Balochi and Dhatki-speaking communities, including various others, as Sindhis.
The practice of clubbing together the various communities under the head of ‘non-Sindhis, “to intentionally present Sindhis as a minority” was also called to be strictly resisted by the participants.
The meeting’s participants also called on the federal government to at least allocate seven days for the house-count exercise so that those residing in islands off the coastal belts were also enumerated; whereas the provincial government was asked to set-up complaint centres in all headquarters of the district.
“The PPP would not allow anyone to interfere with the process of the census; it is a federal party which has always stood by every province’s right to equality,” claimed Senator Haider, while addressing the meeting.
Dr Bengali urged for the authorities to ensure all provinces were equally represented and that the process of the survey was open to public scrutiny.
USP leader Jalal Mehmood Shah also urged political parties and civil society organisations to mobilise and encourage the public for participating in the exercise; he also demanded of the federal government to allocate funds to Sindh in accordance with population statistics.
Except for the first two census’ 1951 and 1961, Pakistan has been unable to fulfil the 10-year obligation to hold the survey with the third being carried out in 1972, the fourth in 1998 and the fifth after a period of 18 years.