Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Govt moves to address Sindh’s concerns on census after Bilawal's threat

Ahsan Iqbal directs top PBS officials to hold a meeting with CM Murad Ali Shah and address his reservations

Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal chairs seventh meeting of Census Monitoring Committee on March 7, 2023. — Radio Pakistan
Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal chairs seventh meeting of Census Monitoring Committee on March 7, 2023. — Radio Pakistan 
  • Ahsan Iqbal directs PBS to address Sindh's concerns. 
  • Sindh CM appreciates planning minister's decision. 
  • Iqbal says govt would take all provinces on board.

ISLAMABAD: Following Pakistan Peoples Party's (PPP) "grave" concerns over the ongoing digital census, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal directed the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) to meet with Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Wednesday (today), The News reported. 

PBS' Statistician Dr Naeem uz Zafar along with his team will hold a meeting with Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah to address his concerns over the ongoing first-ever digital population census 2023. 

The seventh meeting of the Census Monitoring Committee was held on Tuesday by Iqbal to review the progress of the digital census. It was briefed by Dr Zafar. 

Sindh CM, chief secretaries of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, the National Database and Registration Authority's (NADRA) chairman, PBS chairman and other representatives attended the meeting.

The meeting decided that the Census Monitoring Committee will meet every week for better coordination and to resolve all the problems immediately.

The planning minister directed the PBS chief to address Sindh's concerns. The decision was appreciated by CM Shah. 

The minister said the government would take all the provinces on board and remove the concerns of the Sindh province, adding that the government believed in taking all decisions by consensus. 

“The digital census will have an impact on the future of Pakistan and I cannot afford any kind of controversy and will not compromise on its transparency,” remarked the minister. 

He said the federal government was providing all resources to complete the process, as it was a national agenda and the general elections would be based on this census. 

“Some miscreants want to sabotage this census, but it is our responsibility to focus on this exercise by ensuring its transparency and accuracy,” said the minister, adding that the federal government was responsible for making the whole process successful by taking on board all the stakeholders.

'Sindh govt to not support digital census'

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari threatened to quit the ruling alliance and said that the Sindh CM had grave concerns over the ongoing census. 

“We had objected to the results of the 2018 census,” he said while terming the digital census in the country a “flawed exercise”. 

The PPP leader said that there was a massive difference in the results of the Housing Census in Sindh compared to the other provinces, adding that they had demanded the recounting of 10% of the housing census.

Without naming the Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, Bilawal said the 2018 census was aimed at bringing a “selected” into power.

Sindh had been raising objections over the census in the intra-provincial meetings, he went on to say, adding that the provincial government had already sent its objections over the digital census to the federal government. 

“Even I did not know that the census would also be held online,” he lamented.

He added, “If polls in one or two provinces will take place based on a different census, and in other provinces, the elections will be held based on a flawed digital census, then this is not acceptable to the PPP.”

The Sindh government will not support the digital census if the federal authorities do not redress their grievances, the PPP chairman further said.

He, however, said that they would support an impartial and scientific census.