Need for a controversy free exercise
The government’s focus deficit on some of the most essential issues betrays the lack of vision in the PML-N leadership. The way the census exercise is being hurried through without a prior brainstorming on the part of the policy makers shows they are unaware of the relevance of the census in national life.
The Council of Common Interests (CCI) was the right forum to discuss the various aspects of the census and resolve the complications that are likely to arise during its conduct. As the government was initially unwilling to conduct the census it avoided holding the CCI meeting for nearly a year despite the constitution binding the government to call the meeting every three months. Pressured by the Supreme Court it finally announced the date for the census but did not hold discussion on some of the highly relevant and sensitive details. Apparently for the PML-N leadership it was no more than a simple head count, which in fact it is not.
In order to be of use in planning the country’s future the census must collect all relevant data. The Census in 1981 under the guidance of Dr Mehbub-ul-Haq collected district and tehsil-wise statistics about literacy rate among males and females, number of government hospitals, kilometres of metalled roads, percentage of households provided electricity, clean water, number of factories and labourers employed, number of telephone connections and telegraph offices besides the languages spoken. The rich data, painstakingly collected, brought under focus not only inter-provincial but also intra-provincial disparities and provided a basis for the later extension of provincial autonomy which proved the first major step towards removing a sense of deprivation.
It was after public protest that the ongoing census provided a special column for transgender community and the disabled people to assess their numbers which would help the government make policies to bring them into the mainstream economic activity and enjoy a respectable place in society.
It was highly mendacious to deny the Pakistani Sikh community their identity. There is a need to urgently rectify the blunder by enumerating the Sikhs as a separate religious community.