ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led coalition government ‘succumbed’ to the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) threat to quit federal ministries and allowed the provincial governments, especially the Sindh to access the census monitoring dashboards.
The decision has been taken in an attempt to address reservations raised by the top PPP leadership on the digital census.
The decision to give access to the provincial governments, especially Sindh, has mainly been taken to persuade the key ally to continue standing by the federal government and shun any second thoughts at a time when the country is going through a political upheaval amid severe financial crises just ahead of the general elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
“It has been decided that the statistics as required by the provincial governments, especially Sindh … may be included in the monitoring dashboard,” Chief Statistician of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) Dr Naeemuz Zafar stated in a letter addressed to the chairman National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA).
The chief census commissioner added that the dashboard has already been deployed for chief secretaries, saying the role-based access of the same may be provided to all provincial/regional chief secretaries, commissioners, deputy commissioners (DCs) and assistant commissioners (ACs).
Keeping in view the sensitivity of the matter, Zafar stated, NADRA teams be directed to assure access to the dashboard by March 15 to all the DCs and ACs “at all census district level for broader involvement, transparency and credibility of this national activity of extreme importance”.
PPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had recently threatened to quit the ruling coalition over objections to the ongoing digital census as well as if the Centre does not fulfill its promises of giving relief to flood victims of Sindh.
Subsequently, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon said in a news conference that the provincial government had conveyed its reservations about the ongoing digital census to the federal government, saying “if our reservations are not addressed, we will not accept the census results”.
“The data of digital census should also be shared with the Sindh government,” Memon had demanded, saying PPP chairman has already publicly expressed the party’s reservations about the digital census.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had also raised the matter with the federal government and at various other forums, saying “now, we are waiting for the federal government to assuage these concerns”.
In an attempt to address the reservations and to keep the PPP part of the ruling coalition, Minister for Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, Ahsan Iqbal, decided to allow access to the dashboards of the 7th Population & Housing Census – The Digital Census – to provincial governments in the 8th meeting of Census Monitoring Committee held on March 11.
Consequently, the PBS wrote the letter to NADRA urging it to give access of the dashboard to provincial governments by March 15. A PBS official said that “the bureau has asked NADRA to provide access to census monitoring dashboards to provincial governments to alleviate doubts”.
The official added that the “census field operations are the responsibility of provinces and the onus for providing the required information to them now lies with NADRA.”
Bilawal’s warning to quit its ministries over the census and federal government not fulfilling promises made to flood victims had come on the heels of PPP Parliamentarian president Asif Ali Zardari statement through which he expressed reservations with the ruling coalition.
Media and political circles had taken PPP’s warnings as an attempt to distance itself from the PDM government’s catastrophic failures on the governance and economic fronts. It was also said that PPP was apparently laying the ground for abandoning the ruling coalition.
Following PML-N’s attempt to convince PPP to stay with it by giving access to the provincial government to the dashboard, the planning minister was asked to comment on the development but no reply was received till the filing of the story.