Census woes

Objections to the ongoing census must be addressed, and solutions must not be forced

It was perhaps inevitable that the current census would become controversial, with both the PPP and the PQM (P) objecting that its supporters were being undercounted, and that too deliberately, It should not be forgotten that the whole purpose of the present census was because the same parties claimed the count was deliberately botched in the 2017 census. That Census had been held after 17 years instead of 10, because of the same claims, and they continued to press them in the Council of Common Interests, and as a result, the results were not officially notified for several years. Because of that, the 2018 elections were held on the basis of fresh delimitations based on what were called the; provisional results of that census. It seems that history may be repeated all over again, as this year’s first ever digital census will be available before the next general election, but the results not formally notified, leaving the Election Commission not knowing whether to hold fresh elections on the basis of old delimitations.

The federal government has entered the debate with a decision not to postpone the count in those talukas which have shown a population growth falling within a benchmark, but to keep counting where the growth exceeded that benchmark. There may be a statistical logic behind this, but that would be to miss the point entirely. A rather flat exercise, it should be ackowledg4d that the MQM (P) and the PPP have made it a battleground for their parties. This is right, as the census result not only determines the number of seats allocated to each provinces, but also the boundaries of provincial seats: that effectively means their apportionment between the Sindhi and Muhajir communities. In principle, the ruling coalition should not have an interest, because both MQM(P) and PPP are coalition parties, but hammering out differences over the count would require sitting both parties down, and trying to dispel their objections.

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In the fevered atmosphere of Islamabad, it is almost as if this problem is being left to fester, with the objections to the census providing ammunition that might lead to a postponement of the national election, due by the end of this year.  The task of removing objections is not insurmountable. At bottom, what is involved is the simplest of arithmetic, not rocket science or the higher mathematics.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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