SHC orders notices on petition regarding census results

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Karachi:   Sindh High Court (SHC) here Friday ordered to issue notices to respondents in a constitutional petition of Pasban Democratic Party (PDP) Chairman Altaf Shakoor and sought their comments by November 5.

As per details, a two-member bench of SHC comprising Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar and Justice Arshid Hussain Khan heard the constitutional petition number CP-4452/2020.

Advocate Irfan Aziz, the lawyer of petitioner submitted that there are serious reservations about the results of the national census and inordinate delay in announcement of the final results have cast doubts on holding of the local bodies election in time.

The SHC ordered the respondents to file their comments and adjourned the hearing by November 5.

It may be noted that in his petition Altaf Shakoor had submitted that the human capital is the most important asset of any society and conducting periodical national census is important to compile a numerical profile of this human capital and conduct national planning and related decision-making processes at all levels on the basis of this data.

He submitted that the Constitution of Pakistan gives an obligation of conducting census after every 10 years.

He submitted that the first census was held after the independence of the country in 1951, the second in 1961, and the third in 1972. The fourth population census was scheduled to be conducted in March 1981 and the fifth one was due in 1991 but could be held in 1998. The recent sixth census was held in April 2017 as per the directions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. It began on 15 March 2017 and ended on 25 May 2017. It was conducted by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.

The petitioner submitted that, though the process was completed on time, but the provisional results were delayed by a month. Resultantly, different political parties raised questions about the credibility of the results.

The petitioner said that the census results also play a crucial role in the parliamentary democracy. The Article 51(5) of the Constitutional of Pakistan 1973 says: “The seats in the National Assembly shall be allocated to each Province, the Federally Administration Tribal Areas and the Federal Capital on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published.”

“That, the population census has always been contentious in Pakistan as political parties in smaller provinces, especially Sindh, believe that their numbers have been manipulated to deny them their rightful share in federal resources. Due to the similar reservations allegations about procedural flaws, the results of an earlier census, held in 2011 were annulled.

“That, these reservations and allegations consequently resulted into judicial intervention, and the authorities were directed to conduct 2017 national population census with army’s tacit support.

“That, like past this time also different political parties expressed reservations over the validity of the census data, especially in Sindh, due to the absence of a post-enumeration survey.

“That, the first to reject the results have been various factions of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). They claimed that the population of Karachi shown in provisional results as 14.9 million is way below their estimate of 30 million. Another group that opposed to the results were the Sindhi nationalists, who feared that the results indicate that Sindhis have already become a minority in their traditional homeland.

“That, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Sindh chapter President Nisar Ahmed Khuhro has warned that the Sindh government is unable to hold the next local government elections in the province till the time it is provided with the final results of the last population census conducted in the country in the year 2017. He claims that the Sindh government had written letters to the Election Commission of Pakistan to inform it that it was yet to receive the final results of the last census drive in the country.

The petitioner said in August 2017, the Sindh government of Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) rejected the initial results of the recently held population census saying that showing a lesser population in the province is a “conspiracy” by the federal government against Sindh and called a multiparty conference to consider issue. The then Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Nisar Ahmad Khuhro in his policy statement said that showing a reduced population of Sindh was a calculated move of the federal government, which had conspired against Sindh to deprive it of its increased share in the divisible pool on the basis of the census in the National Finance Commission Award.

“That, the Sindh Assembly has also shown reservations on the census results. In November 2017, the members of both treasury and opposition benches in the Sindh Assembly passed an unanimous resolutions to convey the reservations to the federal government on the census outcome, claiming that the province population was shown 10 million less in the head count surveys.

“That, in December, 2019, the Sindh Assembly in another resolution demanded the federal government to conduct census audit of five percent areas of the country as decided in the Council of Common Interest meeting presided over by then Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in 2018.

“That, as the elected local bodies have already completed their term on 29th August, 2020, and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is under an obligation to hold the next local government elections within 120 days after the expiry of the term of elected local government bodies, i.e., 29th August, 2020.

“That, as the delimitation of parliamentary seats is going to be based on this census, non-redressal of the reservations of political parties and delay in final results has put a big question mark on holding of local bodies elections, especially in Sindh.

“That, the completion of the process of 5 percent validation exercise of the 6th national census and announcement of its results is still pending.”

The Petitioner prayed that in the larger interest of the public and to ensure uphold of law, supremacy of Constitution and continuity of democratic process in Pakistan:

He prayed to order completion of the post-enumeration audit of five per cent census blocks of the 6th national population census at the earliest.

He further prayed to order, announcement of the final results of the 6th national population census at the earliest.

He prayed to order announcing the new delimitation of constituencies, based on the final results of the 2017.

He also prayed to order the holding of the new local bodies elections in Pakistan including Sindh as per their schedule, which is within 120 days after the expiry of the term of elected local government bodies, i.e., 29th August, 2020.

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