The perplexities of 7th Census and Politicians in a quandary
By Javed Iqbal
The Bureau of Statistics is engaged in the work of the seventh census across the country. The census will make it possible to estimate how many people in the nation are separated into educational levels, illiteracy, and those living below the poverty line. Be it the process of bringing the country out of the darkness of ignorance or the process of improving the quality of education. Nation building and development can only be done by collecting data through census. House enumeration and census work will be completed under this campaign. This campaign will finish the house count and census tasks. Policy makers will develop comprehensive and effective policies for all sectors based on the data obtained from the same household census and census, so that measures can be taken for sustainable development and modern infrastructure planning. The distribution of national wealth and resources to lesser levels, such as provinces and cities, will be based on the same statistics, enabling citizens to enjoy all the benefits of the country’s progress and prosperity, wherever they may reside.
A few objections were raised by some parties and individuals regarding the digital census in Azad Kashmir and a campaign to boycott the census was also launched by the nationalists. Negative propaganda is also being done on social media in this regard, but this boycott campaign and negative propaganda could not gain acceptance because the people of Azad Kashmir do not trust nationalists. Although some objections regarding the digital census are of a serious nature, it is also important to address the concerns found in this regard. Let us see what is the reality of the objections that have come forward regarding the census.
The first complaint is that Kashmiri citizens are not listed as a distinct identity under the nationality category in box 8 of the census form. This is the reason a four-member parliamentary committee was established to discuss the issue with the Government of Pakistan and the Bureau of Statistics after the resolution put forth by the leader of the People’s Party and the leader of the opposition in this regard was unanimously approved by the Azad Kashmir Assembly. He will then submit his report to the group after speaking.
Chaudhry Latif Akbar has said in his resolution that in front of question number eight of the census form, the resident of the state of Jammu and Kashmir should be added, while the option of Pahari and Gujri should be added in front of question number seven of the mother tongue.
The question is whether Pahari or Gujri languages are included in our curriculum? Or are they written and taught in these languages? First of all, these languages should be made a part of the education curriculum. And, the first effort should be to give importance to those languages which have millions of speakers.
Any country has its identity in its culture and the languages spoken in it. Every country should make appropriate legislation to protect and promote their culture and languages. But we should have institutions or places of support, the rule of the mafia is everywhere, and where the rule of the mafia is there, instead of knowledge and economic development, the society gives birth to prejudice, malice, envy and ignorance, which divides people.
Therefore, there is an urgent need to reform both the Statistics Institute and the Council of Interests. The position of the Institute of Statistics regarding the objections of the current census is as follows:
The Council of Common Interests, which comprises the Chief Ministers of the four provinces under the Prime Minister of Pakistan, decides what must be recorded in the census form’s boxes, according to the statistics agency. The Statistical Institute lacks independent authority in this sense. Azad Kashmir is not represented in the Council of Common Interests because it is a disputed territory. Another criticism is that many residents of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir have relocated to various Pakistani towns for work, business, and educational purposes. Thus, this population will not be included in the total population of Jammu and Kashmir, which is administered by Pakistan. It will be challenging if the form does not ask for their national identity.
Among the population abroad, only those whose families reside here will be counted in this data. However, entire families residing abroad will not be counted in this data. Apart from this, a large number of Kashmiri refugees are also permanently residing in Pakistan. In the census they will also be counted in the area where they are residing.
Kashmir is a disputed territory, and a referendum is to be held there, according to UN regulations. How will the precise number of Kashmiris be displayed if they are not counted in the census as a distinct identity? First of all, the referendum and the census are unrelated. Second, who made the claim that the census would use this data? Thirdly, this information is gathered to support resource allocation equity through economic and development planning as well as other internal decision-making processes. Also, when did Pakistan claim that the United Nations will receive the census data? The Bureau of Statistics has repeatedly said that the results of the census cannot be used in referendums. The Modi government is also a weapon that different slogans are given to increase hatred between the people of Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan and different people are hired for it. And for this, the services of various people are hired, especially the fugitives sitting abroad who act as an important part of the propaganda.
A self-proclaimed exile, Dr. Amjad Ayub Mirza, also came forward for this nefarious campaign and propaganda in recent days. Dr. Amjad Ayub Mirza, who has been living in Britain since 1995 and is a supporter of left-wing politicians there, has used the word “Mother India” in an editorial, which is a clear proof of his love for India and his connection with it. Dr. Mirza’s article made false claims about the census of the people of Azad Kashmir and made negative propaganda and tried to spread hatred between the people of Azad Kashmir and Pakistan. Citizens of Azad Kashmir are allowed to buy and sell property anywhere in Pakistan, while Pakistani people do not have the right to do so in Azad Kashmir, which clearly negates Dr. Mirza’s claims and proves that Pakistan owns Jammu and Kashmir. Considers Kashmir as a disputed territory.
On the contrary, India is completely ignoring the commitments made under the UN resolutions regarding the disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir. But, the stomach of the nationalists has never been twisted, and neither Ayub Mirza has raised any voice in this regard.
India has issued domiciles of Occupied Kashmir since August 5, 2019, allowing its residents to live there indefinitely in the internationally acknowledged disputed territory. More than 1.85 million people, including 6600 retired Gorkha soldiers, have been granted domicile in Kashmir under the new domicile law. Additionally, more than 25 million Hindu voters have been registered, and four to five million Kashmiri Pandits have been given separate colonies designed after Israel.
This is the rationale behind the BJP government’s decision to push back the 2018 census till 2026 in order to change the population makeup of Occupied Kashmir in accordance with Hindutva ideology. According to the 2011 census, ten years ago, 68 percent of the population was Muslim, 28 percent was Hindu, and 4 percent was Christian.
The federal government will make every effort to address the concerns of the government and people of Azad Kashmir regarding the ongoing census in Azad Kashmir, according to Qamar Zaman Qaira, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs, who spoke to the committee established by the Azad Kashmir government regarding the removal of objections to the census.
Azad Kashmir Law Minister Faheem Rabbani, MLA Ahmed Raza Qadri, MLA Dewan Ali Khan, MLA Faisal Rathore, besides the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, Statistical Institute, headed the committee formed by the Speaker of Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly and other high officials also attended this confab. Faheem Rabbani, the law minister for Azad Kashmir, and other committee members had earlier addressed the meeting’s attendees about their concerns with relation to citizenship, language, and residence in the ongoing Azad Kashmir census. Also, it was stated that the uncertainty and misgivings surrounding the current census in Azad Kashmir would have a significant impact on the region’s political and socioeconomic position. The meeting’s attendees were informed on the technical, administrative, and mandate pertaining to the ongoing census in Azad Kashmir by the Statistical Institute’s Chief Statistician.