Analyse the data however you want, Karachi’s provisional census results simply do not add up! In a rare show of unanimity, this observation was upheld by politicians, social scientists and media analysts at a session held on Friday to discuss the initial results of the 6th Population and Housing Census 2017.
Organised by the National Forum for Environment and Health and EMC Pakistan Pvt Ltd – an environmental consultancy firm – under the Save Karachi Campaign, the discussion was presided over by Sindh Minister for Labour and Human Resources Nasir Hussain Shah.
Much of the debate centred on the “stark imbalance” in the results from Karachi and Lahore – the former being a larger urban centre in terms of area and population than the latter and, hence, requires more resources.
The disparity in results also again brought to fore the rift between smaller provinces and Punjab – the largest province – over division of resources. The labour minister said the Pakistan Peoples Party too rejects the results, and this decision was more than once reiterated by several of its officials at public forums and even the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, Khursheed Shah.
“People are saying that we [PPP] is satisfied with the results of rural Sindh, but we are not!” Shah asserted.
Strengthening Pakistan is our duty but this is not how it will happen, Shah said as he went on to highlight areas where provincial representation was neglected in the census exercise. The data centre set up in Karachi during the census exercise was later wound up and the entire data handling was done in Punjab, he said.
To add to that not even a single representative from any other province was made a part of the census committee, which was a requirement, added Shah. “We [PPP] consider Lahore a part of us … we hold nothing against it, but attitudes such as these compel us to speak of irregularities,” he explained.
He claimed the Sindh government had registered complaints in every cabinet committee meeting held before the census commenced; among them was the use of a pencil instead of a pen and the decision to make only two copies of the results instead of one for every district of a province.
Chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan, Dr Farooq Sattar, said the results were nothing short of an injustice to each and every ethnicity living in Karachi, be it Mohajir, Baloch, Pashtun or Sindhi.
Citing Article 51 of the Constitution that focuses on the number of seats allocated in the national assembly, he said the entire exercise is all about this article. “We would not be able to allocate the right number of seats if the head count is not right.”
As per the census results, the entire country’s natural national growth rate is 60 percent, Sattar highlighted as he laughed at the impossibility of all areas of all districts of the country’s provinces growing at the same rate.
“The people of this country may not have agreed on anything with such uniformity than they did about having children,” remarked Sattar as the audience burst out laughing.
Speaking of rural to urban migration, he pointed out that in Punjab, out of every 100 people, four migrated to an urban centre, but in Sindh, against an average of 200, only one person migrated to urban centres.
“If there are any doubts about the number of people living in Karachi, one can only simply take a look at K-Electric’s data which shows that it has around two million registered consumers. Do the math and you can easily figure out the number of people per one household.”
Karachi chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, stated that if the population of Karachi stood at 14 million instead of 20 million, then last year’s calculation of the city requiring at least 1,200 million gallons of water per day was wrong. “As per this result, the city only needs 800mgd of water. Why do we even need the K-IV project then?” he said.
Representing the Pak Sarzameen Party, Waseem Aftab, also rejected the census results. In his opinion, the re-examination of the block-wise data will not give as accurate a result as calculating the data of the charge (measuring unit used in a census).
Social and media analysts
Starting off with the definition of census, renowned economist and researcher, Dr Kaiser Bengali, explained that it is the head count of every person that has been in a place for over six months.
Political and other factors aside, he said the data on the basis of which the census was calculated was doubtful.
Speaking of the reduction in Sindh’s household size, calculated at 5.8 people per house, as compared to the census results of 1998, calculated to be 6, 6.5 people, he said that a household size takes up to a generation to change; hence, it is impossible for it to have changed to such an extent in only 19 years.
“It is understood that the size of a rural household is always bigger than the urban household, but astonishingly Sindh’s urban household is somehow larger than the rural household,” he pointed out.
Explaining Dr Mirza Ishtiaq Baig’s suggestion, given earlier in the discussion, of conducting a sample survey to get a clearer picture of the actual results, Dr Bengali said it was an exercise conducted around the world if there was ever a dispute over census results. “Calculate the data of one block, i.e. one percent only, and you can figure out the result of the rest of the blocks.”
“Karachi is no longer governable!” observed senior journalist and news analyst Mazhar Abbas. Political parties need to admit their collective failure in bringing the country to the point where we are today, he said.
Our concerns do not lie in the right places, Abbas said. The rate at which our population is growing is not a concern for anyone, not the politicians, neither the media nor anybody else. “All we discuss day in and day out is politics.”
We need to address ethnic polarisation and for that we need to get our basics right, beginning with a census result we all agree on, he added.
Former Karachi administrator, Fahim Zaman, also termed the city’s census results a ‘joke’. “As per the 1998 data, at least 5.5 million people in Lahore should be above the age of 18. However, the current census results show that instead of ageing, people of Lahore are only producing babies.”