Wednesday August 17, 2022

Controversy over 2017 census: Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah asks PM to help end dispute

December 30, 2020

KARACHI: Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah has written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan, asking him to bring an end to the controversy over the 2017 Census results by asking the Ali Zaidi Committee to take the provinces into confidence on their concerns over the Census 2017.

In a letter addressed to the prime minister under the subject “Approval of Census Results”, CM Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah said that the census results are pending approval of the Council of Common Interests since 2017. He referred to a CCI meeting which in its decision on the contentious census issue had directed on Nov 13, 2017 to hold a third party validation of 1pc census blocks in each province. Later, the CCI decided to enhance the sampling proportion from 1% to 5% in each province.

The decision of third party validation was made in the light of the agreement among the parliamentary parties which led to the passage of 24th Constitutional Amendment allowing general elections 2018 to be held on the basis of provisional “census results”.

This allowed holding of elections on time and at the same time provided for veracity of the census results through a third party validation. The validation exercise and thereby the finalization of the census results could not be held since the last CCI meeting of March 27, 2018.

Eventually, on November 11, 2020, the members of CCI were informed that the federal cabinet has set up a committee headed by Federal Minister Ali Haider Zaidi to make recommendations for the finalization of the census results. This unilateral decision was in negation of the parliamentary parties agreement and the CCI decisions. Murad Ali Shah says he expressed his reservations over the results of the census, asserting that the “population has not been correctly shown."

The CCI on December 22, 2020 directed the committee to also address the concerns of the provinces and expedite recommendations for cabinet and the CCI. But the committee instead of engaging with the provinces and in particular those of Sindh submitted its recommendations to the federal cabinet.

Protesting over the development, the chief minister said the committee recommendations are violations of the CCI meeting, which was headed by the prime minister. The chief minister said: "It is regrettably stated that the Federal Cabinet failed to adhere to the decision of CCI which speaks volumes of the sanctity that the Federal Government shows to decisions of important Constitutional bodies like the CCI.

The Government of Sindh in its meeting of December 24, 2020 took a strong note of this arbitrary and illegal act of the committee as well as the federal government. The provincial cabinet directed me to apprise yourself of the facts.”

The chief minister in his communication with the prime minister highlighted that the federal cabinet was not properly assisted by the committee and certainly not guided about the facts on the ground.

Against the backdrop, the chief minister requested the prime minister to intervene into the issue, direct the committee to engage the provinces “without which any decision made by the federal cabinet in respect of the census results 2017 should be treated as a nullity.”