Pakistan

Sherry Rehman raises questions over controversies, validity of census

KARACHI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Sherry Rehman on Friday raised questions over a number of controversies arising from unresolved issues related to the census which is currently underway.

“The census has dangerous shortfalls that need to be addressed immediately. As much as it is the government’s constitutional duty to conduct a census, key deficits and designed flaws in the exercise put it in the eye of a huge potential storm,” she said in a statement.

She said the government had failed to address the most fundamental issues of transparency and verification of numbers, leading many to question the intention and validity of the long awaited exercise.

“The questionable use of forms that exclude carbon copies or any form of cross verification by enumerators is a huge exclusion, and will create more questions than answers as to the whole point of the census,” she said.

She further said it was alarming that no counterfoils were given to the house members after the enumeration, which meant the household would have no evidence of any details they had provided the enumerator. It was also questionable why the government was not disclosing how many people are included in a bloc, she added.

The vice-president Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarian maintained, “There is no counter posting or verification on websites either, which can potentially empower the federal government to reinvent numbers in Islamabad for each province and even each constituency.”

“From what little we know about the planning and cost estimations, it seems like the government is spending a premium for an exercise that lacks both credibility and consensus. Why is the government sticking to an outmoded census methodology when there is a variety of technologically advanced ways of collecting population data that are used all over the world?” questioned Sherry Rehman.

The government is currently facing gaping questions on rules and practices regarding the collection of data pertaining to overseas Pakistanis, disabled people and women, she said.

“The exclusion of Form 2A is a problem considering how this will result in significant data and social indicators being left out,” the senator said.

Data available suggests that there are around seven million overseas Pakistanis, most of them working as laborers in the Middle East.

“So far, only those who have left Pakistan six months ago will be accounted for, automatically omitting around 4 per cent of the population. Even students studying abroad who are outside Pakistan for over six months will be excluded from the census,” Rehman said on the contentious exclusion of overseas Pakistanis.

The 1998 census revealed that 3,286,630 or 2.4 per cent of the population are disabled. The government is still relying on this two decade old data, she said.

“The government is excluding a form with questions that will tell us how many Pakistanis are with disabilities or who is employed. Inaccurate and dated statistics are a major problem in the way of service delivery and protection of all Pakistanis,” she added.

The PPP leader said data on women in Pakistan would prove substantial for crucial matters concerning development, politics and health. From 1951 to 1998, women’s population increased from 46.22 per cent to 48.5 per cent.

Senator Rehman pointed out the importance of ensuring that accurate data on Pakistan’s women are collected.

“Cultural and social barriers are crucial factors that should be taken seriously. In case the male member of the family is not present in the house, the female members may not give accurate information due to prevailing illiteracy and or may not even attend to the enumerator.

“How is it possible that there are no female enumerators in the Punjab census team? This is a clear violation of the government’s own census instruction manual and gender policy that must be resolved immediately,” concluded Rehman.

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