Sindh’s objection over ruled. Next within 18 months promised
ISLAMABAD: The federal government has approved the controversial 2017 census results and announced that the next census will be conducted witin 18 months.
Addressing a press conference, Federal Minister Asad Omar said that the Council of Common Interests had announced to accept the results of 2017 by a majority vote, adding that they had two options, either to accept or reject these results. If rejected, the situation would have gone back to 1998 and would have hurt smaller provinces, as constituencies and financial resources are distributed on the basis of the census.
He said that when the results of 2017 came out, the political parties had differences at that time, after which a political decision was taken to hand over the matter to the parliament. The Political parties decided to audit 5% of the census but it was not implemented.
The federal minister said the results were being approved and a new census was being announced. “A deputy secretary of the Planning Commission is already working on it, which is in line with UN principles and the world’s best practices, keeping in mind the recommendations under the new framework” he said.
Asad Umer admitted that at a meeting of the Council of Common Interests, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah opposed approval of the 2017 results, but added that it was his (Sindh CM) constitutional right.
Asad Umar said that before this decision, MQM Federal Minister Aminul Haq, GDA member Fehmida Mirza from Sindh and Zubeida Jalal from Balochistan were taken into confidence.
He said that if no member of the Council of Common Interests agreed, then he would refer the matter to Parliament.
Sindh’s reservation and stand
Sindh CM raised the issue in the meeting of CCI held last week, he was assured to address the concerns. Earlier in last December, Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah wrote 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 the Census 2017.
In a letter the Sindh CM referred to a CCI meeting which in its decision on the contentious census issue had directed in Nov, 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.
On November 11, 2020, the CCI members 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 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 in the letter, that 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 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.”