What a way forward?

  • <p><a href="http://tribune.com.pk/story/1062600/census-2016-the-way-forward/">http://tribune.com.pk/story/1062600/census-2016-th...</a></p><p>Here is an excellent write-up by Peter Jacob, which deals in a comprehensive manner with the technical aspects of a population census. And going a step further, he has also highlighted some special factors arising as a result of the peculiar situation that Pakistan faces.</p><p>However, the question is ‘Is the government serious in conducting the much delayed population census in October 2016, or even later?</p><p>The writer feels that while the government gave insufficient security arrangements as the main reason for postponement of census, the real reasons were gaps in preparation in the political as well as technical aspects. And on that basis, he declares the shifting of the exercise most probably to October, 2016 as realistic.</p><p>However, the government is now in its third year and knew on the very first day that the census was long overdue and had be conducted without further delay. So, its inability to cover the ‘gaps in political as well as technical aspects’ in all the time that it had, itself points to its non-serious attitude on the issue, and that is the mildest way of putting it.</p><p>The Government officially gave the reason for census postponement as insufficient security arrangements, which translates to a refusal by the army to spare more than half its strength for census duties. However, since the security situation is unlikely to show any dramatic improvement by October, 2016, would the government be using the same excuse in October 2016, to postpone the census again? However, with abundant ‘talent‘ available in this particular field, it may not be too difficult for the government to find some other excuse..</p><p>Perhaps the larger provinces: Punjab and Sindh, are quite happy with the absence of latest figures because that gives Punjab bulk of the national resources, while Peoples Party now reduced to rural-Sindh level is happy grabbing more than its fair share in the Assembly seats based on constituencies having been worked out on 1998 census figures which, obviously, did not take account of the large-scale migration to Karachi from rural Sindh as well as from the rest of the country in the period post-1998 census.</p><p>So, the latest population census could decrease Punjab’s share in the national resources while Peoples Party could end up with far fewer seats in the Assemblies plus perhaps reduced share in the province’s financial resources for the territory under its control.</p><p>And that means there is much more to the census postponement than the ‘gaps in preparation in the political as well as technical aspects’.</p><p>And the writer’s statement that ‘the postponement of it (the population census) has been received with a relative calm points to the lopsided priorities of the nation which is now concentrating full-time on MQM which, even at the best of times, had its influence confined to urban Sindh, mainly Karachi. At the same time, the nation seems least bothered about postponement – perhaps for years – of the population and housing census which forms an essential base for future planning.</p><p>And nobody seems to be bothered over the un-ceremonial burial of Punjab Assembly’s resolutions for the creation of South Punjab and Bahawalpur provinces. The population of territory now comprising Pakistan is over six-fold of what it was at the time of partition. This fact alone calls for creation of more provinces, and not just in Punjab.</p><p>The nation is not even concerned over Prime Minister Nawaz Shari’s threats to NAB when it started anti-corruption probe in Punjab. In some, should I say regular country, such an act could raise demand for Prime Minister’s resignation or impeachment, but of course nothing of that sort happened here.</p><p>Also, Punjab government mowed down fourteen innocent men and women at Dr. Tahirul Qadri’s Model Town secretariat, but the matter stays buried deep and forgotten.</p><p>People have even forgotten Dr. Qadri’s frequent lessons about Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution which deal with the eligibility and ineligibility conditions of the Assembly aspirants, only strict application of which could ensure entry of persons of integrity in the Assemblies, creating some hope for improvement of governance, and reduction in corruption, over time.</p><p>We are in a situation where all these problems, plus more like bad governance, rampant corruption, despicable state of education, healthcare and population planning remain unresolved, while there still is no sign of the serious launch of civilian version of the Zarb-e-Azb operation in order to tackle the problem of intolerance, militancy, extremism and terrorism. And with the state of affairs being what it is, the nation seems to be fully occupied, deriving utmost pleasure, thrills, entertainment, job-satisfaction and sense of accomplishment lashing at MQM and its leadership.</p><p>What a sense of priorities, and what a way forward?</p><p>Karachi.</p>