Sindh Assembly expresses reservations over digital census, calls for transparency

KARACHI       -         Amidst protest from Pakistan Tehreeke-Insaf (PTI) and Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), Sindh Assembly on Monday adopted a resolution, expressing reservations over ongoing digital census and demanding transparency in the process. Soon as Irrigation Minister Jam Khan Shoro moved a supplementary resolution, the lawmakers belonging to PTI and GDA stood and asked the chair to complete agenda of the day before taking up any supplementary item.

The opposition members maintained the Pakistan Peoples Party was part of the coalition federal government yet it was asking the centre to ensure transparency in the census. The resolution read that the seventh housing and population census should be carried out strictly in accordance with law, in a fair and transparent manner so as to reflect the genuine head count of the people living in Pakistan. Through the resolution, the Sindh Assembly expressed its reservations that sufficient publicity and media coverage had not been given to the exercise of digital census and the people of Sindh were kept in dark about outcome of the pilot census which was conducted in July 2022. “This House also expresses its serious reservations that despite start of census from 20th February 2023, no public official responsible from the government of Sindh has been provided access to the data set. Moreover, the dash board is also not operational which casts serious doubt on the quality and quantity of enumeration,” the resolution read.

The resolution added that the house was cognizant of the fact that the people of the Sindh were still recovering from the devastating floods in which 2.1 million homes were damaged, out of which 1.4 million houses were totally destroyed and the families misplaced. “It is also not known how those devastated homes will be counted, marked and geo-tagged. Similarly, no mechanism has been shown with regards to seasonal migrations of considerable population that takes place in the Province of Sindh. The Officers of district administration have also raised issues pertaining to flaws in block formation, inconsistencies in the provided maps and the on-ground situation. It is reported that many blocks are also not based on compact population,” it read.

The Sindh Assembly with majority of votes asked Sindh government to approach the centre to extend the date of self-enumeration, period for house listing and head counting. In the resolution, it was maintained that in order to ensure transparency, a proper mechanism and coordination needed to be ensured between the federal government and all the provincial governments. In the resolution it was demanded that individual households should be given access to their own private information which was being captured through the census exercise so that credibility was maintained and information was also corroborated from NADRA.

The resolution was adopted with majority of votes as PTI and GDA were protesting for taking up supplementary resolution ahead of agenda. Meanwhile during second day of pre-budget debate, treasury and opposition kept taking a jibe at each other most of the time instead of giving recommendations for the Budget 2023- 24. During his speech, Pakistan Tehreeke-Insaf MPA Firdous Shamim Naqvi took off his Sherwani and Cap and also unbuttoned his collar in solidarity with the people who he said had been hit hard by the inflation.

Naqvi’s gesture however did not appease Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani, who termed it inappropriate and asked the opposition lawmaker to button his Sherwani. “You should close your buttons,” the Speaker said while expressing his displeasure. “The Grehban is opened in great grief. Poor yearns for two meals a day and I feel pain that the poor sleeps hungry. I want to support the poor of Sindh through my protest,” Naqvi replied. Referring to the inflation, he said that bread’s (Roti) price had been jumped Rs 20 rupees and onion was being sold Rs 108 per Kilogram. Naqvi said that the poor people had suffering in the mill of inflation.

“Today, the legs of the poor have trembled due to inflation,” he added He suggested that all such government lands which were cultivable should be given to the farmers. PPP’s Imdad Patafi also hit back at the PTI MPA and said that the PTI lawmaker should had protested in the same manner during their federal government.

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