Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday raised concerns about the country’s first-ever digital census, terming it a “flawed” exercise while calling on the federal government to address the PPP’s concerns in this regard.
The self-enumeration process, part of the country’s first-ever digital census, began on Feb 20 and was supposed to end at 12am on Saturday but was extended for another seven days after requests from various quarters that the time allotted for the exercise was too short.
The optional self-registration is followed from March 1 by a month-long collection of details by more than 120,000 enumerators using tablets and mobiles, which organisers say will make the process more accurate, transparent and credible.
The digital count will also provide data for policy decisions, which are now based on the 2017 census that counted the population at 207 million people. It is also expected to avoid controversies that beset the 2021 census, which was done manually and its results were never announced over complaints about errors and exclusion.
Addressing a function in Karachi today, FM Bilawal said that judging from the feedback received so far, the PPP and many citizens from other provinces had reservations about the exercise.
“I got to know that a digital census is under way when it was extended. If this is a census where you have to enter your information yourself on the internet and if I as a federal minister did not know, then it means the people must not know [about it] either.”
The PPP chairman said the party wanted a “just and right” census and not a “flawed” digital census being conducted in a similarly “flawed” manner. He further said Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had apprised the federal government about the PPP’s concerns in this regard.
“If on someone’s instructions, elections in one or two provinces will take place based on a different census, and other provincial polls will be carried out based on a flawed digital census, then this is not acceptable to the PPP.
“If the federal government does not look at the concerns of the chief minister and the Sindh government and doesn’t address them, then Sindh will not support the federal government in this exercise. If they want to go on their own, count their own way and want to impose everything of their own then let them come and do it themselves,” the foreign minister said.
He said that the Sindh government had a mandate and would not allow the people’s rights to be “snatched”.
Bilawal said the census was also important for ensuring the fair distribution of resources between the provinces, adding that any “wrong measures” in this regard would not be tolerated.
“The PPP can support a scientific, just and real census but we cannot support […] the kind of methodology that has been adopted.”
During the address, the foreign minister also called on the federal government to fulfil the promises made to the victims of last year’s catastrophic floods.
“The federal government should prioritise flood affectees. If the Centre or the prime minister made any announcements or promises, then they will have to be fulfilled,” he said, adding that the PPP would raise the issue with the prime minister as well as in the National Assembly and the federal cabinet.
“The promises to flood affectees will need to be fulfilled otherwise it will be very difficult for us to hold our ministries […]. It is unacceptable that promises made to flood victims are not fulfilled,” the foreign minister said.
Bilawal said that he hoped his “complaint” would be addressed by the federal government.