Despite the objections raised by Sindh and Balochistan, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) has decided to finally release the controversial national population census 2017 results. A census is normally conducted after ten years but the government has decided to not wait any longer and start the process for a fresh census by end of this year.
The census is crucial as the next general elections slated for 2023 will be based on them after new delimitations are conducted. Due to the reservations of several stakeholders, the next census will start by October 2021. However, it will be long, strenuous and costly process which will be held under UN-mandated standards and under the supervision of the army. The census will be spanned over eighteen months and the cost is estimated around Rs23 billion which will be divided in two fiscal years.
Pakistan finally held the long-delayed census in 2017 but the results were mired in controversy and not released. The last census was held in 1998 and ever since then the census has been delayed either due to security concerns or political turmoil. When the census was eventually completed, Balochistan raised objections while Sindh rejected it completely complaining the population was understated in an attempt to deprive smaller provinces of their due shares in resources.
The holding of a census shows national unity. It is vital to conduct a census as it helps in economic planning, formulating long-term strategies and resource management. It is also necessary for holding elections to get the real representation. It is rather unfortunate the results of the previous census were controversial, resulting in loss of valuable resources.
The government has blamed the previous regime for withholding the results and not addressing the reservations. However, it is imperative that the next census is held in transparent manner ensuring that no objections are raised. This is the responsibility of the government towards its citizens to ensure the proper utilization and equitable distribution of resources. The government should ensure that the next census is held in a smooth manner to ensure national cohesion in the country.