Seemingly working to resolve the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s concerns over the ongoing digital census, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday directed the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) to meet with Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and address the unease.
Chairing a meeting of the 7th Census Monitoring Committee, also attended by Shah, Iqbal directed officials of both the PBS and the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) to reach Karachi and alleviate all concerns raised by the PPP over the conduct of the exercise. The meeting also decided that the committee would meet weekly for effective coordination and speed resolution of any concerns.
According to a statement issued after the meeting, the minister stressed that the government would take all provinces on board and specifically remove Sindh’s concerns, adding the center believed in taking all decisions by consensus. “The digital census will have an impact on the future of Pakistan and I cannot afford any kind of controversy and will not compromise on its transparency,” he said, adding that the federal government was providing all necessary resources to complete the process because the next general elections would be based on this census.
“Some miscreants want to sabotage this census, but it is our responsibility to focus on this exercise by ensuring its transparency and accuracy,” he said. Speaking with daily Dawn after the meeting, he emphasized that the census was a “major national exercise” that was costing Rs. 34 billion and it was the responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure it was successful.
Iqbal also noted that the census was being carried out in line with an April 2021 decision of the Council of Common Interests (CCI). He stressed this census was being conducted only 5 years after the previous one—rather than the 10 years mandated by the Constitution—because the PPP had rejected the previous census.
On Sunday, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari—also the chairman of the PPP—had threatened to quit the ruling alliance due to the “flawed exercise” of the census and unfulfilled promises to flood-hit residents of Sindh. This has been perceived by most observers as the PPP seeking to distance itself from the ruling coalition, which is currently losing public support over rampant inflation.