Friday, April 15, 2011

There will be violence, you can always count on Karachi

A view of Karachi downtown, the capital of Sin...
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Already, the Census has become controversial in Pakistan. The exercise of conducting Census is so rare, that there seldom develops an institutional or socio-cultural memory of how to hold a census.  Last time around, armed men took away by force the entire paper version of the census data collected in Quetta, Baluchistan.
This time around the violence and controversy is in Karachi where two enumerators have already died collecting Census data. The concern is about gerrymandering and the complainant is the ruling party itself! Usually the sitting opposition raises hue and cry about the excesses of the government. In Pakistan, it s the other way around where local politics conflicts with provincial and national issues.
KARACHI: Taj Haider, the Head, Census Monitoring Committee, Pakistan Peoples’ Party, Sindh/Coordinator to Chief Minister Sindh has written a letter to provincial Chief Secretary, Census Commissioner and others drawing their attention to massive irregularities in house-count phase of national census in Karachi.
“We request you to kindly take notice of the gross irregularities being committed in the Census work in Karachi. An immediate corrective action from the government is required to save the entire exercise from collapsing altogether,” he stated in the letter.
According to him the widely reported complaints are as under:
1. Arbitrary and illegal changes have been made in the boundaries of blocks, circles and charges. These delineations were made in 2002 by the Election Commission and although we have serious reservations on these, the mala fide in the new changes is obvious and worsens the situation. Old boundaries of charges, circles and blocks along with their old numbers may please be restored. If due to increase in population new blocks have to be created, these may be within the old boundaries and numbered after placing an oblique (/) sign after the original number. (Example 115/1, 115/2 if two blocks have to be created in block 115).
2. The maps being used do not show demarcation of houses. Latest digital maps showing house demarcations prepared most scientifically by the Orangi Pilot Project covering the entire city are available with the government. We propose that these accurate maps should be used to ensure that every household is enumerated.
3. There are serious objections on arbitrary selection of enumeration staff. Unfortunately two persons belonging to the staff have also been killed. It is proposed that enumerators should be taken only from the Education and revenue departments of the Government of Sindh to maintain uniformity revenue departments of the Government of Sindh to maintain uniformity and transparency all over the province.
4. Widespread interference of the TMOs of different towns has been reported. In many cases entire Census work is being carried out in the offices of TMOs.
5. It is proposed that Town DDOs should centralize the work in their offices and be responsible for all actions taken by the enumeration staff.
6. A large number of houses including the house of the Census Commissioner himself remain without enumeration. It may be necessary to extend the period of the house enumeration phase. We propose that this period should be extended till such time the exercise is completed to the satisfaction of all stake holders.
7. The law for enumeration of houses should be strictly and uniformly followed. At many places single families have been given 2/3 numbers. At others buildings have 15/20 flats have been given a single numbers. All these anomalies should be minutely examined and corrected.
8. The secrecy provision in the Ordinance of 1959 violates the “Right of access to information” of the Constitution and the objectives of keeping the Census transparent. Census now being a part of the Legislative List II is to be jointly administered by the Federation and the Provinces from the platform of the CCI. Change in the ordinance to bring it in line with Constitutional Provisions and ensuring transparency should be put on the agenda of the CCI on priority. In the meantime a Website to show the collected data should be designed so that the entire information is available to the citizens as soon as the Law is amended.”
Copies of the letter were also sent to Asif Bajwa, Secretary, Statistical Division, Islamabad, National Census Commissioner, Islamabad and Census Commissioner, Sindh.
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