Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has accused the federal government of inaccurately counting the population of Sindh province, warning that the provincial government may reject the recent census unless its concerns are addressed. Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Shah stated that while the actual population of Sindh is 64.4 million, the federal government projected it to be 57.6 million, indicating a difference of 6.8 million people that were not accounted for.
Shah criticized the recent census, highlighting that its purpose was to conduct an accurate, foolproof, and scientifically sound enumeration. However, he asserted that the census had proven to be defective and unacceptable. Shah expressed his disappointment in not being invited to a meeting held in Islamabad, where the decision to close the census exercise, except in Punjab, was made without his consultation.
The Sindh Chief Minister argued that if the census was conducted solely based on population growth rate, there would be no need for such an expensive exercise. He reminded that according to the law, the census should be conducted every 10 years, and the previous census in 2017 was also flawed, leading to demands for a repeat census in 2023 before the upcoming elections.
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Shah displayed slides during the presentation, revealing discrepancies in the enumeration process. Screenshots from enumerators’ tablets indicated irregularities, with messages displaying incorrect dates for initiating the enumeration process in various blocks. Entries made by enumerators in specific blocks were also rejected by the central data centers of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).
Comparing data from the 2017 census, Shah highlighted the population figures for Punjab and Sindh. He noted that Punjab’s projected population for 2023 showed an increase, while Sindh’s figures were significantly lower than expected. Shah further mentioned that not all blocks in Karachi were adequately enumerated during the census.
The Sindh Chief Minister emphasized the importance of an accurate census for the National Finance Commission (NFC) award, which determines the distribution of resources among provinces. He suggested that counting illegal immigrants should also be considered once the enumeration of nationals is complete to determine the overall population.
Shah clarified that it was he, not the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), who raised concerns about the shortcomings of the 2017 census. He voiced his objections through media talks, press statements, and discussions at the Council of Common Interest (CCI).