Importance of Census for Effective Governance – Part 2

Javed Siddique
Click here to read part 1 of this article
Yet another key limitation with NADRA’s data is its proprietary nature. NADRA does not share its data with municipal or provincial governments. Academics and other researchers have no way of accessing NADRA’s data. The Census, on the other hand, has a history of data sharing agreements with other tiers of governments, researchers, and others interested in public policy.
Lastly, NADRA does not collect the same details about households that are collected in the Census. Also, the systematic biases in coverage render NADRA’s data of little use for socio-economic planning. No wonder, expert analysts, such as Haris Gazdar, oppose any equivalence between NADRA and the Census.
Some have erroneously argued that small surveys and other national databases could substitute for the Census. They are gravely mistaken. Neither in Pakistan nor in an advanced economy, such as Canada, USA and UK, can there be a substitute for the Census. The Census should receive the same priority as the timely measurements of our newborns. Or else, like malnourished children, we will continue to raise a socio-economically malnourished nation.
The Demographers, the economists, and the social scientists unanimously favour Census data because no amount of customized surveys or other databases, including NADRA, can be a substitute for the Census.
On the political side, some mainstream political parties are afraid of reallocation of a present number of National Assembly seats of the provinces in the light of the new population census, which may affect their strong vote banks in some areas.
On the contrary, there will be no need to amend the Constitution to change the number of seats presently allotted to the provinces but a simple law to be passed by Parliament will suffice. Clause 5 of Article 51 says the seats in the National Assembly shall be allocated to each province, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and the federal capital on the basis of population in accordance with the last preceding census officially published.
Article 222 empowers Parliament to alter the number of seats of the provinces through an ordinary law. It says subject to the Constitution, Parliament may by law provide for the allocation of seats in the National Assembly as required by clauses 3 and 4 of Article 51. These clauses fix the general seats of the provinces and the non-Muslim seats.
The number of seats of the provinces will be modified on the basis of the significant proportionate changes in the population recorded in the new census. This means that seats of a province may be decreased, which will go to another federating unit.
At Present, Punjab has 148 seats; Sindh has 61; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has 35; Balochistan has 14; FATA has 12 and federal capital has 2 seats out of 272 general seats of the National Assembly, respectively.
Apart from this extensive change, several key areas like the quota of different areas in the federal jobs, distribution of funds between the federation and provinces through the National Finance Commission (NFC) etc. will also be changed in accordance with the fresh population census.
The successive governments remained always afraid and scared of repercussion from different political parties, which usually doubt the reality of the census. The issue always mainly became a bone of contention in Sindh where the census was likely to perturb the urban and rural equation in different spheres including the job quotas of the provinces.
However, this time a predominant majority of political parties is improbable to raise the traditional hue and cry as the Pakistan Army will be involved in the exercise.
The populace census will yield statistics about internal migration, urbanisation, as well as rural and urban population across Pakistan. The data will be used for delimitation of the constituencies of the national and provincial assemblies, a requirement under the Constitution that must be exercised in time to curtail the bad governance and clear the way to plan efficiently to acquire socio-economic gain.
The governance deals with the capacity of the government to design, formulate and implement policies in general and to discharge their functions in particular. In this sense population census plays a pivotal and crucial role, it paves the way to formulate better policies for smoothly running the governmental setup on one hand and distribute the resources of the country on the priority basis with transparency among all its federating units.
The census as the Government’s planning arm: ensures better coordination of national development efforts through the effective formulation, implementation and monitoring of Government initiatives and forward-looking socio-economic planning, statistical analysis and advice.
Usage of the Census Data:
Development planning purposes
Estimation of levels and variations in population and housing characteristics
Estimating sources of labour force
Identifying the role of women and their economic and social standing
Learning about special population groups
Use for research purposes
Use for economic purposes
National development requires a well organised statistical system allowing planners to work on the broad set of statistical indicators that are indispensable for the development and improvement of planning. In order to involve the statistical system in the planning and delivery of the designed and desired statistical data, there is need to link statistical planning and national goals.
Delaying tactics and non-seriousness of the incumbent government to not conduct the census on time would be the reason to harm the sustainability of the federation. The unequal allocation of resources mounts the inferiority of complex among its federating units. For fair distribution of wealth and services, the fresh census is the need of the hour. It is expected that the new population census would be held on March 2017. How unfortunate, because of the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s intervention, the government agreed to go for it half-heartedly. Hope this time it would be conducted on mentioned time period and the resources would be distributed according to new data’s among all federating units appropriately.
Writer is a Featured Writer of Balochistan Voices.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author and Balochistan Voices not necessarily agrees with them.
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Muhammad Javed Siddique has a degree of Master’s in Political Science from the University of Karachi and currently working as a General Councilor in incumbent Local Government UC-Pishukan District Gwadar, Balochistan. He is a featured contributor for Balochistan Voices.