Punjab may lose 8 NA seats after digital census: report

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Officials collect data from a citizen during the first-ever digital census and housing census in 10 districts of Gilgit-Baltistan on March 10, 2023. — APP
Officials collect data from a citizen during the first-ever digital census and housing census in 10 districts of Gilgit-Baltistan on March 10, 2023. — APP
  • The number of seats of Punjab in NA is expected to decrease to 133, says a journalist.
  • Mehdi says Punjab’s loss will mainly be Balochistan’s gain.
  • “The number, if correct, will lead to serious controversy,” warns the PILDAT chief.

KARACHI: Following the preliminary results of the ongoing digital census, Punjab may lose eight seats in the National Assembly, The News reported citing local media Lok Sujag on Wednesday.

“Punjab’s loss will be mainly Balochistan’s gain,” journalist Tahir Mehdi wrote in his report.

According to the publication, the population of Punjab is no more than half that of Pakistan.

“According to the preliminary results of the digital census made public by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), the province now accounts for exactly half of the country’s population,” the report said. The news.

The percentage of the county’s population has consistently declined in successive censuses.

The province’s share in [the] the country’s population fell from 55.63% in 1998 to 52.96% in 2017…[and] now stands at 49.96%,” the report said.

Given that Punjab’s share of 141 seats in the lower house is expected to drop to 133, Mehdi said, speaking to The newssaid it’s not that the province’s population isn’t growing, but that the “speed of [population] growth” in Punjab is slow.

“National Assembly seats are allocated on the basis of population, so if the population of Punjab is growing slower then its share in the total [seats] will be lower,” he said.

Commenting on the controversy in the wake of the results, the journalist said that this ongoing census in Pakistan was problematic.

“Even now it won’t be without controversy, but this time the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) claims they are geotagging and vetting CNICs, etc. – so hopefully this will be better,” he said.

In his report, Mehdi stated that while Sindh may not be the biggest beneficiary of the loss Punjab would suffer as a result of the census, it is likely to gain only one seat in the National Assembly.

“It will be Balochistan that will win most of the seats lost to Punjab. The population of the province has shown a massive growth of 62.9% since 2017,” he wrote.

told Mehdi The news that while the growth in Balochistan has been phenomenal with an increase of almost 63% in the population from 2017 to 2023, Punjab witnessed a 6% decrease.

“The reasons for that could be that the Baloch were undercounted in 2017 and are now properly counted. Or that they have been overcounted in this 2023 census,” he stressed.

However, the journalist finds that “even if you somewhat believe the claims of the PBS [of how they have conducted the census] there are fewer chances of the latter, so this simply means that Balochistan was undervalued last time.”

He further inquired that previously the areas considered dangerous, conflict-ridden, remote or even difficult to access were not reached as enumerators would choose to stay at home rather than go to these places.

President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) believes the census will remain controversial.

“The possible change in the number of National Assembly seats allocated to each province in view of the 2023 census has not yet been confirmed and may change before the final result is approved by the Council of Common Interests and then communicated,” he said . that the results of the census have become controversial.

He went on to say that this apparent difference in the number of NA seats seems difficult to rationalize given that the census is held after only five years and not the usual 10.

“My guess is that this number, if correct, will spark serious controversy and — when combined with the complaints about the Karachi census — has the potential to destroy the credibility of the census,” he said.

When The news asked how political parties will see this development, he said their perspectives will differ.

“Those in Punjab may feel that this is an incorrect count, while those in Balochistan might say they are still undervalued,” he said.

Mehdi added: “The significance of this census for political parties will depend on the timing of the general elections. If the elections are early, this census will not be the basis for demarcation, but if the census is officially communicated then for the [Election Commission of Pakistan] ECP is constitutionally required to implement demarcation based on the new census — by mid-June.”

However, he added that the ECP needs four months ahead of polls for the demarcation.

“As it is still unclear when the census will be released and whether a demarcation will take place on that basis, it is still up in the air,” said Mehdi. The news.

Commenting on the political backlash, Mehboob of PILDAT opined that apart from the political parties concentrated in Karachi, others are engrossed in discussions about the date of the provincial elections and its impact on the general polls, the controversy regarding the judges of the Supreme Court and other matters. .

“But as the census results become known and the potential effect on seat allocation is realized, the controversy will gain momentum,” he said.

Mehboob advised the government to “work immediately to manage this foreseeable crisis – as if we were short of crises”.

When asked if this potential loss of Punjab’s share and Balochistan’s gain could lead to ambiguity, Mehdi said Balochistan’s result is surprising but was expected due to the difference in Balochistan’s growth rate in the province and the seats in Punjab could affect.

“Punjab had lost seats even after the 2017 census [seven in total]. Even within Punjab, we can see a shift – once the census district details become clear – from central to southern Punjab,” the journalist said.

Mehboob believes that the communication strategy could be one of the problems with the census and the confusion over its results.

“The PBS needs to communicate professionally and confidently. The change in statistics of the Karachi population with each expansion has contributed to erode confidence in the census figures. There is still time to salvage this costly exercise. The government needs to focus on this concentrate before it gets too late,” said the president of PILDAT.

The news wrote that while senior journalist Amber Shamsi summed up Mehdi’s report, tweeted: “Census controversy continues to flare up in Karachi and Sindh, but the loss is Punjab’s, first in 2017 and second time in 2023. Political implication: Punjab eventually loses its [significance] in national politics.”

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