Islamabad [Pakistan], March 31 (ANI): As the Pakistani government lurches from one political crisis to another, the decision-makers sitting in Islamabad have decided to go ahead with a 'digital census' exercise that appears to be almost comical, if not for its insidious intent.
Flawed in its rollout, and criticised by the very politicians that sanction it, the digital census is an attempt to make all the right noises of a functioning democracy in Pakistan, however, the truth of this exercise is not lost on anyone.
Donning green jackets, these enumerators are on a mission to count every individual across Pakistan using tablets and mobiles.
They are part of Pakistan's first-ever digital population and household census which aims to give a more accurate picture of the country's population and will help with future planning and utilisation of resources before the next general elections.
It is believed that population density data not only helps electoral seats in Pakistan's parliament but helps assign funding for essential services like schools and hospitals.
The data collected after the census will help shape policy decisions in Pakistan, which are now based on the 2017 census that counted the population at 207 million people. However, previous exercises have been marred by allegations of miscount and exclusion of transgender people and ethnic minorities.
Tahir Hassan Khan a Senior Pakistani journalist commented on the Digital Census by saying " The census depends on elections and allotment of the seats. There are already objections over the allotments of seats and voters. There are already complaints registered on this. If things escalate due to the digital census, the election process will be seen in suspicion. There are chances that some political parties may object to it and launch protests".
There is already division amongst political parties in the country over the digital census.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto, who is also the leader of Pakistan's People Party (PPP), termed the census a `flawed' exercise.
His party is part of a coalition at the centre of the spectrum under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) which was formed against then-Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The digital census in Pakistan has many other hurdles to overcome as it will need to reach high-conflict areas within the country where data collection has been proven difficult.
In the Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces of Pakistan, a large number of people in remote areas have no access to information. Also, an armed struggle against the government and the army is ongoing in these provinces, which poses a significant hurdle to the census's accuracy.
In Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, the regions under Islamabad's forceful occupation, people have already begun resisting and have refused to be part of the digital census.
Massive protests have erupted in PoK and Gilgit Baltistan as the residents here do not call themselves Pakistani citizens and have demanded the scrapping of the digital census in the occupied regions.
Expressing his concerns about the manipulation of data in the digital census, especially in the occupied regions a political activist from PoK, Amjad Ayub Mirza said that "Now, Pakistan has launched Census-2023, they are counting how many people are in Punjab, and how many people are in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, how many people here and how many people there. So, in this census, they come to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and are asking people to sign and they are putting their names under the column called Pakistan when we are not Pakistan, we are a disputed territory, we are under the occupation of Pakistan".
While other countries took years of preparation in order to carry out population censuses digitally, Pakistan rolled out its self-designed digital census project in less than a year. Its accuracy and efficacy raise many doubts among critics.
According to Pakistani media, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) launched the census within three months, with no surety of fulfilling recommendations by the United Nations Statistical Commission.
The authenticity and secrecy of the data collected through Pakistan's digital census also remain in question. Experts even believe that the government may use digital data for political advantage instead of efficient resource allocation for its people.
Already facing mass distrust by the population, it remains to be seen whether this census exercise will be another Pakistani waste of resources and time. (ANI)