Balochistan Census in doldrums
April 22, 2011
The ongoing nationwide housing and population census has been impeded by poor law and order in five districts of Balochistan.
Nawab will have to look for political allies at national level. The Bahawalpur Awami Party will part of the Third Force that will simply uphold regional agendas and try their best to get politics take a consensual course. The Bahawalpur Awami Party can assume centre stage in the dialogue for raising alliance of regional parties.
“We will conduct the housing census in districts of Panjgur, Kharan, Awaran, Khuzdar and another with the help of the civil armed forces and the provincial government later after the exercise concludes on April 29,” Commissioner Statistics Muhammad Khalid Baloch said.
On the other hand, it was formally decided in a meeting under Chief Secretary Balochistan to start the first phase of the 6th census.
House-listing has started in Quetta and other parts of the province ahead of 6th census in the country. According to officials, listing process will end on April 29, whereas the second phase focusing on census would be conducted in August and September. Quetta city has been divided into 74 circles and 566 blocks.
People were requested to cooperate with officials and provide them complete information so that transparency could be ensured and exact number could be registered. All citizens during the house-listing must keep copy of their computerized identity card with them so that details could be registered in accordance with the cards. Similarly, the house-listing has started in other districts of the province including Mekran Division where volunteers are also cooperating with survey teams.
National Party Secretary-General Mir Tahir Bizenjo made it clear that inclusion of Afghan refugees in the population census would not be acceptable to Baloch people.
He warned that it would cause demographic imbalance in Balochistan, as hundreds of thousands of Afghans living in the province for the last three decades had already changed the local demography and badly affected the politics, economy, agriculture and trade of Balochistan.
The former senator said exclusion of Afghan refugees from the process was a unanimous demand of the people, adding that their inclusion was also against national and international laws. He said a transparent census would benefit the local ethnic groups like Baloch, Pashtoon and Hazara.
On the other hand, Nationalists parties in Balochistan are actively opposing the house-listing census, which they say should be postponed because of security problems, presence of Afghan refugees, and displacement of people from Baloch dominated areas after the military operation in Dera Bugti in 2005, and then last year when the floods hit the province.
Balochistan National Party (BNP) Information Secretary Agha Hassan and senior leader of National Party (NP) said that the government had not initiated the house-listing census in five Baloch districts because of security threats.
They said that as many as 2.1 million Afghan refugees were taking shelter in Balochistan and it was impossible for officials to ensure transparency in such a situation.
Hassan, whose party had boycotted the last general elections, said the law and order situation was going from bad to worse. Therefore, the house-listing census should be stopped until peace is restored.
“In a province where thousands of people are listed as missing, mutilated bodies are being found almost daily and a military operation is under way, how can one think about taking part in a census?” he argued.
First all the refugees should be repatriated, only then can a fair census be conducted. “We as nationalists do not accept the ongoing census since it is not being conducted in a fair and transparent manner,” said Hassan.
Ishaq Baloch from the NP said his party had appealed to the people to take part in the initiative, but had some reservations on the current house-listing census because a huge population had been displaced from Nasirabad, Jaffarabad, Sibi and adjoining areas after the floods. “Another 120,000 people were displaced from Dera Bugti during a military operation in 2005,” he said.
Baloch insurgent groups had also threatened to carry out attacks on census staff.
House census in five districts -- Khuzdar, Awaran, Turbat, Panjgur and Mastung -- was not initiated due to worsening law and order problems. People from Kech and Gwadar also complained that many teachers had refused to perform census duty, fearing for their life.
The Government of Balochistan had already declared Kahan area of Kohlu and Pelaogh area of Dera Bugti as volatile and deployed heavy contingents of security forces to protect the staff working on the census.
However, a Pakhtun nationalist party, Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PMAP), insists on conducting house census. “There is a need to create awareness among the people of Balochistan who usually take the census lightly. The parties have to launch a campaign for this,” it said.
The house-listing census will work against the Baloch since a large population is nomadic and does not have permanent housing that can be added to their count. The Pakhtun on the other hand will not suffer from the house-listing census because their community has more permanent settlements.
Other Baloch nationalist parties had already opposed the census and asked the people to keep away from the exercise. Balochistan National Party-Awami had filed a petition in Balochistan High Court demanding to postpone the house census immediately. Balochistan National Party (Awami) Central Senior Vice President Syed Ahsan Shah and Secretary General Asad Ullah Baloch filed a constitutional petition demanding to postpone the house census immediately in Balochistan amid uncertainty and chaos besides law and order in the area.
Consequently, according to Election Commission, the polls will now be held on May 24 instead of April 25. The Election Commissioner says that amid the current law and order situation in Balochistan, polls are not feasible at the moment.
On the other hand, political pundits believe that in next few days, there is a possibility that political breeze will change its course, thus some political passengers have virtually turned to PPP; news are also floating that Former Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali is joining PPP. Earlier, Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hosni had joined the PPP, while news are also hovering that he may be appointed new governor of Balochistan.
According to some circles, there is possibility that Sardar Fateh Muhammad Hosni would be given responsibility of implementation of Aghaz-e-Haqooq-e-Balochistan package or any other assignment. Inclusion of Jamali family in PPP is creating political fuss, while Mir Abdul Rehman Jamali, younger brother of Mir Zafar Ullah Jamali, is contesting bye-election on PPP ticket in Jafarabad.
Inclusion of Jamali family and Magsi family in PPP could change political scenario in Balochistan before elections. It is pertinent to mention here that Governor Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi’s younger brother Senator Nawabzada Akber Magsi has joined the PPP. According to the political circles, candidates for four to five senior ministries have started work; PPP and Nawaz League have also started election preparations. The parties are contacting prominent political and tribal personalities for joining their ranks.
Chief Minister Balochistan Nawab Muhammad Aslam Raisani has started reconciliation with dissidents to stabilize his position, and he has decided to extend the Cabinet, while the Cabinet has been downsized in federation. Balochistan had to face criticism due to big size of cabinet. The two sacked ministers of PPP and a woman minister of PML-Q are being restored to their respective positions.
In the first phase, Agha Irfan Kareem, Ali Madad Jatak, Sardar Zada Nasir Ali Jamali and Robina Irfan are being included in Cabinet once again. After expansion in provincial cabinet, it would have 49 ministers and five advisors.
According to political circles, next few months are very critical for politics in Balochistan. They said the situation of Balochistan deteriorated in the past due to wrong decisions. Democracy’s revival was a ray of hope, but unfortunately no positive change has been observed.
In short, following increase in target killings and murder of Balochis, it seems difficult to bring the Balochis on the path of reconciliation.
Until and unless practical steps are taken and mindset changed, it would be impossible to turn fortunes of the people of Balochistan.