In pre-election year, it appears, the miracles will never cease.
Like that unexpected respite after a never ending downpour, some good news: the long awaited census is finally becoming a reality. It didn’t really seem to hit home till the army chief, Gen Bajwa, announced the deployment of 200,000 troops to support it. The requested involvement of the army, it appears, is a recurring theme – the precedent for that was set when, in 1998 (seven years after it was originally meant to be conducted) the national population census was held with the army’s protection – to the approval of all parties. Unsurprisingly, that was also the last time it was held. That means that for the past 18 years, any framework developed or policies drafted for socio-economic development have been based on outdated data and a great deal of guesswork at best – hardly the basis of real, ground breaking work that would see an improvement in the lives of the common man.
The fact that Pakistan will finally see another census is itself a matter of celebration – regardless of the fact that in modern democratic nations, such events are part of the regular routine work of successful governments. But there is also an additional victory – one for human rights activists, no less. For the first time in the history of the country, the transgender community will be included in the upcoming census, thanks to the valiant efforts of a member of the community, Waqar Ali, and his advocate, Sheraz Zaka. Considering recent events, Pakistan’s human rights record being less than stellar as it is – and particularly miserable in the case of minorities and the transgender community – this is indeed cause for celebration.
Our intentions are not to demean the efforts made by the government, but if this upcoming census and its – hopeful — success prove anything, it is the necessity of each successive government’s attention to projects that actually matter – projects that will actually make a difference in peoples’ lives. People resist a census, but it is here that the government must show its influence, campaigning to ensure that the people are forthcoming and the results accurate. As demographers, economists and analysts await the results, we too will wait forMarch 15 to see what this election year spurs the PML-N government to achieve.