KARACHI - Speakers at a panel discussion here on Saturday noted that initial census results did not show Karachi’s population accurately and demanded that a random census should be taken in at least one per cent of area of 14,000 census blocks of the city to check accuracy of the 6th population and housing census.

The speakers said that earlier all scientifically held surveys and estimates, including that of Federal Bureau of Statistics’, had shown that Karachi’s population had crossed the 20 million mark. So in no way any of the concerned quarters in the city would accept the initial census results, which showed Karachi population at mere 16.51 million.

The National Forum for Environment and Health (NFEH) and the Environmental Management Consultants (EMC) had arranged the discussion on initial census results under their “Save Karachi” concept. Some speakers suggested that services of a credible and trustworthy national institution like the Pakistan Army should be utilised to do a random sample census activity in Karachi to countercheck initial census count of the federal government.

Speaking on the occasion, noted economist Dr Kaiser Bengali said that a follow-up exercise had to be carried out to verify the initial census results as it showed such anomalies and discrepancies, which could not be ignored by any expert having basic understanding of demographic research and survey methods. He said it was not at all essential to do the proposed sample census survey under the auspices of the army as the Sindh government with the support of certain specialised agencies could easily do the job to verify initial census results.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Dr Farooq Sattar said a proper census should count each and every person who lives in Karachi irrespective of his or her ethnic or linguistic background. Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman said that as per previous estimates Karachi’s population should not be less than 20.45 million.

Former Karachi administrator Captain Fahim Zaman Khan said the federal government didn’t properly utilise 12 million dollar grant of the United Nations Population Fund for setting up three data processing centres in different cities. Noted industrialist Dr Mirza Ikhtiar Baig said that reservations regarding recently conducted census drive had to be allayed as the entire process had become controversial and serious objections had been raised by political parties and non-government organisations.

Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas said that Karachi was no more a manageable and governable city irrespective of its fresh population count. He said that politicians who got the chance to rule the country didn’t establish institutions, which could take census in a fair manner as army had to be called to supervise the process like many other routine functions of the civilian government.

Summing up the debate, the Sindh information minister said the provincial government had serious reservations about the initial census results. It has already rejected preliminary census count of the province, he added.