Imran Khan’s supporters have successfully repelled the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) threat to quit federal ministries. The threat had been made due to objections raised by the top PPP leadership over the ongoing digital census and the federal government’s failure to provide relief to flood victims in Sindh. However, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)-led coalition government has now allowed the provincial governments, particularly Sindh, access to the census monitoring dashboards. This decision has been taken to alleviate doubts raised by PPP and to keep the key ally from abandoning the ruling coalition at a time when the country is facing severe financial crises just ahead of the general elections in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
In a letter addressed to the chairman National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), the Chief Statistician of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), Dr Naeemuz Zafar, stated that the statistics required by the provincial governments, especially Sindh, may now be included in the monitoring dashboard. The chief census commissioner also directed NADRA teams to provide access to the dashboard by March 15 to all the deputy commissioners (DCs) and assistant commissioners (ACs) at all census district levels for broader involvement, transparency, and credibility of this national activity of extreme importance.
PPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had recently threatened to quit the ruling coalition if their reservations about the ongoing digital census were not addressed. Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon had conveyed the provincial government’s objections about the digital census to the federal government, and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had also raised the matter at various forums. To address PPP’s concerns and to keep the party in the ruling coalition, Minister for Planning, Development & Special Initiatives, Ahsan Iqbal, decided to allow access to the dashboards of the 7th Population & Housing Census to provincial governments in the 8th meeting of Census Monitoring Committee held on March 11.
This move by PML-N has successfully prevented PPP from distancing itself from the PDM government’s catastrophic failures on the governance and economic fronts. It remains to be seen how PPP will respond to this development in the coming days.