Unearthing The Balochistan Census And Delimitation Saga Of 2023

After the dissolution of the One unit, British Baluchistan (Pashtun belt of current Baluchistan) and Kalat states union were merged and the current Baluchistan was formed against the will of the Pashtun Leadership of British Baluchistan.

Unearthing The Balochistan Census And Delimitation Saga Of 2023

Census in Baluchistan has always remained disputed and a bone of contention between Pashtuns and Baluch nations historically.  In the British era, the census of British Baluchistan (Pashtun Belt of the current Baluchistan) and Kalat states union took place six times. The synchronous census of British Baluchistan on all occasions involved Extra assistant commissioners, Tahsildars, and other Government officials while in the Kalat states union the census was conducted with the help of Munshis of Sardars who deliberately put the number of people at the highest possible pitch to obtain maximum resources and privileges from the British govt. The unblushing exaggeration of the population by Baloch tribal chiefs is mentioned in the census report 1901 “The states (Kalat sates union) were estimated on an approximate tribal basis. The results of the census were admittedly rough. The population, more specifically in the states, was felt to be overestimated”.

After the dissolution of the One unit, British Baluchistan (Pashtun belt of current Baluchistan) and Kalat states union were merged and the current Baluchistan was formed against the will of the Pashtun Leadership of British Baluchistan.

Every census after the creation of this province has been a controversial one. In 1998, The Pashtun Nationalist Party, Pashtunkhwa Mili Awami Party, boycotted the census and convened a Grand Pashtun National Jirga against the irregularities and biases in the enumeration. The issue of the fraudulent census and uneven distribution of resources continues to haunt the Pashtun belt of Baluchistan.

The recent digital census 2023, conducted by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and approved by CCI, is facing serious criticism from Political parties of Baluchistan terming it a “fraudulent Digital census”. Districts with the Baloch population have shown enormous growth crossing the world population growth rate over the last 5 years. Awaran district has recorded a population growth of 6.64, Washuk with 9.51, Kharan with 8.17, Panjgur with 8.36, Surab with 5.54, Jhal Magsi with 5.3 and Kachi has recorded a growth rate of 6.14. on the other hand, Pashtun districts have recorded a lower growth rate than the world population growth rate. Chaman district has recorded a growth rate of merely 1.18, Kila Saifullah with 1.74, Kila Abdullah with 1.88, Musakhail with 1.45, Loralai with 1.83, Pishin with 2.12 and Quetta with 2.27.

Growth of the population depends upon factors such as mortality rate, fertility rate, number of people migrating towards the said district and number of people leaving the district. All these factors favour the growth rate of Pashtun belt compared to the Baloch belt where there is insurgency. Despite that the results are vice versa. 

Another interesting thing is the voter registration and its ratio to the population of the high-growth districts. Washuk district has a population of 302623 while according to ECP voter statistics the voters in the aforementioned district are 65939 which means only 21% of people are voters.

Similarly, in Surab 22.02%, in Panjgur 23%, in Kharan 25.63%, in Jafarabad 22.62%, in kachi 33% of people are voters. On the other hand, Pashtun districts, which have recorded lower population growth, have more voter ratio than Baloch districts. In Loralai voters make up 42.96% of the population, in Musakhail 41.19%, in Kila Abdullah 43.64, in chaman 37%, in Pishin 36%, and in Harnai 35% of people are voters. This marks a serious question on the authenticity of the Baloch districts population and their abnormal growth rate. In 1998, when PKMAP boycotted the census, the difference between Pashtun and Baloch populations was 0.3 million, and today it is almost 1.5m.

Besides enumeration, the delimitation of the electoral constituencies has also remained a problem. In 2018 the delimitations of Quetta city took place in such a manner that ECP violated its own rule of going north to south, clockwise, and then following a zig-zag pattern in forming the constituency. Pashtun majority towns were split into halves and clubbed with nan Pashtun majority areas. When the candidates filed a case against the delimitation, the case faced an unreasonable delay in announcing the decision.

The decision invalidated the delimitations of Quetta but was announced just two days before the election. ECP could not change the delimitations in such a short period. The honorable judge of the tribunal, when retired, joined A Baloch nationalist party and became a central committee member of the party.

The recent delimitations of ECP have once again left the Pashtun belt in agitation. The first principle of delimitation by ECP states, “All constituencies for general seats shall, as far as practicable, be limited having regard to the distribution of population in geographically compact areas, physical features, existing boundaries of administrative units, facilities of communication, public convenience and other cognate factors, to ensure homogeneity in the creation of constituencies.”

 The cognate factor seems to be violated in forming PB-4 Musakhail cum Barkan and PB-8 Harnai cum Sibi. For districts, if the population/quota per seat is greater than 0.50 the district qualifies for a seat. Awaran having a share of 0.61 with a population of 178958 has been awarded a separate provincial assembly seat. Contrary to Awaran the Musakhail and Sherani with 0.62 and 0.66 respectively have not been awarded separate seats but clubbed with Barkan and Zhob districts. In the case of Musakhail, the cognate factor stands, and in clubbing Awaran with panjgur there isn’t any cognate factor, still, Awaran is awarded.

Chaman with a population of 466218 and 1.60 shares, clearly eligible for two seats, has been awarded one single seat. Even if Kila Abdullah and Chaman are clubbed they would jointly have a share of 2.84 making them eligible for three seats. Before Chaman became a district, it was part of Kila Abdullah and enjoyed 3 seats.

When it comes to the national assembly the Pishin district alone has 0.89 shares making it eligible for a separate seat but it has been clubbed with Ziarat. The ECP in its notification states that Harnai is clubbed with sibi because it falls in the same Sibi division. While Ziarat which is also in the Sibi division has been clubbed with the pishin of the Quetta division. Harnai and Musakhail had separate provincial seats and former Kila Abdullah before the formation of Chaman district had three seats. Today Chaman and Kila Abdullah each have one seat. Pashtun belt has lost three provincial assembly seats. For the last two months, PkMAP has been protesting against the fraudulent digital census. Hundreds of thousands joined the protests in every district and the Pashtun Nationalists are looking forward to accelerating and widening the protests.

 The abnormal growth rate, the voter-to-population ratio, share per seat, and delimitation principles may look like technical issues, but it isn’t. Once, at the Quetta Literary Festival, Kaiser Bengali said, “Behind Every technical issue there is a political issue”.