Former Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) senator and a former Sindh minister Sassui Palijo on Monday vociferously opposed what she claimed was a surreptitious move to rob the district of Thatta of a provincial assembly seat in the ongoing delimitation exercise.
Palijo has accused the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) of shifting one seat away from Thatta to another district in the province, thus depriving the residents of the district of due representation.
In this regard, Palijo wrote to the ECP on Monday.
In her letter, she noted that Thatta district comprises Mirpursakro, Gharo, Gujjo, and other coastal areas of the district as Tehsils.
Expressing concerns over the haste shown by the concerned authorities during the digital censuses held earlier this year, she claimed that the census skipped all those people who had temporarily migrated away from the coastal areas in the aftermath of last year's floods.
She said that since the census, many of these people have returned.
But the net effect of the census was that not only did the census officials get a lower count for parts of Thatta, but its climate migrants and refugees were counted as residents of a different locality of Sindh, she claimed.
In the 2017 census, Thatta district was shown to comprise four talukas. The overall population of Thatta was recorded as 982,138, spread over the talukas of Ghorabari, Keti Bunder, Mirpur Sakro and Thatta. Overall, 805,662 people lived in rural areas of the district and the remaining in urban areas.
In the 2023 census, Thatta was shown to have a population of 1.083 million and a growth rate of 1.65. (Note: taluka level data of the 2023 census is not yet available.)
Based on this, each provincial assembly seat will be divided over a population of 428,432 people, up from 368,112 people in 2018.
Meanwhile, Palijo told The Friday Times that neither she nor the people of Thatta are ready to accept this new proposal from the Election Commission.
She added that Thatta has historical significance for all of Sindh and that they cannot be disenfranchised.
Palijo further argued that the census committee and other relevant authorities were informed about the phenomena of temporary migration of residents from remote areas of Thatta due to the floods, but these pleas went unheard.
The former senator further said that she had expressed her reservations over the recent census to the ECP.
She said that the digital census had drastically affected the real numbers of the population in district Thatta, which could mean the difference between a seat and, thus, representation in the provincial assembly.
While detailed reports of census counts have yet to be publicly released, Palijo claimed that Mirpur Sakro's population was shown to have lost around 10% of it after the digital census.
Expressing her concerns over ECP's alleged proposal to adjust a seat from Thatta elsewhere in the province, the former MPA advised the poll body to evaluate ground realities before taking any conclusive step.
Sassui Palijo has found success from Mirpur Sakro, which elected her into the provincial assembly, beating her rival Syed Ayaz Ali Shah Shirazi of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) during the general elections of 2002.
Her father, Ghulam Qadir Palijo, was elected as an MPA from the same constituency in 1993 and 1997.
Political analysts of the district fear that this attempt may lead to a merger of some areas of Thatta in Karachi to justify the seat shuffle.