On Tuesday, the Senate Committee on Privatisation and Statistics urged the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) to verify one percent of the 168,000 blocks of the census to increase credibility of the national headcount. The parliamentary committee also claimed that the army had different census results as compared to the PBS. Chief Statistician (Asif Bajwa) clarified that PBS and the army had the same results, and that multiple institutions were involved specifically to increase the validity of the census. For certain sections of the parliament to claim the results are invalid is just prolonging the inevitable delineation of constituencies.

Increasing the credibility of the census is no real excuse, it is clear that the parties have an issue with the results themselves – the overwhelming increase in the population of Punjab and Lahore has led to fear among opposition parties of even greater support for parties such as PML-N, however pointing holes in the census will not do much good.

All those sitting in parliament currently arguing against the results were aware the exercise was a mere head count and would provide basic demographics; but supposedly due to lack of time, it was going to skip internal migration, taking into account expatriates, disability ratio, and mortality rates, etc. The reason was that mainstream parties would benefit from no drastic changes in the statistics, because that would have meant a dire challenge to the voting strength of these parties.

Now that the result to a long-delayed exercise is finally out and it it is not in their favour, opposition parties cannot stop pointing out irregularities without any substantial proof; if they had issues with the process itself, where were they when the framework was being laid out? They have finally realised that a change in the demographics of rural Punjab could be disadvantageous, but a cross-census survey is only a waste of time and resources.

Political parties need to understand that the time for raising issues over the headcount has passed, everything should not be turned into a political gimmick. Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif has also urged leaders of the federating units to not make the census controversial. The margin of error in this situation is merely two percent, which is why focusing on only 1 percent of the blocks is likely to give cause for opposition parties to raise even more of a ruckus. With the next election coming up, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) also needs time to work on delineation based on the new results. If that process is not completed, the new elections will be termed illegal according to the constitution of Pakistan. The opposition will have to live with the results and look towards actually doing something about the population problem.