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Pakistani military to monitor 2008 census

This will take place despite opposition from the 'nationalists' in Balochistan and Sindh who view the armed forces as 'colonisers'.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2006 13:11 IST

An estimated 175,000 Pakistani military personnel, including 2,000 army officers, will monitor the 2008 census in the country despite opposition from "nationalists" in Balochistan and Sindh who view the armed forces as "colonisers".

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz has approved the deployment, particularly in "sensitive areas" to ensure the census exercise is "accurate and credible", the Daily Times reported, quoting a senior official.

The "extraordinary approval" to deploy soldiers for census operations was given at the cabinet meeting here earlier this week but Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed did not announce this at his press briefing.

Pakistan conducted its first four post-independence head counts in 1951, 1961, 1972 and 1981.

The fifth census, due in 1991, was delayed for want of a consensus among the four provinces and was undertaken in 1998 with army assistance.

The official said "nationalists" in Balochistan and interior Sindh might react "seriously" against the cabinet's decision and that murmurs were already being heard.

Documents placed before the cabinet quoted the Statistics Division as saying the armed forces would have to monitor the census process to make it "accurate and credible".

The division's summary said one uniformed person should be attached to each enumerator.

"There should also be a supervisory tier and some positioning in sensitive areas for law and order purposes," it added.

Baloch "nationalists" are already agitating against the "colonisation" of their land, particularly Gwadar, the site of the country's biggest naval base and port, where outsiders have purchased land.

Several housing societies are being constructed in Gwadar and people from Punjab, as also from Karachi and Islamabad, are buying land, the official added.

"The sale of land, followed by the permanent settlement of outsiders, has already triggered a law and order situation as Baloch leaders are accusing Islamabad of converting the majority into the minority," the official said.