Mir Qudoos Bizenjo forced to approve census results: Kamran Murtaza

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ISLAMABAD: The Ex chief minister of Balochistan, Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo was “forced” to approve the 2023 national census results, senior counsel Kamran Murtaza revealed before the Supreme Court on Monday.

A three-member bench, headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan, took up the appeal filed against the August 29 Balochistan High Court’s decision to dismiss a petition challenging the province’s final population count in the census results.

While representing the appellant, Mr Murtaza requested the court to declare the high court’s decision void.

The petitioner claimed that the population of Balochistan was reported to be around 21.7 million till the final phase of the census process. However, in the final report, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics — which carried out the census — slashed it by almost 7m to bring the count to 14.89m.’

The “reduced count” was then approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) in August.

When the bench pointed out that the then Balochistan chief minister had endorsed the results at the CCI meeting, Advocate Murtaza replied that the consent was “forced”. TV channels had even aired the news that CM Bizenjo wouldn’t attend the meeting on Aug 5, he added.

When Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhel asked where the ex-CM was and who took him to the meeting, the lawyer said, “he was sleeping and taken to the meeting on a plane”.

Later Mr Murtaza said that remarks were made “on a lighter note”.

During the proceeding, the lawyer argued that Balochistan would have got 10 additional National Assembly seats “had the population not been reduced”.

The CCI’s decision would also adversely affect the province’s quota in government jobs and its share in the National Finance Commission Award — a revenue-sharing model under which each province gets money from the centre based on multiple parameters, with population having 82pc weightage.

Justice Ahsan suggested that he raise the issue in parliament as under Article 154 of the Constitution, CCI’s decision could be set aside by a joint sitting of the two houses.

Mr Murtaza, who is a senator from the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl), said he had raised the issue in the Senate, and members had even walked out in protest.

The lawyer continued that the CCI was not properly constituted when it approved the census results, adding that there were caretaker governments in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa when the meeting was convened.

Under Article 153 of the Constitution, the president appoints the council on the advice of the prime minister, who also heads the body.

Its members include the four provincial chief ministers and ministers of planning, inter-provincial coordination and power.

The court issued notices to the attorney general and the Balochistan advocate general and adjourned the hearing till next week.

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