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Contempt plea for not including Khowar in census form

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court has directed the chief statistician of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to respond to a contempt petition against the non-inclusion of Chitral’s Khowar language in the form for the forthcoming population census despite the court’s orders.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Ijaz Anwar fixed Oct 26 for next hearing into the petition of lawyer Shahid Ali Yaftali directing additional attorney general Aamir Javed to file the reply and inform the court about the steps taken for compliance with its orders.

Mr Javed said he contacted the PBS chief statistician, who insisted that steps had been taken for the inclusion of Khowar language in the census form.

He said it was likely that the language would be included in the form to ensure that the next population census determined the number of people speaking that language.

The petitioner, a resident of Chitral district, said before the last population census conducted by the PBS, he and intellectual and writer Dr Inayatullah Faizi had moved the high court seeking inclusion of the Khowar language in the census form.

He added that at that time, the PBS chief statistician had declared that as all arrangements had been finalised, they would ‘face severe problems’ to include that language in the form.

The petitioner, however, said the chief statistician had promised the inclusion of the Khowar language in the form to be developed for the next population census.

He said that the high court had disposed of the petition in June 2017 with the directions for the PBS to make that language part of the form for the seventh population census.

The petitioner said that he had learned that the new proforma prepared for the next population census didn’t include the Khowar language in an act, which amounted to committing the contempt of the court.

He contended that Khowar should be included in the population census form for being the third most widely spoken language of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa after Pashto and Hindko.

The petitioner also said that action should be taken against the officials responsible for non-compliance with the court’s earlier orders.

In the earlier petition, the petitioners had claimed that Khowar was the mother tongue of 1.5 million people living in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan and that it was also spoken in some Central Asian States.

They had contended that the absence of their language from the census form defeated the very purpose of the entire exercise as it would stop the government from knowing the exact number of the people speaking Khowar in the province.

The petitioners had also said the population census was meant to know the number of Pakistani residents and their living standards, poverty and literacy rates, the number of non-Muslims, languages spoken in the country and the standards of living in backward areas so that national resources could be justifiably utilised for the people’s welfare proportionately and accordingly.

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