Dawn Publishes Misleading Story about Balochistan’s Population Census

Adnan Aamir
Quetta: A story published on front page of Dawn Newspaper on Monday carries misleading title and information about changes in population of Balochistan after release of district – wise census figures.
Story of dawn titled “Number of Balochi-speaking people in Balochistan falls” has an incorrect title. In fact the census data based on language spoken by people is not released so far. However, one can calculate the population of Baloch majority districts which has not fallen but increased for obvious reasons.
The first paragraph of the Dawn story states:
The Balochi-speaking population appears to have shrunk marginally in 21 districts of Balochistan over a period of 19 years, whereas no growth in population has been recorded in the nine Pashtun-majority districts.
This paragraph makes two claims about Baloch and Pashtun population and both are wrong. Population of 21 Baloch-majority districts has not shrunk but increased over the period of 19 years. Population of these districts was 3.9 million in 1998 which has increased to 6.8 million in current census. This marks a 74% increase in the population of these districts which in no way can be called ‘shirking population.’
Read also: No Major Change in Ethnic Balance of Balochistan: Census Data Analysis Proves
Dawn story also states that there has been no growth in the population of 9 Pashtun-majority districts. This is again incorrect. Population of these 9 districts has increased from 1.7 million in 1998 to 3.1 million in 2017 which marks a 79% increase.
Fourth paragraph of Dawn story reads:
According to the census results, the Baloch population has shrunk from 61pc to 55.6pc in the province over a period of 19 years in 21 districts where the Baloch form a majority. However, the total number of Baloch people has increased from 4 million in 1998 to 6.86m in 2017. The count does not include the population of two districts — Quetta and Sibi — where people of various ethnicities, including Baloch and Pashtun also reside.
This paragraph calculates changes in the Baloch and Pashtun population while excluding Quetta and Sibi districts as they mixed ethnic populations. Over the period of 19 years, share of 21 Baloch majority districts in total population of Balochistan (excluding Quetta and Sibi) has reduced from 69.27% to 68.57%. The Dawn story claims these figures to be 61% to 55.6% which are incorrect and can easily be counter-checked by anyone using the district-wise census data available on website of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
Moreover, 8th paragraph of the Dawn story makes following claims:
The population of the nine districts, where the Pashtun-speaking population is in majority, accounts for 26pc of the total Balochistan population. This is a slight fall from 26.6pc over a period of 19 years.
This part of the story again makes the incorrect claim that share of 9 Pashtun majority districts in total population of Balochistan (excluding Quetta and Sibi) has reduced from 26.6% to 26% since 1998. The correct figures are that share of these districts has increased from 30.37% to 31.43%.
The social media post of Dawn about this story was even more erroneous. The post on twitter stated that population of Balochistan has shrunk from 61% to 55.6%. This is incorrect for obvious reasons because the population of Balochistan has increased by 88% since 1998 census.
Note: Dawn website took dawn the twitter post couple of days after it was pointed out by Balochistan Voices.
Mistakes made by dawn in Calculations
In 4th and 8th Paragraph Dawn has stated incorrect figures due to a simple arithmetic mistake. While calculating the share of Baloch and Pashtun majority districts in total population of Balochistan they have used population of 30 (21+9) districts in numerator and 32 districts (including Quetta and Sibi) in denominator.
This basic arithmetic mistake has led the story to arrive at the incorrect shares of Baloch and Pashtun majority district populations in census 2017 at 55% and 25% respectively.
Implications of misleading News
Dawn is arguably the most trusted newspaper in Pakistan and every news published in this daily is considered an undeniable fact. When Dawn publishes a misleading story, on Front Page, which makes inaccurate claims about population changes in Balochistan then it generates speculations. Census and the ethnic population balance are delicate subjects in Balochistan and any inaccurate news about these subjects published in Dawn will further make the census controversial for no reason.

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Adnan Aamir is founder and Editor of Balochistan Voices. He also works as an independent journalist covering politics, economy, and development. He is Digital Security Fellow of Reporters Without Borders 2019. He has also completed Chevening South Asian Journalism fellowship from the University of Westminster in 2018.