In a country where it is difficult to believe any numbers or statistics provided by the government, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to believe the figures provided on how many people have died in Pakistan this year during the current pandemic.
An investigative piece by Umar Cheema in The News asks the question why it is that fewer people have died in the first 5 months of 2020 than died last year, even though this year we also face the menace of Covid19! “If official statistics are to be believed, the number of deaths in first five months of this year have been lower than the corresponding period of the previous year, a calculation that raises question about the integrity of data in a country where there is no proper system to keep the death count. At a time when coronavirus has affected many areas, the news of low death rate is greeted with skepticism and the officials have their own explanations but they are not plausible enough to answer relevant questions.”
When officials were asked for their explanations puzzling replies were given, as The News piece shows. “The News spoke to different officials in Karachi asking them relevant questions for determining the veracity of data but couldn’t find single official who would claim to be in complete picture. The city administration referred to the Citizens Police Liaison Committee. A spokesperson of CPLC said they had only shared data related to deaths in road accidents and homicides. Who collected from the graveyard remains unexplored. A leading politician from Sindh government was caught by disbelief after going through data. “Many graveyards of Karachi are full to the capacity and further burial is banned nevertheless it is done with the connivance of grave diggers. Keeping record of those burials means for grave diggers preparing a charge sheet against them,” he said.”
Further, “In Punjab, officials say they have collected details from all graveyards in each district to determine the number of dead buried there. In Lahore, for examples, there are 274 (defunct) union councils and 906 graveyards, according to official figures. The number of death from January to May 2020 has been shown lower than the corresponding period in previous year. In cases, difference is too high to believe. Asked if there is any system of keeping record of deaths in Punjab, the answer was in negative. Then how did they gather not only this year’s statistics but of also corresponding period in the previous year? An official said the grave diggers are supposed to maintain register and that was the source of information. The News checked from different sources and came to know that there is no institutionalized system in place at graveyard level. People tend to report death at union council level only when inevitable, say, when it is required for property transfer etc. The News also checked from other districts and found out there is no cumulative figure available, regardless the authenticity. A commissioner, for example, shared the data of his division. It was a kind of sample representation at best. Details of dead from a couple of graveyards from each district were collected to determine a pattern; not more than that. While KP has not carried out any such exercise, Balochistan has gathered this year’s information. Asked how that was arranged, the spokesman of Balochistan government said this was based on the daily situation report each commissioner get from districts under his/her administration.”