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Chief commissioner links census to availability of army men

February 25, 2016

Says security plan not devised so far; final decision on census date to be taken in CCI meeting

ISLAMABAD: Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa on Wednesday linked the timely holding of the population census to the availability of the Pakistan Army personnel.

Asif Bajwa, Chief Statistician of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), who also holds the portfolio of Chief Census Commissioner, told a Senate panel that the population census might be delayed for a few months because of non-availability of the required number of army personnel and that the security plan for the mega exercise could not be devised so far.

“The best season for holding the population census is in March/April or September/October. The scheduled census might be delayed for a few months but the ultimate decision will be taken in the upcoming meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI),” Bajwa told the Senate Standing Committee on Finance here at the Parliament House.

When the chairman of the committee, Senator Saleem Mandviwalla inquired why census could not be held in phases, the census chief replied that under the United Nations guidelines, the exercise must be accomplished within a 15 to 45 days period and there was recognised reference period in which this exercise must be completed. He said it was done in restricted period to avoid the movement of population from one area to another.

He said the PBS had proposed to complete the house listing and counting of population in 19 days as in the first three days, the house listing would be completed and the next 15 days would be used for counting population while one day would be required to count the homeless or gypsies.

When asked by senators whether there was a constitutional requirement to hold the census under the army’s support, he replied that there was no such constitutional requirement but it was being down owing to security situation. The census exercises held in 1951, 1961, 1972 and 1981 were held by civilians without any support from the military, but for the census held in 1998 the army’s support was sought and it became an acceptable census for all and sundry.

For counting the IDPs belonging to Fata, he said a separate form would be filled in by enumerators by getting information from identity cards and at the time of the compilation of data, their entry would be shown into native villages or towns.

Senator Mohsin Leghari raised the issue of counting aliens into the census exercise. The Nadra high-ups told the committee that the census authorities could not share their data with anyone but they were making efforts to block the illegal identity cards. So far they have blocked 140,000 CNICs out of which 75,000 were blocked in Balochistan.

However, the PBS high-ups told the committee that the enumerators would have to count everyone who was living at the time of holding the census in the country. “I cannot share the data with anyone under the existing law and international conventions,” Bajwa added.

He said that they held a meeting with the ministries of Interior, Safron and other stakeholders in which it was decided that Nadra would share its data of the blocked CNICs with the census authorities and the blocked CNICs would be ousted at the time of compilation of the data at central level.

 Muhammad Anis adds: The government and the opposition on floor of the National Assembly on Wednesday developed a consensus on holding of house and population census next month.

Speaking on a point of order, Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah said that the opposition parties appreciated the holding of house and population census as the last exercise was undertaken 18 years ago. “You should move ahead with the holding of census,” Khursheed Shah said, adding that there should be no negative politics on this issue.

However, the opposition leader wanted to know composition of the apex committee which had been constituted to monitor the countrywide exercise. He also proposed that the census could be held in phases instead of doing it in a short time of three days as the government would also require the services of the armed forces for this purpose.

The JUI-F parliamentarians, including Naeema Kishwar, also raised the issue of census and non-inclusion of the problems of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the forthcoming meeting of the CCI.

Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada told the House that the meeting of the CCI would be held on 29th of this month to sort out the issues of the provinces. He said the issue of the forthcoming census was also on the CCI agenda for its review as the provinces would be assured that no province would be deprived of its rights.

Riaz Pirzada told the House that almost all preparations had been made for the holding of the population and house census in the country. He said the government had allocated Rs14.5 billion for this purpose and all the census material had been procured. He said that negotiations with the armed forces’ officials were going on for deployment of armed forces personnel during the exercise.

He said as suggested by the leader of the opposition, the census could be held in phases. “The census will not be conducted if consensus is not reached in the CCI meeting,” he said.