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February 14, 2016

Population census likely to be postponed

National

February 14, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The long-awaited 6th population census is all set to be postponed again mainly because of non availability of required number of army personnel and inability of the Centre to convince Balochistan over lingering controversy of counting Afghan nationals, it has been learnt.

“It is matter of just official announcement now regarding postponement of the house listing and population census exercise by end March/ early April this year mainly because of non-availability of required number of army personnel for undertaking this exercise because of its hectic engagements in Zarb-e-Azb, operations in Karachi and other parts of the country,” official sources confirmed to ‘The News’ here on Saturday.

The last census was held in 1998 and it was due after 10 years in 2008. Now eight extra years have been passed without census exercise which possessed a far-reaching impact on delimitation of constituencies for National Assembly and resource distribution formula under National Finance Commission (NFC) Award.

The Army’s Air Defence Unit was working to make assessment of total required strength for holding the next population census.

Federal Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar had assigned Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) to get response of the Army in writing so that the government could take final decision on the basis of any official confirmation. The PBS high-ups were told to contact the Army through the Ministry of Defence for getting official response.

In verbal discussions, the Army had indicated deployment of 100,000 jawans for providing support to census exercise against total requirement of 375,000 personnel.

In last census held in 1998, there were total 104,000 census blocks in the country for which the Army had deployed 255,000 personnel in totality from commander to jawans. Now the numbers of blocks have been increased to 166,801 in all over the country and initial assessment projected that total required deployment stood at 375,000 all over the country.

As the Army was actively engaged in different parts of the country, so it was proposed to hold the census in phases but the government rejected it. Then the proposal of assigning one enumerator to two blocks came under discussion which was also opposed by statistics experts on technical grounds.

“Now PBS high-ups are going to apprise the finance minister about whole details about deployment plan and then the government will take formal decision on holding the next population census,” said the official.

It was the forum of Council of Common Interests (CCI) under chairmanship of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and comprising four provincial chief ministers in which the decision of holding census by end March was approved with support of the Army.

Ishaq Dar is going to apprise the prime minister about latest situation after which the government will make its formal decision on holding the next census.

Another stumbling block in the way of census was the issue of counting Afghan nationals as it could disturb ratio of Pashtuns and Balochs in different districts of Balochistan.

Balochistan has not yet appointed its provincial census commissioner as the provincial government has objected to counting of Afghan nationals during the census exercise that will change population ratios between Pashtuns and Balochs in different districts of the province.

“The provincial government of Balochistan has not even appointed enumerators owing to obvious reasons as they want to resolve the issue of counting Afghans first before moving ahead with appointment of enumerators and other field staff,” said the sources.

In another relevant development, the PBS high-ups called back its staff from census related activities to undertake routine surveys which also showed that the possibility of population census was in serious danger.

However, Statistics Division sent back official response to the Ministry of Finance regarding different queries raised by parliamentarians on holding the population census.

They stated that the civilian side was making all arrangements under which house listing and counting exercise will be conducted simultaneously under prescribed rules and regulations.

The gypsies/ homeless will be counted in one day by end of this census exercise.

On counting aliens, they said that there was no mechanism available with the PBS to differentiate between locals and Afghans, so whosoever possessed CNIC will be counted during the census exercise.

The enumerators cannot perform duty of judiciary or law enforcing agencies to authenticate CNIC or declaring documents illegal.

This scribe made effort to contact with Chief Statistician and Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa for seeking official comments on Saturday but got no response till filing of this report.

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