Increase font size Decrease font size Reset font size

Census impossible without army personnel, SC told

By Our Staff Reporter 2016-07-15
ISLAMABAD: The federal government told the Supreme Court on Thursday that it was not possible for them to propose a fresh schedule for conducting the population census due to the non-availability of around 167,000 armed forces personnel, who are to be deployed at a man-to-man level.

`Due to their deployment in Zarb-i-Azb and other security-related tasks, the required number of personnel cannot be made available for the census operation,` said a report submitted to the Supreme Court by Additional Attorney General Mohammad Waqar Rana, on behalf of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

The report was presented in compliance with the apex court`s instructions, issued when a bench took suo motu action on the delay in holding a census.

A two-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, is expected to take up the matter today (Friday).

The population census is the biggest logistic exercise in peacetime, involving the mobilisation of around 200,000 people, including 167,000 enumerators, one for each block an exercise that will incur an expenditure of R s14.5 billion.

`It is a multi-dimensional and multi-stage exercise which requires planning and coordination across the country in order to reach every household from Khunjerab to Karachi, the PBS representative explained.

Referring to meetings with the GHQ`s Military Operations directorate, PBS maintained that defence authorities had mentioned that availability of armed forces for census operation could only be ensured once the security situation in the country improves.

Moreover, GHQ`s Chief of Army Staff Secretariat, in a letter, also pointed out the issue of Afghan refugees in Balochistan, which would adversely impact the ethnic profile of the province. Unless the computerised national identity cards issued to Afghan citizens were cancelled, it will be impossible to conduct a census, the report said.The report stated that PBS had presented this position to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) in its meeting on Feb 29.

Consequently, the CCI had decided that the supervision of the armed forces at a man-toman level was a pre-requisite to ensure credibility, transparency and security of the census operation. Therefore, the census which was to be conducted in March-April this year was postponed due to the non-availability of armed forces personnel, the report said.

However, the PBS representative insisted that they were in constant consultation with provincial governments and the defence ministry to take them on board and ensure the availability of the required number of army personnel for the census, but maintained that the preparation of a fresh schedule for the census operation was not possible, the report said categorically.

Meanwhile, PBS is exploring other alternative methodologies for holding a census, and an international conference is being held towards the end of July, where speakers will share methods of conducting a census in different areas.

In Pakistan, the first four censuses i.e., 1951, 1961, 1972 and 1981, were held on time by the Population Census Organisation, in collaboration with staff from the provincial governments. The fifth census was due in 1991, the report said, adding that the House Listing Operation carried out in 1990 showed abnormal population growth in some parts of the country, which not be justified by normal demographic indicators.

Consequently, the government decided to postpone the 1991 census, it said, adding that another effort was made in 1994, which could not mature due to pressure by from political and ethnic groups. Finally, it was decided that the 1998 census would be held with the support of the armed forces, which was broadly accepted by all political parties and appreciated internally.

The sixth Population and Housing Census was due in 2008, but could not materialise due to the law and order situation in the country, a paucity of staff and financial constraints, the report said.