Delayed exercise: Census ‘not possible’ till March 2017, govt tells Senate

Says the issue will be taken up at the Council of Common Interests’ next meeting


Our Correspondent November 21, 2016
UNDP representative in Pakistan Neil Buhne said Pakistan’s huge population presented a major challenge. PHOTO: PID

ISLAMABAD: The population census is not possible before March next year but the issue will be taken up at the Council of Common Interests (CCI) in its expected meeting; the government informed the upper house on Monday.

“The population census will only be possible by March 2017,” Law Minister Zahid Hamid said in the Senate while responding to a motion from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Mohsin Aziz.

“The census cannot be carried out without the support of the armed forces. At present, the troops are involved in extensive engagements. The conduct of such a large-scale exercise requires time. It is subject to availability of troops,” he added.

Responding to the statement, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani said given the ongoing Pakistan-India tension, it was not likely that the required number of troops could be made available for the headcount in the near future. “Does that mean that the census has been put in cold storage?” he asked.



The minister said the issue was taken up by the CCI last year and it was decided that the census would go ahead.  “The matter will again be taken up at the next CCI meeting or so and the related summary has been prepared,” he said.

In June, the government avoided giving the exact date for the much-awaited count. “We are putting in place relevant arrangements for holding the census in November this year. If that is not possible, this exercise will be carried out in March next year,” the law minister told the Senate on June 14.

The government also opposed the opposition’s Right to Information Bill, 2016. The bill was moved by Kamil Ali Agha, Farhatullah Babar, Rubina Khalid, Karim Ahmed Khawaja and Daud Khan Achakzai. The bill aimed at ensuring transparency in the government’s official records and improving public access to related records.

State Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb opposed the bill, contending that government’s related bill was approved by the cabinet and would be introduced in the coming National Assembly session.

“An impression is given that the government is not doing work on the bill. This is completely wrong. On the direction of the prime minister, the government has completed a rigorous exercise of compiling the legislation. Extensive parliamentary, ministerial and legal review has been completed,” she said.

The Senate chairman referred the bill to the select committee of the Senate for further deliberation as the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting had already passed it.

Earlier, moving the bill in the upper house, Kamil Ali Agha said the provinces had already passed such bills. “The Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting has already passed the bill,” he pointed out. Seven bills were moved in the Senate on Monday and were referred to the committees concerned.

These included the Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University Islamabad (Amendment) Bill; the Right to Information Bill, the Juvenile Justice System (Amendment) Bill; the Islamabad Prohibition of Expressing Matters on Walls Bill; the National Commission for International Law and Commitments Bill; the Constitution (Amendment) Bill and the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (Amendment) Bill.

The session was adjourned till today.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2016.

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