ISLAMABAD: Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday approved the plan to spare 200,000 troops in order to support the sixth population and housing census in the country which starts from the middle of March.
A statement issued by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said up to 200,000 troops would be employed for the conduct of the census being done for the first time since 1998. The military’s media wing, however, added that the army, despite sparing such a huge number for the national exercise, would continue other security responsibilities.
A military official while speaking on condition of anonymity explained that the deployment of troops for the census would not in any way affect the ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb as well as the campaign in Karachi. The official also clarified that the troops would be employed not for security duties but that their main role would be to support the conduct of the census.
The sixth census was due in 2008 but successive governments could not undertake the key national exercise citing logistical problems due to military’s preoccupation with the fight against terrorism. The federal government finally had to agree to conduct the census after the intervention of the Supreme Court.
The first phase of the census due to begin from mid-March would be completed in mid-April, while the second phase is likely to be initiated from April 24 and would end in mid-May.
Preliminary results of the national population census would start arriving in June and will be made public accordingly.
For conducting the census, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has already divided the country’s population into 168,120 blocks, each block consisting of about 200 to 250 households, the sources said, adding that over 84,000 enumerators would be involved in the nationwide exercise.
While the census is supposed to occur once every 10 years, Pakistan has not had one since 1998. The incumbent government initially agreed to hold the census in March 2015. However, it cited a lack of preparation and delayed it for another year. The government, then, cited the need for the armed forces to be available as the census could not be held without their help.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2017.
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