Population census to be held in March at any cost, says chief statistician PBS

He said no possible impact of recent wave of terrorism on national headcount exercise

Shahbaz Rana February 18, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The long-awaited population census will be held next month at any cost, the chief statistician of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) said on Saturday.

“The security situation [in the country] has deteriorated over this week and we pray it does not get any worse,” said Asif Bajwa at a session organised to brief the media about the upcoming exercise.

“But there is no ‘plan B’. We are on our way to hit the ground on March 15. The census will be held at any cost.”

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Bajwa said that having a Computerised National Identity Card (CNIC) was not compulsory for one to be counted during the census. PBS has sought the powers of a magistrate for its enumerators to punish at the spot those who refuse to provide information.

The army will have its own form – interestingly called form 786 – which will register the details of foreigners. The PBS form mentions only Pakistani or other nationality. But the army will ask foreigner’s the name of their country of origin.

Those who refuse to participate in the national headcount will be liable to pay a Rs50,000 fine and serve a six-month prison term, said PBS Member Census and Survey Habibullah Khan. He said a summary has been sent to the law ministry to give enumerators judicial powers.

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The results of the sixth population census are very crucial for planning, distribution of National Assembly seats and financial resources among the federating units, delimitation of the constituencies and allocation of job quotas among the provinces.

The exercise will begin with house-listing on March 15 and will be completed in two phases on May 25. The summary results of the census, comprising district-wise population details, urban-rural population and male-female ratio will be ready within two months, by July 25.

Overseas Pakistanis will not be counted if they are not present on March 18. The exercise will cost Rs30.2 billion, of which Rs22.2 billion will go to the army.

The summary results will be given to the Election Commission of Pakistan for delimitation of the constituencies, said Bajwa. The PBS Member Census hoped that the ECP would accept these results as official results.

Bajwa vowed that the individual data of the citizens will be confidential and cannot even share with the courts. While responding to a question, Bajwa said that the information regarding employment, migration, disability and birth would be collected from households after completion of the population census. He said that due to paucity of time and scarcity of human resource, the Council of Common Interests decided pending this exercise.

Habibullah said that there was no column for temporarily displaced persons (TDPs) as, according to the Fata Secretariat, all of them had returned to their homes by December 2016.

In order to address concerns about the Afghan refugees, provincial government representatives will accompany the enumerators in Afghan concentration areas.

The census exercise would help capture some interesting socio-economic patterns in addition to providing information about the numbers of people living in Pakistan. The maximum age limit for counting people is 85 years. The followers of five religions – Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Qadiani/Ahmadi and Scheduled Caste – will be counted. Rest will be categorised in others. Sikh religion followers are not among the five. People will have options to tick one of ten languages as native language. The questioner form will also capture data about level of education.

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