ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday sought an explanation from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) for excluding questions seeking disability information during the sixth national population census, starting from March 15.
A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, expressed its concern over the exclusion of questions seeking information related to persons with disabilities.
The CJP observed, however, that the census process could not be halted at this stage. The hearing of the case was later adjourned till Thursday, March 16.
The development came during the hearing of a petition filed by advocate Raheel Kamran Sheikh on behalf of six persons with disabilities under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. The federal and provincial governments and the national and provincial councils for rehabilitation of disabled persons are among the respondents in the case.
The petitioners later moved a miscellaneous application requesting the top court to direct all departments concerned to ensure collection of necessary data on the incidence of disability besides ensuring proper identification of persons with disabilities, documenting impairments and categorising types, causes, duration and severity of the disabilities.
The petition stated that during the course of consultations with PBS, the petitioners were assured that the appropriate forms would contain questions in this regard.
“This was reflected in an earlier copy of the questionnaire generated by PBS and shared with the petitioners and called ‘Form 2’, however, the most recent version of the form excluded all such questions for collecting information about persons with disabilities,” read the petition. “It only deals with queries pertaining to demographic details of households.”
The petitioners contended that such omissions in ‘Form 2’ meant that the census would actually be limited to a ‘headcount’ exercise and crucial information for addressing various social challenges, such as assisting persons with disabilities, would once again not be collected and, therefore, remain unavailable.
The petitioners told the apex court that the paucity of reliable data in this regard largely obstructed effective enforcement of laws or policies intended to assist persons with disabilities.
According to them, if lawmakers and administrative functionaries continued to work with outdated data, they would continue to remain unaware of the actual number of people who needed specific intervention, treatment, training and rehabilitation.