Headcounts begins while house-listing still incomplete

Census staff encounters larger than anticipated number of units in Karachi

Shahbaz Rana March 17, 2017
Data collection for the ongoing census 2017 is underway in Hyderabad, Sindh. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Friday did not formally conclude the house-listing exercise after it received complaints, mainly from Karachi, that all households could not be marked due to larger than anticipated number of housing units in an administrative block.

“In areas where the house-listing exercise could not be completed by the end of March 17, it will continue on Saturday as well,” said Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa while addressing a news conference. “We do not have option to leave homes unnumbered, as every household and living soul has to be counted,” said Bajwa while responding to a question whether the PBS would consider formally extending the house-listing exercise.

The PBS has divided the country into 168,275 blocks and each block comprises 250 to 300 housing units, to be covered by a civilian enumerator along with Pakistan Army personnel.

However, political parties and demographic experts had objected to the PBS’s planning on the ground that the blocks were not sufficient to cover the whole population, particularly in the congested cities like Karachi. Their apprehensions became true.

Pakistan has undertaken the population census after 19 years and its results will be used for delimitation of constituencies, division of fiscal resources and allocation of civil service quotas among the four federating units.

Officers sent home for neglecting census duties

However, the government agreed to hold the census only after the Supreme Court forced it to do, as it was delaying the headcount under one pretext or the other. The PML-N government is also reluctant to finalise new National Finance Commission award.

The first phase of the 6th population census in 63 districts of the country was launched on Tuesday, which will continue till the end of this month.

The Council of Common Interests (CCI) had approved March 15 to 17 for house-listing, to be followed by the population census from March 18, which has been declared as National Census Reference Day.

Bajwa maintained that the house-listing and population census activities would go side by side in areas where all households could not be numbered within the stipulated time.

He did not give details of the areas that could not be covered during the three-day exercise, saying “the exact information can only be shared after getting feedback from field formations”.

To a question whether the 168,275 figure of blocks would be increased following complaints about higher than anticipated houses in a block, Bajwa said: “The PBS is deploying more staff to cover additional homes and will not increase the number.”

The chief statistician said people constantly complained about leaving their homes unnumbered by the census staff. Such complaints are coming from the areas where the blocks are very large, he added.

Bajwa said the PBS has 10% reserve staff and has capacity to cover all targeted areas.

“The authorities concerned have decided to use the time allotted to count homeless people to cover those areas that would remain unmarked because of some reason,” said another official of the PBS.

The official said homeless people would be counted during night time, adding that due to a tight schedule, the house-listing exercise could not be extended for two days across the country.

“The extension may affect the schedule of the second phase of the exercise,” Bajwa said.

The chief census commissioner said the PBS had complied with the Supreme Court directives and asked its staff to separately count disabled men, women and transgender. “However, the BHC’s direction that foreigners should not be counted cannot be honoured, as every living person in the country has to be counted for better economic and social planning.”

He said: “The data of foreigners will be separately compiled.”

Bajwa said there was no major setback to the house-listing exercise and everything largely remained smooth.


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