ISLAMABAD: The government has suspended the process of independently verifying the results of the sixth housing and population census after differences emerged between the Council of Common Interests and the Senate over the modalities of the exercise.
The government had decided to verify 5% results of the census after Sindh claimed that its population had been understated by at least 10 million people.
Subsequently, an agreement was reached between the government and opposition parties to carry out the third party verification of the results.
“A joint meeting of the governing council of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and a three-member commission that was scheduled for February 16 to approve the terms of reference (ToRs) of the sample census had been cancelled on the Senate’s intervention,” said Ministry of Statistics Secretary Rukhsana Yasmeen on Tuesday.
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The PBS was in the process of short-listing a consultant firm to conduct 5% population survey to end the controversy surrounding the results of the last population census.
The secretary was giving a briefing to the National Assembly Standing Committee on Statistics that met under the chairmanship of Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani.
She said the CCI had mandated the PBS to hire a third party to validate the results of the census.
“The PBS has invited Expression of Interests from local firms and shortlisted 12 out of 18 applicants,” said the secretary.
“However, PPP’s Senator Taj Haider moved a motion in the Senate and argued that the third party means members of the Senate,” said Rukhsana Yasmeen.
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She said there was clear mismatch between the decision of the CCI and the Senate. “Therefore, the PBS has stopped the process temporarily.”
The secretary said the Senate has nominated Senator Raja Zafarul Haq to devise a future strategy and the PBS was waiting for a meeting with him.
But she said that the controversy over the sample verification would not affect the final results of the population census, hoping that the PBS would be able to tabulate the results by the end of April.
The secretary said that the PBS would table the final results before the CCI and it will be up to the constitutional body whether it wanted to announce the final results.
She said direct verification of the population would not be advisable because “these results are one year old and the government has to adopt the old methodology for the verification purposes”.
According to the provisional population census, the country’s total population was 207.74 million as of last year. The next general elections will take place on the basis of the provisional population results and the Election Commission of Pakistan has already begun the delimitation exercise of the constituencies.
MNA SA Iqbal Qadri raised questions over transparency in the delimitation exercise and said that the ECP was not sharing the details of the delimitation committee citing security as the reason.
The standing committee also inquired about the strategy of the statistics ministry after the Peshawar High Court set aside the appointment of three members of the PBS.
The provincial court had declared the orders of appointments of Member Census & Survey, Member Human Resource Management (HRM) and Member Economic Statistics as illegal due to violation of provincial quotas and the absence of PBS rules.
With the decision, four out of five positions of functional members of the PBS have become vacant. Two positions of the chief statistician and national accounts member were already vacant.
Statistics Ministry Senior Joint Secretary Nasir Jamal said the ministry has not yet de-notified those members.
He said although the PHC has given a one-month’s deadline to implement the decision and make fresh hiring, the government has sought relaxation in the deadline.
The PHC directed that fresh advertisement should be made in accordance with the rules after calculating provincial quota in accordance with the law of the land and the finance ministry circular of August 2015.
“We are trying to get an extension, but eventually we will have to implement the decision”, said Jamal.
The committee chairman wondered why the statistics ministry did not implement the decision of the PHC.
“When the ECP can immediately de-notify a member of the National Assembly on disqualification from the superior judiciary, then why the statistics ministry cannot honour the PHC’s decision,” said Dr Ramesh Kumar.