Pakistan to hold population census in March 2016, with military support

18 Mar 2015


During the meeting it was decided the cost of census will be shared by provinces through the divisible pool. -INP/File
During the meeting it was decided the cost of census will be shared by provinces through the divisible pool. -INP/File

ISLAMABAD: The federal government with the consent of the four provinces has announced that country’s sixth population census will be held in March, 2016, with the support of armed forces as it was done in 1998 — the last time the census was conducted.

The decision was taken at the meeting of Council of Common Interest (CCI) chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM House on Wednesday.

During the meeting it was also decided that housing and population censuses would be held at the same time and the cost of census will be shared by provinces through the divisible pool.

Other developments in the meeting

  • Finance Minister Ishaq Dar informed the meeting that public debt has been brought down from 64% to 62% in less than two years and by June 2016 it would be brought down to 60% as required under the law.

  • The meeting was informed that proceedings on Pakistan Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation Bill 2014 have been completed and soon it would be presented in Parliament.

  • CCI also gave approval of the Draft Bill for the Establishment of Pakistan Halal Authority.

Nawaz had called this CCI meeting amid concerns that the council has not convened for over nine months.

A spokesperson to the premier told DawnNews the meeting was chaired by the prime minister himself and attended by the chief ministers of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, and Balochistan. Additionally, chief secretaries and federal ministers who are members of the council were also in attendance.

CCI meetings typically tackle a long agenda and are regarded as the highest decision-making forum in the government.

The discussion of controversial decisions such as the allocation of natural resources and the provincial budget is often reserved for council meetings as opposed to cabinet meetings.

Consider the important issues that are built around the availability of census data: the NFC award, delimitation of electoral constituencies, seat shares in parliament, local bodies polls, targeted subsidies, and all other policy matters that rest on population data.

With the census data from 1998 practically obsolete, it is fair to suppose that all of these important matters today are actually based on suppositions that have no grounding in measured reality. Without a clean and impartial census, we don’t really know the face of the country that we are trying to run and govern.

With dwindling water resources, a yawning energy deficit, and an expanding population with higher expectations — and an acute security problem to boot — Pakistan needs a fresh census to give planners the essential tools for future projections. Without the census data, they would be operating in a vacuum.