ISLAMABAD: The Council of Common Interests (CCI) is expected to approve a revised action plan for the population and housing census at its meeting on Monday.

In a meeting held on Saturday, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar asked officials of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to incorporate necessary changes in the revised action plan.

“The updated plan will be ready by Sunday evening,” the finance minister was quoted as saying.

An official statement issued on Saturday said that Chief Statistician Asif Bajwa briefed the meeting on the arrangements undertaken by the bureau so far and the level of preparedness of other government organisations concerned.

The CCI meeting on Monday will be the first in nearly a year as the body last met in March of 2015. Mr Dar said during Saturday’s meeting that the revised plan would be shared with the CCI members for consideration.

An official told Dawn that the revised action plan would seek more time from the CCI to hold the census. “It will be delayed by a few weeks,” the source said, adding that preparations for the grand survey were well under way.

Population, housing survey may be delayed by ‘a few months’ because of administrative hurdles

But another official claimed that the exercise could be delayed until summer, when staff from the education department would be on vacation.

The revised plan includes new dates for the finalisation of preliminary results and the compilation of district-wise data reports.

Successive governments have failed to hold a population census over the past 17 years. This exercise is mandatory to determine the population ratio for the purpose of Article 51(5) of the Constitution — which deals with the allocation of seats in the National Assembly and provincial shares in the National Finance Commission award.

A source in the Finance Ministry said that funds for the census had been budgeted this year and there was no question of paucity of funds for the purpose.

In view of the prevailing law and order situation, it has been proposed that the census be held phase-wise in the provinces.

This will ensure that army personnel are engaged in limited numbers in door-to-door visits to help make the results more reliable.

There are certain reservations from the provinces; for example, Balochistan is concerned about a possible ethnic imbalance.

“But we have not received anything in writing from any province so far,” an official privy to the development told Dawn on Saturday.

There are also some administrative issues that have been hindering the census.

Experts say that the census is a primarily administrative exercise and cannot be discharged by the statistics division alone.

The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics has no offices in the districts and mostly relies on officers of the local administration.

Data is primarily collected through schoolteachers.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2016



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