ISLAMABAD: The Council of Common Interests has decided to postpone the population and housing census.
A meeting of the CCI on Monday, presided over by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and attended by the four chief ministers, took the decision unanimously.
A statement issued by the prime minister’s secretariat said a fresh date for conducting the census would be announced after consultations with the stakeholders.
Sources said the provinces had objected to the presence of Afghan refugees and illegal immigrants in the country. Traditionally, Sindh and Balochistan don’t welcome migration of Pakhtuns to these provinces, but Chief Ministers Qaim Ali Shah and Sanaullah Khan Zehri used the word Afghans, and not Pakhtuns, during the meeting.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak called for repatriation of Afghan refugees living in the province.
The sources said Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif remained silent despite the fact that his province had a sizable presence of both Pakhtuns and Afghans.
Statistics Division Secretary Shahid Hussain Asad said the country had been divided into 166,819 blocks for which staff of 210,239 heads was required.
The meeting was informed that deployment of the army for conducting the census throughout the country in March/April was not possible because the armed forces were engaged in the Zarb-i-Azb operation.
The CCI asked the Bureau of Statistics to consult the armed forces about availability of the required human resource and propose a new date for the census.
According to an official, the bureau proposed to conduct the census on province-wise bases or on the pattern of local body elections, but “nobody supported the proposal”.
The official said the number of soldiers required for the house-to-house data collection was not a problem, but the back-up for ensuring security of soldiers was an issue.
Another official said the army had also suggested holding of the census in phases.
The CCI approved setting up of an inquiry commission to fix responsibility for alleged illegalities in the Kacchi Canal Project.
The commission will be headed by a retired judge of Supreme or High Court and secretaries of water and power, planning and finance ministries will be its members.
The meeting was informed that initially the project was approved by Ecnec at a cost of Rs27.5 billion in 2003. Later the PC-I was revised with a cost of Rs57.7bn. The project was started prior to the approval of feasibility study and PC-I.
The prime minister said a fresh feasibility study, along with implementation plan, shall be prepared immediately.
The next CCI meeting on March 25 would discuss the one-item agenda of the National Flood Protection Plan-IV (2015-25). A committee comprising ministers of water and power and climate change and the four chief ministers will present the plan.
The CCI approved the draft of the Securities and Exchange Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2016.
Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2016