ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has not been able to come up with a concrete time frame for conducting the long-awaited sixth population and housing census in the country.
A meeting was convened by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to review PBS preparations for the census on Saturday.
Several such meetings have been held since the Council of Common Interests (CCI) decided to postpone the census in March 2016.
But given the non-availability of army personnel due to escalating tensions along the Line of Control with India, it looks like the census will remain in limbo until the CCI revises its decision.
The last census was held 17 years ago.
“We are ready to hold the census,” a senior PBS official told Dawn, but maintained that the decision to conduct census with support from the army was taken in the CCI meeting held in March 2016.
The bureau has completed its preparations, he said, adding that it was now up to the CCI to decide and give the bureau a roadmap moving forward. Asked when the CCI meeting would be convened next, the official said it was not their mandate to summon a meeting.
Following the decision to involve the army in the census exercise, the PBS estimated it would need around 167,000 army personnel to go door-to-door. In addition, the bureau estimated it would need an additional 20-30,000 personnel to supervise the census operation.
A PBS official said that the army had estimated the total manpower for the census at around 300,000, but given the prevailing conditions on the Line of Control (LoC), it would be next to impossible to spare such a large chunk of human resource from the armed forces.
Asked about the fate of the census, the official said it was up to the CCI to decide whether to go ahead without the army or not. But he was of the opinion that the involvement of army personnel would make the census results more acceptable and transparent.
However, the political government would decide the mode of the census, the official said.
An official statement issued after the meeting said PBS Chief Statistician Asif Bajwa gave an overview of the preparations, apprising the meeting that the necessary preparations on the civilian side had been completed, including the release of funds for logistical arrangements, procurement of hardware and appointment of field staff for the census operation.
The finance minister expressed satisfaction with the preparations made on the civil side for holding the census. He directed the statistics division to maintain close coordination with the armed forces to ensure security and credibility in the census operation.
The first census in Pakistan was conducted in 1951, the second in 1961 and the third in 1972 instead of 1971, due to political turmoil. The fourth census was held in March 1981 and the fifth, which was due in 1991, was conducted in March 1998 with the help of the army.
The census is deemed to be one of the basic elements for the judicious distribution of resources, calculating representation in parliament, electoral processes, tax collection and other civic issues, including growing urbanisation and evaluation of resources for infrastructure development.
Under the Constitution, the government is bound to conduct the population census every 10 years.
Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2016