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‘Census can’t distinguish between citizens, aliens’

Updated February 08, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance and Statistics was informed on Tuesday that there was no mechanism to differentiate between Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis in the census process.

The census is scheduled to begin in the country from March this year.

To avoid any controversy in the meeting, Committee Chairman Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh requested that members refrain from making politically-motivated comments during the briefing by Chief Statistician Asif Bajwa.

“This is a very serious issue and we need to take it seriously,” he said.

The committee was informed that the census form will contain columns for men, women and transgenders.

The previous household survey, held in 2011, has been scrapped and a fresh household survey would be launched from March 15, 2017, which would be completed within two months.

Mr Bajwa told the committee that two individuals — an enumerator who is usually a schoolteacher and a soldier from the Pakistan Army — would go door-to-door to collect data.


Parliamentary secretary tells NA Form 2A will be administered through ‘sampling’


“But we do not have any mechanism or mandate to crosscheck the information being provided by the resident; if the person is an Afghan national but has a CNIC, we will consider him and his family as Pakistanis. Similarly, if anybody claims to have eight children, we will not ask the parents to show them all,” he told the committee members.

Mr Bajwa then pointed out another pitfall — around 66 million Pakistanis who were without CNICs. He referred to the Pakistan Economic Survey, 2016, which puts the population of the country at around 193 million. But according to data available with the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), only 130 million CNICs had been issued.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s Dr Nafisa Shah voiced concern, saying that she knew a number of families in her native area who did not possess CNICs and asked how the census would cover them.

After detailed discussion, some members — mainly those from Karachi — expressed apprehensions regarding the increase in blocks and double-entry during the census process. The committee decided the Nadra chairman would also be invited to its next meeting.

The chief statistician briefed members on the preparations for the upcoming census in the country.

Mr Bajwa told the committee that the census could not be held last year due to non-availability of the requisite number of army personnel.

“The army personnel will help the enumerator in one block and then move to another block,” he said.

He told the committee that the Council of Common Interests had decided on Dec 16 last year that the census would be held using traditional paper-based questionnaires.

Sampling

Earlier, in the National Assembly, four PML-N MNAs invited the attention of the finance ministry towards the non-inclusion of a column for persons with disabilities in the main census form.

Parliamentary Secretary Rana Mohammad Afzal Khan, however, said that two forms had been developed in line with international best practices and UN census standards.

“There is a Form 2 and a Form 2A; the second form has 33 items, which includes persons with disability. However, Form 2A will not be distributed to everyone and will be administered through sampling methods. The sampling will be conducted after the main census is completed,” he said.

This did not satisfy Shaista Pervaiz, Pervaiz Malik, Shahida Rehmani and Shaza Fatima Khawaja, who had moved the calling attention notice. They maintained that sampling was not suited to Pakistan’s needs and insisted that such a survey would not paint an accurate picture.

A disability column should be included in the main census form, so that a complete picture of persons with disability can be obtained, they said.

Published in Dawn February 8th, 2017