LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Wednesday ordered the federal government and Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) to amend forms being used in population census to include persons with disabilities in the country in the headcount exercise.

The other day, the chief justice had disposed of a petition on the matter with a direction to the government and the the PBS to ensure inclusion of a separate column in the form for listing the disabled in the next census.

However, the chief justice took up the matter for rehearing and held proceedings on the petition in chamber.

Bureau’s Joint Commissioner Akbar Ali Dogar insisted that the census form had not enough space for an additional column for the disabled. He also presented copies of the forms being used in the census.

The chief justice lamented that though many unnecessary queries had been included in the form, the government ignored the disabled, who were an essential part of the country’s population.

He wondered as to how the government could devise any policy on the disabled without knowing their population.

He noted the government was also supposed to hold headcount of disabled persons as required by a UN convention ratified by Pakistan in 2011. “Ignoring disabled persons in the census process is beyond any logic,” he added.

The chief justice observed that depriving the persons with disabilities of an opportunity to be counted in the national census would affect their welfare and future prospects as the state had no credible information regarding their population.

After a brief deliberation with lawyers of the petitioner, the government and the PBS officials, the chief justice observed that information regarding disability could be easily included in Column No 3 pertaining to “sex” by assigning codes like disabled male with 4, female with 5 and transgender with 6.

The chief justice directed the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to disseminate the court’s decision nationwide at the earliest for the convenience of the people in general and for the field staff of the bureau, in particular. The PBS was also directed to ensure that

next census included a special column relating to persons with disabilities along with their categories. With these directions, the CJ allowed the petition filed by Milestone Society for Special Persons.

On behalf of the petitioner, Barrister Nabeel Dahir had argued that the government had ignored the disabled as no separate column had been allocated for them in the census form. He said population of the disabled would not be determined if the census was carried out as per the present format. The lawyer asked the court to order the government to insert a separate column for the disabled in the census forms.

Published in Dawn, March 16th, 2017