The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the federal government and the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) to amend census forms to include persons with disabilities in the headcount exercise which commenced a day earlier.
The court directed the PBS to implement the Lahore High Court's (LHC) decision in this regard, which had directed the bureau to include disabled persons in the ongoing census on Wednesday.
LHC Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah had observed that information regarding disability could be easily included in Form 2-A's Column No.3, which pertains to “sex”, by assigning codes for disabled male with 4, disabled female with 5, and disabled transgender with 6.
The apex court expressed its displeasure that the PBS continued citing various issues for not counting disabled persons after the census had already begun across the country.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nasir, who headed a three-member bench hearing an appeal filed by a group of disabled citizens, asked PBS chief statistician Asif Bajwa what steps had been taken to include disabled people in the census.
Bajwa responded that Form 2-A was being used in the current headcount exercise, while a separate 'green form' will be used to collect data about disabled and transgender people three months after the census was over.
Asked why the two forms were not being issued together, the official said all data cannot be collected in one go due to a "lack of manpower and time".
"You are listing all the impediments after the census has begun," the chief justice remarked.
Bench member Justice Ijazul Hassan asked why the column for transgender people was missing from the census form.
Bajwa, the PBS Chief Statistician, stated that the court had issued the order to include transgenders in the census in 2012, but the census forms had already been printed in 2007.
"Why were new forms not printed after the court order?" asked Justice Nisar.
The chief justice regretted that forms had not been prepared according to current needs, stating: "If the census had to be conducted, you should have executed it in a proper manner."
The court then ordered the PBS to include disabled persons in the ongoing exercise and implement the high court's order in this regard. The court also asked the bureau to run a media campaign in this regard.
Pakistan’s largest-ever population census kicked off on Wednesday in 63 districts of the country after a delay of 19 years.
High security was in place as thousands of enumerators backed by the military began the enormous, politically-charged count.
The weeks-long process will deploy a team of more than 300,000 people and involve 55 million forms — as well as a second, separate form distributed by the military.