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ISLAMABAD: The population and housing census will be conducted as per normal in Fata, except for North and South Waziristan, which are still recovering from the aftermath of military operations.

Following the completion of the enumeration exercise in ‘Block 1’ of 63 districts, Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa told reporters on Monday that the government had decided to manually count all those who had returned to their homes in ‘cleared areas’ of North and South Waziristan.

In areas where operations are still ongoing, or those that have not been declared ‘clear’ as yet, he said data would be collected from the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA). FDMA maintains records of temporarily displaced persons from the area.

Addressing a press conference after announcing annual inflation figures, the chief census commissioner said that information would be obtained from FDMA when raw data would be processed.

Mr Bajwa claimed that the census exercise had been completed in Orakzai — the only tribal agency surveyed in the first phase of the census. The six remaining agencies will be counted in the second phase.

Chief census commissioner says data cannot be shared with provinces

He said that the first phase of headcount and house listing of areas falling under Block 1 had been completed.

In the second block of this phase, he said, enumerators had completed the house listing process, while head-counting had been initiated on Monday and would continue until April 12. After this exercise, one full day will be devoted to counting homeless persons, while another day will be reserved for returning collected data.

On average, each block has 250 to 300 houses, which are surveyed by a census team consisting of one civil enumerator and a military official.

The chief census commissioner revealed that around 2,000 complaints had been received over the past 12 to 14 days. “We have addressed most of the queries,” he said, adding that most of them were about enumerators not showing up to people’s homes.

Mr Bajwa urged citizens to cooperate with census teams and call Pakistan Bureau of Statistics’ toll-free number in case census teams did not reach their area. Any household not counted in the areas surveyed under phase one should register a complaint.

He said the bureau had established control rooms at the tehsil levels to deal with complaints and added that people could contact the control rooms until April 12. “We will arrange special teams on April 13 to count the households that were left unattended in Block 1 or 2,” he said.

After April 12, he said, no such complaint would be entertained since all enumerators will head to the next 87 districts, to be surveyed in the second phase, starting from April 25.

When asked about the leak of census information regarding a man who had 64 children from three wives, the chief census commissioner denied his team had any role in breaching confidentially or leaking the information.

The news had circulated on social media and was also picked up by foreign media outlets, but Mr Bajwa tried to evade the question, saying what was the harm in knowing such a fact. He even claimed that the man’s neighbours might have released the information to the media.

As per global standards, census details cannot be shared with any individual.

It is under the same policy that the federal government has told Sindh that it was not possible to share census details with the provincial government. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had written to the Centre, seeking access to block-level data.

Asked if the provincial governments had approached the census commissioner, he said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minis­ter Pervez Khattak had written to the prime minister, voicing his concern over the census. Mr Bajwa said a detailed reply was sent in response to the chief minister’s letter.

However, he noted that the provinces were offered to send their technical teams to witness the data-processing stage.

Under the ongoing enumeration process, Mr Bajwa said, only those people who are present in Pakistan will be counted as part of the population. Those who had been away from the country for more than six months would not be counted, although their details would be noted in a separate column.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2017