ISLAMABAD: After a delay of over three-and-a-half years, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) finally approved the controversial national population and housing census-2017 with a majority vote on Monday and decided to start the process for fresh census by the end of 2021 under which the 2023 general elections will be held. While Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan approved the census-2017 results, Sindh rejected them.
A meeting of the CCI, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, decided that all stakeholders would be taken on board for holding the new census so that there could be no reservation from any side.
The meeting was attended by the chief ministers and chief secretaries of all the provinces.
“The CCI approved census-2017 with a majority vote and also decided that the government will not wait for 10 years to conduct next national census and will hold it immediately,” Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said at a press conference after the CCI meeting.
Council finally approves controversial census-2017 with majority; Sindh rejects results; next general election on fresh census
“The chief ministers of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan voted in favour of the approval while the Sindh chief minister voted against the approval,” he added.
Keeping in view the reservations expressed by some stakeholders, including the Sindh government, over the results of the census, the CCI decided to start the process of 7th national population census by October this year.
“What we had to do was that either to approve or to reject the results, and as the decision of rejection would mean a great loss to the provinces, the CCI has approved with majority vote and decided not to wait for 10 years to hold the next census,” Asad Umar added.
He said the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had intentionally pended the approval of the census and the present government inherited the issue with no other option but to approve its results. He said the framework for new census would be prepared within six to eight weeks and then the approval for new census would be sought from the CCI.
“About four months after the approval, the process of new census would start by end-September or start of October this year,” the minister said, adding that since the census was a process that spanned over a period of 18 months, it would be completed by the start of 2023. “So the next general elections are expected to be held in October or November 2023 and they will be held on the basis of new census results.”
Responding to a question, Mr Umar said the cost of the new census was estimated at around Rs23 billion that would be divided in two fiscal years— 2022 and 2023.
Referring to the reservations by the Sindh government over the results of census-2017, the minister said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf was neither in Sindh government nor at the Centre at that time, but the PTI government respected Sindh government’s reservations that was its constitutional right.
“Technical experts of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) are ready to respond to the queries raised over the census claiming that they can prove that there was nothing wrong with the results, but despite that the CCI has decided to conduct fresh census which is a big and costly process,” he added.
The minister said that in the 6th population census the whole process in the provinces were held under the supervision of the respective provincial governments and, therefore, the provinces should own the results.
Earlier, keeping in view the controversies over the 2017 census results, the federal cabinet on Feb 11, 2020 decided to constitute a ministers’ committee for detailed deliberations with stakeholders and for recommendations to finalise the results.
The committee recommended approval of the results and conduct of next census early by adopting modern technologies.
The federal cabinet on Dec 22, 2020 approved the committee’s recommendations to forward them to the CCI for final consideration. The CCI in its meeting on Monday approved the final results of census-2017.
Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2021