ISLAMABAD: Finance Minis­ter Ishaq Dar on Thursday suggested that the Constitution be revisited to update the clause that required a census to be conducted every so often, so that the country could use technology to save money that would otherwise be spent on this exercise.

Mr Dar then proposed before the House that the 1973 Constitution be revisited with regards to the census to evolve a system of automatic updates by using technology, to save billions.

Federal Law Minister Azam Nazeer Tarar told the Senate during Question Hour that Article 58 of the Constitution required the conduct of general elections on the basis of last preceding census officially notified.

He observed that once the census was completed by April 30 and its results published, fresh delimitation would be carried out and elections to the National Assembly would be held under the new delimitation.

The minister was responding to and MQM Cabinet Minister Faisal Sabzwari and Hidayat Ullah, an independent senator, who expressed reservations over the ongoing digital census, with particular reference to Karachi and parts of ex-Fata.

Law minister says fresh delimitations to be carried out before National Assembly elections

He pointed out that in view of the modern technology, an amendment could be introduced regarding the automatic updating of census data, since Pakistan could not afford massive expenditure on this exercise.

“One of the points being discussed in the Supreme Court is that if elections to two assemblies are held on the old census now and then the poll exercise is conducted as per new census in October, would the two new governments in place in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa be sent packing,” he wondered.

However, he assured the house that the government would entertain all suggestions on this count with an open heart and mind.

On the proposal floated by Senator Hidayat Ullah, the chair agreed to dedicate one day next week for deliberations of the Committee of the Whole, after consultations and inviting experts and provincial representatives as well to debate it and see if legislation is required to move forward.

Later, responding to the PTI senators, including Mohsin Aziz and Faisal Javed Khan, who came down hard on the government over the current economic situation and sky-high inflation, the finance minister admitted that price hikes were plaguing the country.

However, he explained that even though the government was making international payments continuously, the country’s foreign exchange reserves had improved in the recent weeks.

He said that the $2 billion that was returned to China has come back and more dollars are flowing in, while technical talks with the IMF have been completed.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2023

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