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At last, census

After a delay of nearly nine years the sixth population census will kick start this week. The census will be divided into two phases, with the first one beginning from March 15 to April 15, while the other phase will start from April 25 to May 25.
Marriyum Aurangzeb, State Minister for Information and Major General Asif Ghafoor, Director General Inter Services Public Relations in a joint press conference gave a detailed briefing on the upcoming census. The DG ISPR said that the Pakistan Army will provide complete security during the sixth census and 0.2 million troops will be deployed. He said that upon provision of wrong information, a fine of Rs 50,000 and six months of imprisonment will be given to offenders. The DG ISPR said that people should immediately report any suspicious activity. The state minister said that for census locals will be utilized, adding that for the first time transgender will be included in the population census. Aurangzeb said that a budget of Rs 18 billion has been allotted for the census. She added that six billion rupees are reserved for Army and civilians each for their facilitation work. According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, teams that will carry out census duties will include a civil servant and military personnel. Security will be ensured jointly by civil and intelligence forces.
The first census in subcontinent was performed during 1881 under the British rule. This census also covered the areas which came under the jurisdiction of Islamic Republic of Pakistan after partitioning in 1947. It was planned to carry out population census of Pakistan every 10 years covering the entire country. Accordingly, the first census after autonomy of Pakistan was conducted in 1951 followed by 1961, 1972, 1981 and 1998. After 1998 the census was scheduled to be held in 2008 but wasn’t, and finally after a delay of nine years it is being held now.
It must be mentioned here that back in December taking exception to the perceived foot-dragging on the part of the government over the much-needed population census, the Supreme Court had said that the problem might not be solved until and unless the prime minister was summoned to the court. The bench that had taken suo motu notice of the problem also asked the government to submit an assurance in writing that it would commence a population census on March 15 and the exercise might continue until May 15.
A reliable census is important for a country to adequately plan growth, deliver services and solve the country’s problems. For example, a national government distributing economic assistance to local governments can use census data to direct aid to parts of the country with the highest poverty rates. The importance of a census is further increased by the fact that the census is also used to assign electoral seats in the parliament. Critics are of the view mainstream and regional political parties have influenced previous census exercises in the country, leading to over-representations of some regions in the parliament.
A successful and fair census can be vital for Pakistan’s economic and social development, it will also ensure a just distribution of seats throughout the country. However, for now concerns remain, Justice (retd) Wajihuddin Ahmed has filed a petition in the Supreme Court regarding the census. Similarly Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan head Farooq Sattar has also expressed his doubts regarding the impartiality of the census. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has urged the federal government to take necessary measures to make the census credible.
A credible census will help a great deal in better administration & development.

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