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Govt prepares to hold early census after clamour over last headcount

Ministerial panel to propose methods to conduct next enumeration on modern lines

ISLAMABAD:The Centre has set up a committee with the view to remove “discrepancies” in the next population census after a ministerial body recommended accepting disputed results of the 6th national headcount in the “larger national interest” and hold the next census ahead of schedule.

Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar constituted a five-member committee with the objective that the next census is not only “accurate but also inspires confidence amongst all stakeholders so that it is a true reflection of the population in all regions of the country”, according to a statement issued by Ministry of Planning on Wednesday.

Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Jehanzeb Khan will head the committee while its members include Muhammad Ahmed Zubair, chief economist; Muhammad Sarwar Gondal, (Member) PBS; Dr GM Arif, renowned demographer; Dr Muhammad Nizamuddin, renowned demographer/independent researcher; and representative of Nadra, said the planning ministry.

It stated that the committee will have the mandate to review the census process, data collection and field operation methodologies used for the Census 2017.

The committee would recommend modern methodologies being adopted for censuses in the region and other parts of the world for the upcoming national census.

According to another term of the reference, the committee will compare the regional and globally adopted census questionnaires and will make recommendations for improvement, to review the mode of data collection (manual/electronic) for the provision of timely and credible results.

It will also make recommendation for adoption of innovative tools and technologies for geo-referred enumeration up to the household level for the upcoming census and will review the best practices of field operations, including monitoring/supervision and data processing to minimise the omissions/errors.

The committee’s mandate includes how to ensure complete coverage and to devise a strategy for confidence-building measures of all stakeholders for smooth completion of census operations and for increasing reliability and credibility of the census results, said the planning ministry.

The 6th Population & Housing Census had been conducted from March 15 to May 25, 2017 and provisional results were released in August 2017 with the approval of the Council of Common Interests.

However, Sindh has long been refusing to accept the census results that showed no major increase in its population. As a result, the CCI — a constitutional body having representation of the federation and its units — has withheld the release of the final results.

The CCI in November 2017 had decided to validate 5% census results through a third-party and the final results were not released by the last government. The validation exercise was also not conducted by the PBS.

Ministerial Committee

The federal cabinet in February had constituted a five-member committee to deliberate and make recommendations for the approval of the final results of the Census 2017.

The committee after deliberations has submitted its recommendations to the cabinet on Tuesday. The cabinet has now forwarded recommendations to the CCI for final decision.

The ministerial committee was headed by Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi.

“In the larger national interest, the 6th population and housing census 2017 should be accepted as final — although there are reservations on the said census,” according to the ministerial committee’s recommendation to the federal cabinet seen by The Express Tribune.

The ministerial committee also recommended that the next census should be held at the earliest time, which may be determined after input from the stakeholders, and may be held before the lapse of 10 years from the date of the 6th population and housing census 2017.

The committee’s third recommendation was that the “use of technology should be ensured in order to remove doubts, concerns that were expressed in respect of 6th population and housing census and the same do not reoccur”.

It had recommended that a committee may be constituted under the Ministry of Information Technology comprising members from Nadra, the Election Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, with the mandate to suggest optimum use of technology to achieve objectives of census reflecting ground realities”, according to ministerial committee.

But the committee has been set up under the planning ministry and it does not have representation of the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Sindh Reservations

According to provisional results, Pakistan’s population surged to a staggering 207.8 million, showing an increase of 75.4 million people in 19 years.

The population was just over 130 million in 1998, the year when the 5th census was conducted. This means the country has seen a 57% increase in the population at an annual rate of 2.4%.

The majority of the people – 52.9% to be precise – still live in Punjab, but its share in the population pie has declined when compared with the 1998 census results.

Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are the beneficiaries of the reduction in Punjab’s share, as Sindh’s share in the total population remains unchanged – at 23%.

Sindh is the most urbanised province having 52.02% population in urban areas — a result that could disturb rural-urban quotas of the provincial assembly seats and jobs.

Of the total urban population of the province, 68% is concentrated in three major cities – Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur.

Sindh-based political parties raised objections on provisional results, maintaining that Karachi’s population was more than 20 million people while the census showed it at 14.9 million people.

Provisional results of the sixth Population Census showed that in the past 19 years, there was a 60% increase in Karachi’s population, compared with a 116% increase in Lahore’s population, which rose to 11.126 million people by 2017, showed the results.

Lahore also witnessed the highest growth rate in Pakistan followed by Peshawar (100.4%) and Islamabad (91.8%).

However, the then Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa had said that the PBS had counted Karachi’s population “as per urban areas notified by the provincial government”. He had said that except for seven Mozas, Karachi urban boundaries remained unchanged since 1998.

Bajwa had maintained that two surveys of the United Nations also supported Karachi’s provisional population results of 14.91 million.

The UN’s World Urbanisation Report showed Karachi’s population to be 16.12 million, said Bajwa.

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