With a gap of over 17 years, the government on Saturday gave final touches to arrangements for carrying out population and housing census in March this year. Preliminary results will be compiled within three months.
The governing council of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), headed by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, approved a revised timeline for the census.
The preliminary results will have to be completed by June this year, while other aspects, including district-wise data reports, will have to be completed by Dec 2017.
An official source privy to the meeting told Dawn that although compilation of population reports after census normally took around three years, the government wanted it to be completed before the next general elections, due in 2018.
The compilation of all reports by Dec 2017 will give enough time to political parties and the Election Commission to use data for electioneering purposes.
At the moment, there are a number of bills pending before both houses of parliament seeking increase in the number of seats for minorities as well as representation of provinces, especially Balochistan, in the National Assembly.
Govt keen to complete process well before next elections
While taking up those bills, the committees of the two houses had already decided to defer consideration of the bill until the finalisation of census data.
The population census will yield statistics about internal migration, urbanisation, as well as rural and urban population across the country. The population data will be used for delimitation of the constituencies of the national and provincial assemblies, a requirement under the constitution.
According to the source, the exact dates have not yet been finalised. However, it has been decided to hold census at the end of March. The budget approved for the census is Rs14.5 billion, which will be shared by the provinces.
The population census will be conducted in one go; the first three days for a house-listing operation and the following 15 days for the main count, which include filing of census forms on house-to-house level and a day for homeless people.
The PBS says that the census will be held with the full support of armed forces, at a man-to-man level, as was done in 1998.
An official statement issued after the meeting by the finance ministry said that Finance Minister Ishaq Dar at the outset welcomed the newly appointed PBS members and mentioned that they had joined the organisation at a crucial time, just a couple of months before the sixth Population & Housing Census.
They would have to shoulder the responsibility of making the census successful, he said.
Chief Statistician Asif Bajwa informed the meeting that, as per the decision of the governing council, PBS has adjusted the target dates for preparation of census reports by December, 2017. He said that the PBS had initiated all preparations and held meetings with provincial authorities to brief them about their responsibility in making the census successful and transparent.
Mr Dar said it was the prime responsibility of PBS to conduct credible census. He said that utmost care should be taken to complete the task in a transparent manner for a credible data. Such data, he said, could then form the basis for the future planning.
During the meeting it was agreed that qualified and highly reputed statisticians would be co-opted as members of the technical committee to benefit from their expertise.
Mr Dar directed that frequent meetings of the technical committee be held until the census was held and suggestions of experts be brought to the governing council for consideration.