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ISLAMABAD: The Federal Cabinet is said to be divided on deployment of armed forces in 7th Population and Housing Census and if census will be on the basis of De-facto or De-jure method, sources close to Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives told Business Recorder.

The census process would tentatively be completed in 18 months/ 540 days. A comprehensive work plan of 7th Population Housing Census-Digital Census with timelines has been prepared. Results of the 7th Population & Housing Census would be handed over to the Election Commission for delimitation for upcoming General Elections 2023.

On September 21, 2021, the Planning, Development & Special Initiatives Division informed the Cabinet that the Council of Common Interests (CCI), in its 45th meeting held on April 12, 2021, approved the final results of the 6th Population and Housing Census-2017.

The decision was taken by majority vote in terms of Rules 5(10) of the Rules of Procedure of the Council of Common Interests, 2010, as seven members supported the approval of Final Census Results. Chief Minister Sindh opposed it due to certain reservations on the results and forwarded a reference under Article 154(7) of the Constitution to the Chairman Senate and the Speaker, National Assembly of Pakistan for convening a joint sitting of the Parliament. Besides approval of Census Results, CCI also decided that "the process of the next census should start as early as possible according to international best practices by using latest technology".

The Government of Pakistan constituted a Census Advisory Committee, comprising renowned demographers and experts, under the chairmanship of Deputy Chairman Planning Commission (DCPC) with Terms of Reference to devise recommendations for adoption of best practices for the 7th Population, Housing Census. The Committee held several meetings and after detailed deliberations recommended that owing to the sensitivity of the matter and to ensure transparency, involvement of all stakeholders, especially provinces, was essential from the initial stages of planning to compilation of census results.

Based on these deliberations the Census Advisory Committee had prepared a report and its executive summary.

Census-2017 puts country’s population at 207.68m

The main recommendations of the Census Advisory Committee were as follows: (i) compliance with United Nations Principles for Census: Agreement and engagement of public, individual enumeration, simultaneity, universality, small area data, defined periodicity, training, monitoring and evaluation;(ii) dedicated Census Unit and Census Master Plan: Planning unit to address technical and operational issues. Plan on Project Based approach with defined work break down structure and activity tracking;(iii) updation of Area Frame and Maps: Delimitation of areas and updation of maps to be completed well before census and based on GPS and GIS software;(iv) involvement of Stakeholders: Solicit the support of key stakeholders; general public, parliamentarians amongst others;(v) security arrangement for field operations: Census to be conducted by independent civil body. Based on security needs a hybrid area-specific three-tier security arrangement to be adopted ;(vi) Enumeration Methodology: De-jure Method of enumeration be used. This method was widely used internationally and also in all Censuses conducted in Pakistan since 1972;(vii) Questionnaire: Single Census questionnaire be administered which should be strictly in relevance to the Objectives of Census ;(viii) Pilot Census: To help identify ambiguity to test the methodology;(ix) Communication , Advocacy and Publicity: Done through implementation of a comprehensive communication strategy, including effective use of social media, for clarity regarding the primary objective of Census which might begin early and extend right up to the release of the first initial results;(x) Field operation methodology: Lead to be taken by Provincial government staff with adequate female enumerators. Graduate students also to be engaged;(xi) Training: Comprehensive training of field enumeration staff including training on technology use ;(xii) Mode of Data Collection: Multi-mode data collection with emphasis on digital census. (Self-enumeration, Tablet based etc) ;( xiii) Monitoring and Supervision of field work: Well trained and equipped filed staff, dashboards for real time supervisions, complaint centres at District level and etc;(xiv) Post Enumeration Survey: To increase credibility of the Census results and build confidence of stakeholders and ;(xv) National Census Coordination Center (N3C), with representation of Provincial Governments, be established for operational matters and effective coordination and monitoring.

The Committee presented its recommendations to the Minister PD& SI in a meeting held on August 15, 2021. During the meeting the Minister noted the nuances in the views of some Committee members regarding conducting digital census, using De-jure or De-facto method of enumeration and the engagement of Armed Forces. He, therefore, advised that these issues be flagged for further deliberation in the Federal Cabinet before final recommendation was made to the Council of Common Interests.

Subsequently, on August 2, 2021 on "Optimum use of Technology in upcoming 7th National Census" chaired by the Minister PD& SI and also attended by the Minister for Information Technology & Telecommunication and Chairman NADRA, these recommendations were endorsed. Subsequently, on August 13, 2021, a meeting was held under the chairmanship of Secretary PD&SI with provincial /regional Chief Secretaries for further consultations on the Committee's recommendations . In addition, meetings with provinces and respective regional technical teams were being carried out by the PBS technical team for their information and feedback.

In lieu of the foregoing the recommendations of the Census Advisory Committee regarding enumeration methodology (De-facto or De-jure) and engagement of Armed Forces in the upcoming census needed further deliberation. Technical short notes on both issues had been prepared.

The members discussed at length, the pros and cons of De-facto versus De-jure methods and full or partial deployment of armed forces, but no clear consensus was developed. It was suggested that the matter be discussed in a smaller group with representation from the allied political parties.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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