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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has refused to use tablets to read barcodes of gas and electricity bills for the 7th Population and Housing Census to be completed by December 2022, well informed sources told Business Recorder.

The Council of Common Interests (CCI), in its 49th meeting held on January 12, 2022 with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, had given its nod to conduct census using international best practices, including use of digital technology and a GIS monitoring system. The housing census will be conducted before population censes.

A Census Monitoring Committee was held headed by Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, and comprising Chief Secretaries, Chairman NADRA, Chief Commissioner Islamabad and other concerned official to oversee and monitoring census exercise to ensure a credible census and acceptable to all the stakeholders.

In a subsequent meeting, Ministry of Energy proposed that tables be used to read barcodes of gas and bills of consumers.

Chief Statistician, Dr Naeemuz Zafar wrote a letter to Secretary Petroleum Division, Ali Raza Bhutta, copies of which were sent to Finance Ministry, Planning Ministry and other relevant authorities, saying it is not possible for PBS to use tablets due to shortage of time.

Secretary Petroleum had suggested that PBS should procure the tablets with the capacity to read barcodes on gas and electricity bills during face to face interview in Census-2022 at every household level.

“Although, PBS appreciates the suggestion to collect the reading of barcodes on the gas and electricity bills but keeping in view the challenging timelines of activities of the first-ever digital census, it is not feasible to consider it at this stage,” said Chief Statistician, in his letter to Secretary Petroleum.

According to Dr Naeemuz Zafar, PBS is strictly following the timelines of the census activities to accomplish the gigantic task and to provide the data to Government of Pakistan in December 2022.

Reviewing the tablets capacity for barcodes reading, the scheme of things will change and cause delays, therefore, PBS is not in a position to consider the suggestion, he added.

During the CCI meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan had highlighted that PTI government wanted to have a credible census data, which could be used for initiating policies and projects for the welfare of the people.

Previously, MQM and PPP had raised questions on the credibility of the census and MQM claimed that population of Karachi had been understated relative to the actual population.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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