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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister/Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Ahsan Iqbal emphasized that the population census is an important and critical exercise so it should be completed in February 2023 by utilising all possible resources.

The 2nd meeting of the Census Monitoring Committee to oversee/monitor Census activities to ensure an expeditious, transparent and credible census operation was held on 26th July 2022 under the chair of Iqbal at P-Block Secretariat. The main objective of the meeting was to review the progress of the Pilot Census.

The meeting was attended by chief secretaries of all provinces/regions with relevant secretaries, Additional Commissioner Islamabad, DG Military Operations Directorate, Chairman NADRA, MD NTC, and senior officers from Education, Local Government, Finance, and Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

The minister directed the chief secretaries to assure their full cooperation and give full support to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics in this process to make this census successful. He also directed the NADRA that they should expedite the process of procurement of tablets and accessories for the conduct of digital census as the exercise of paramount importance due to linkages with resource allocation and delimitation of constituencies.

He said that any delay in the process will create constitutional crises as the conduct of the next general election of 2023 depends on the census of 2022. He appreciated the role of the Pak Army in this process and emphasized providing foolproof security to the enumerators during this whole census process. He also assured full support of the government for the successful conduct of this gigantic task.

Dr Naeemuz Zafar, chief statistician sensitized the relevant departments by presenting the progress and issues of PBS related to the pilot census. He further explained that the PBS has started Pilot Census of 7th Population and Housing Census-2022 for testing tools, technology, field operation and security mechanism, communication strategy, etc in 33 selected administrative districts (417 Blocks) w.e.f 20th July 2022 all over Pakistan, including AJK, and G-B. Training to enumerators for the Pilot Census was imparted at 27 stations in Pakistan.

He said that for the field operation the responsibility of provision of security rest with the Armed Forces with the involvement of the Civil Armed Forces and Police of the respective government. He said that the NADRA will provide tablets and census software, however, data infrastructure (computing and storage) is the responsibility of the National Telecom Corporation (NTC). Similarly, the SUPARCO is also awarded the contract for the provision of high-resolution imagery for coverage and geo-tagging, he said.

On the other hand, the State of the AJ&K has informed that population data of the refugees living in Pakistan is highly desirable for academic/political purposes to study the effects of Indian subjugation and perpetual denial of the right to self-determination of the People of the State of Jammu and Kashmir; which can also be safely used for the purposes of electoral rolls of constituencies of the AJ&K Legislative Assembly and for planning purposes as well. Therefore, in the 7th Population and Housing Census-2022, the data of refugees living in Pakistan may be collected through the addition of a column in the existing data collection form.

Participants from other departments and provinces were also invited to share their points of view and all the queries raised by provinces were addressed.

The participants appreciated the efforts of the PBS to bring transparency and confidentiality and suggested forming working committees for the smooth functioning of the census process.

All the chief secretaries assured their cooperation to fulfil this national task.

This meeting was an effort of the PBS to involve all stakeholders in the successful Pilot Census process. Due to the presence of relevant persons from provinces and departments, the meeting proved to be the best forum to resolve issues and queries of all departments related to the Pilot Census process and present progress and ambiguities of the PBS to all concerned well before time.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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