Minister of State for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, in a joint press conference with DG ISPR Major General Javed Ghafoor and chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa on Sunday, said that physical deployment of staff had been completed to begin the much awaited 6th National Population Census from March 15, 2017. The minister highlighted that conducting a nationwide census was the 2013 election manifesto of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, which was being fulfilled.
She said the census was scheduled to be conducted in two phases from March 15 to May 15, with the total budget of Rs 18.5 billion. She further specified the budget split to be divided as Rs 6 billion for the Armed forces who would be overseeing the census, Rs 6.5 billion for logistics and the remaining Rs 6 billion for the civilian mechanasia to conduct the exercise after a hiatus of 19 years.
“This is a prodigious exercise requiring as many as 118,918 civilian staff and over 200,000 army personnel. We are in a sound state of readiness and preparedness as comprehensive knowledge building and capability enhancement have been conducted through an exhaustive and transparent campaign.” The minister said the final decision to conduct the exercise was taken during the meeting of Council of Common Interests (CCI) in December 2016, during which programmes related to assigning roles to the provinces and different departments were also finalized.
Categorizing the Census of 2017 as a historic event, she said it was scheduled for 2016 but was postponed due to engagement of security forces in across the country operation against terrorism. The minister said the census mechanism had been designed to ensure data accuracy and transparency of the whole exercise which was imperative for provision of social services to the common man, particularly health and education in accordance with the vision of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
She said that all persons living in Pakistan would be in scope of the population census, including dual nationals (if in country on the reference date) and diplomats, adding that the data of diplomats would be obtained from the Foreign Office. She said the process would be conducted simultaneously across the country.
She said for the first time in the history of country the transgender population would be counted and accounted in the census, while a separate form had been prepared to hold count of the disabled persons and record the nature of their disability. The minister said a helpline would be operational to provide the people access to the census department in the event that they face any challenges or have queries or complaints.
Highlighting the importance of population census, she said the representation in the Parliament was based on population data while the allocation of resources to provinces and infrastructure development was also based on the population count.”So holding of census is very essential to have such estimates,” she added. Answering a question, she said that as per the reports of Standing Committee of the Parliament, 90% of the IDPs had returned to their homes while those still outside were also registered, so they would be included in the population census. The minister warned that providing wrong information would carry heavy fines up to Rs 50,000 and possible six-month imprisonment. She lauded the role of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics for making untiring efforts towards taking this much awaited national exercise to set in.
She requested the media to play due role and provide accurate information to the people and display a positive conduct so that the census to be carried out in a transparent and seamless manner. She said an extensive public awareness campaign through print, electronic and social media would be underway in the coming days which would ensure that the everyone stays informed and extends maximum cooperation for compilation of error free and trustable data.
Speaking on the occasion, Inter Services Public Relations Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor said the armed forces were fully prepared to help conduct the census in a smooth and transparent manner. “It will be a unique event that every solider will go door to door for carrying out head and dwelling counts, which is required to be considered mark of thanks from Pakistan Army,” he added. He said the army would extend every possible assistance. One army personnel would be accompanying each enumerator for smooth conduct of the process. “The one army personnel will not be the one individual but he will be fully backed by the entire armed forces institution as well as law enforcement agencies and police.”
The militarymen accompanying the enumerators would be directly linked to the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) for immediate verification of the facts to be divulged by the citizens while filling out the census proformas, he added. He urged the citizens that the census teams visiting their place be accorded warm reception and extended every cooperation in compiling the data.
He warned any willful lie or false statement tendered before the census team would be a punishable offence. According to the law, any infringer, who would tender wrong information, would be penalized for six-month imprisonment along with Rs 50,000 fine in cash. He said on the directives of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the armed forces would provide all kinds of assistance to the census department for the smooth, transparent and secure conduct of the process. He said all the participating personnel had been imparted full training to hold the process of House and Population Census.
Citing background, he said the meeting of Council of Common Interests (CCI) held in 2016, had mandated the Pakistan armed forces to help the civilian setup for the conduct of smooth, transparent and error free National Housing and Population Census. During the same meeting, the armed forces were also mandated to ensure security for the census conducting teams in the field, he added.
Giving details about the census process, Major Gen Asif Ghafoor said the armed forces consulted the previous census records, particularly that of the recent one held in 1998 when the process were completed in 90 days with the help of some 250,000 personnel. Despite `engagement of armed forces in various operations, now it was decided to deploy over 200,000 armymen to assist for conducting the census process within 60 days, he added. While informing about the systematic plan to conduct the population census, he said 168,000 blocks, 20,631 circle levels and 3307 in-charge levels had been established.
The headquarter for conducting the entire process, he said, would be housed at Army Air Defence Command Rawalpindi. “Insha Allah there would not be any security related issue during the entire exercise and in case of any eventuality or threat to peace, Pakistan Army is fully prepared to take up the challenge in an appropriate manner,” he said. Referring to the recent statement of the COAS, he said General Qamar Javed Bajwa had already declared every Pakistani as a soldier thus everyone should keep eyes and ears open and be vigilant not to miss to report any untoward happening or unusual activity.
For the purpose, a hotline (special telephone line) had been established which would work round the clock for passing on any such information or to respond any query in that regard, he added. Answering a question, he said all the process of threat assessment had been thoroughly conducted and when and where it would be needed immediate deployment of personnel would be undertaken. To another question, he said the troops already present in Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas would continue to remain in the respective areas and if any further requirement arose the force would be replenished accordingly. He told a questioner that all the people in Pakistan would be included in the population census and not a single head would be left over. He clarified that 84% of temporarily displaced persons (TDPs) had returned to their native areas while the rest lot had already been registered with the authorities concerned so there should be no confusion in that regard.