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Summary moved to convene CCI meeting for approval of 2023 census



An official from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics uses a digital device to collect information from a resident during door-to-door the first ever digital national census in Karachi’s Old City area on March 3, 2023. — Online
  • Three possible outcomes awaiting census results at CCI forum.
  • How will govt make amendments, without two-thirds majority.
  • SC instructed holding census for new elections, says Ahsan Iqbal.

ISLAMABAD: Seeking approval of Pakistan’s first-ever digital Population and Housing Census held earlier this year, the Ministry of Planning and Development has moved a summary for convening the Council of Common Interests (CCI) meeting, The News reported Thursday.

The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) conducted the latest population census and has compiled its results — which have now been forwarded to the CCI for guidance/approval.

“The summary forwarded by the Planning Ministry has informed the CCI Secretariat/Cabinet Division that the census exercise has been accomplished along with post-enumeration survey which is ready for consideration of the competent forum for taking the final decision” The News reported, citing top official sources.

This decision of the government to prepare and then dispatch of official summary clearly demonstrates that the government is all set to convene the CCI meeting before the completion of its tenure.

Earlier, it was under discussion to hold the CCI meeting on August 2, 2023, but this could not be done.

However, now the summary has been forwarded to the CCI for granting approval on the accomplished census exercise, which are likely to have far-reaching complications in the political arena, especially after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s recent statement on holding the next general elections under the newly-conducted census.

There are three possible outcomes awaiting the census results at the CCI forum.

Either the CCI will scrap the results in light of serious flaws likely to be identified by stakeholders during the meeting, or it will approve the census results.

In the latter case, there will be consequences of delaying the next elections in the wake of the delimitation exercise.

The third possibility, however, will be the formation of a committee to resolve lingering disputes and finding out an amicable solution acceptable to all stakeholders.

Questions also arise about how the government will get approval for constitutional amendments, which require a two-thirds majority.

If any plan exists for delaying the general elections at any level, then the digital census results may be approved.

In that case, the Election Commission of Pakistan requires at least four to six months for undertaking the delimitation exercise.

The latest census results show that the country’s population hovers around less than 250 million, but it has crossed 240 million population.

The PBS has accomplished the task of conducting the post-enumeration survey to verify the results of the first-ever digital population census in selected blocks of 48 districts.

The PBS selected 2,500 blocks in the selected districts of the country to recheck the counting population to lend credibility to this exercise.

Some results of the conducted latest population census were quite interesting but hard to digest even to demographers, especially in Balochistan which has a high density of Baloch nationals.

There are complaints of overcounting in rural parts of Sindh, while in urban parts of the province — especially in Karachi — there were rampant complaints of undercounting.

The deadline stipulated by the timeframe of the census was extended. Finally, the post-enumeration survey was conducted but its results could not yet be ascertained.

This means that there are still chances that controversy persists. 

Talking to The News on Wednesday night, Minister for Planning Ahsan Iqbal said that the summary was moved to CCI for taking a decision on whether to hold the elections on the basis of the new census or ignored it and hold the elections on the basis of the last census.

A paradoxical situation has emerged where the CCI would have to take a final decision.

He said that the Parliament had approved a constitutional amendment to approve the delimitation on the basis of provisional census results in 2017.

Now the census has been completed and if someone approached the Supreme Court, it might lead to a difficult situation. The SC, he reminded, had given directions for holding the new census for the next elections.

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