First-ever digitized population census: Asad Umar

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ISLAMABAD: While inaugurating the National Census Coordination Center (N3C), Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar on Tuesday said that the first-ever digitized population census would be concluded throughout Pakistan in a 30-day period in August 2022 on 'as is where is' basis and without the condition of having Computerized National Identity Cards (CNICs).

The Ministry of IT and National Telecommunication Center would ensure safety from any possible hacking of the important data, besides it will not be internet-based. The process will be monitored through geo-fencing and GIS mapping. Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar was briefing reporters on the occasion of inaugurating N3C here at Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Tuesday.

Everyone will be counted based on where he/she were living in the last six months. To a question about the complexities of census due to interprovincial movements, particularly in Karachi, Umar said people will be counted on the basis of their existing location in the last six months. If their families are present with them, they would be counted in that city, or otherwise wherever they are living, he underlined. “No curfew will be imposed in the country on the occasion of holding the next census exercise,” said Asad Umar. “The results will be available in December 2022 so there will be sufficient time for undertaking delimitations of constituencies for holding the next general elections after completion of five-year term by PTI till August 2023.”

Asad Umar said that the PTI-led government would complete its five-year tenure. When asked about a no-trust motion announced by the opposition parties against PM Imran Khan, he replied that the time of the third-generation had arrived, starting from Sharif and Zardari to Maryam and Bilawal now. To a question concerning the opposition’s call for a long march and no-confidence vote in the parliament, the minister said the government did not take the opposition seriously because they had “failed in their designs multiple times already”.

He was of the view that the next general elections would be held based on the upcoming population census like 2018 after the census exercise was executed in 2017. It will be accomplished under the security of Pakistan Army personnel. The house listing and counting of the population will kick-start from August 1 and every enumerator having a computer tablet will cover two blocs in his jurisdiction within 30 days period till August 30, 2022. The number of census blocs has increased from 168,000 in 2017 to 180,000 for holding the upcoming population census and each enumerator will have to count 250 households in his bloc.

To remove controversies over the census exercise, the Minister for Planning directed the Chief Census Officer to hold frequent interactions with parliamentarians and media and rectify complaints in case of any genuine concerns. The exercise should be done transparently as the government did not have any intention to “manipulate” results. He said census was a crucial exercise because on its basis the financial resources were distributed among the Centre and the provinces under the NFC Award. Responding to a question, the minister said that the digital system will be completely secure as it will not be internet-based. To another query about the placement of IT security, the minister replied that the Ministry of IT and National Telecommunication Center (NTC) would supervise and ensure safety from any possible attack on such important data.

Pakistan’s Chief Census Naeem Uz Zafar told journalists that the pilot of a census exercise would be conducted in May 2022 and a full-fledged census would commence from August for a month. The PBS increased the number of languages from 5 to 10 in the census forms. The frame of the Economic Census will also be developed with the help of the upcoming population census. The government will hire services of 115,000 enumerators from the health, education, local government, and family planning department of the provinces. He said that so far, the utilized amount for hardware and software stood at Rs10 billion. For the current expenditures, the government had allocated Rs5 billion. It is hoped that more resources would be allocated for population census in the next budget for 2022-23, he added.

Chief Statistician, Dr. Naeem uz Zafar, presented the main features of the 7th Digital Population and Housing Census, along with the achieved and upcoming targets related to the census process. He said the upcoming census will be the first-ever digital census of Pakistan by involving NTC, Ministry of IT & T, PTA, SUPARCO & NRTC. Tablet-based data collection, geo-tagging, real-time monitoring, extensive training through technological intervention, and time reduction in releasing results will lead the process towards transparency and reliability.

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