Huge discrepancy in population data: National Assembly body told

Chief Commissioner Census, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Asif Bajwa has pointed out huge discrepancy in the population data and stated that according to NADRA data, as opposed to last year’s Economic Survey, there are 60 million people missing in the country.

While giving briefing to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance, Bajwa said that according to Pakistan’s Economic Survey for the last fiscal year, the total population of the country was 193 million whereas as per NADRA data, it was 133 million. “According to NADRA’s data, 60 million people are missing in the country,” added Bajwa.

Meanwhile, the members of committee expressed reservations as to how the PBS will ensure that there are no double entries, besides verification of Afghan identity, for a broadly accurate data in the much delayed population census.

The PBS officials were asked during the meeting, chaired by Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, why overseas Pakistanis will not be covered in the census when the data would be used for diverse purposes. Asif Bajwa apprised the committee of the preparations as well as the information to be asked from the households in the form designed for census.

The members asked questions from Asif Bajwa about reasons that led to delay census for almost eight years. They also asked about measures being taken to make the system foolproof by preventing double counts because it was politically extra sensitive activity.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) MNA Farooq Sattar said, “Our concern is that the system may not be foolproof to prevent double entry or overlapping. This would deprive his constituency, Karachi, of benefits of influx, in case a person who has moved to Karachi also gets himself counted from where he has moved.”

Pakistan Tahreek-e-Insaaf MNA Asad Umar said, “There should have been some inbuilt checks and balances to ensure that census data is broadly transparent because activity is extra politically sensitive.” He further stated that preferably technology-backed secondary information should be there to verify the data. Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) MNA Nafeesa Shah expressed her apprehension that a huge number of youth and household women who do not have computerised national identity cards (CNICs) may not be covered in the census. The chief statistician said that census has been delayed due to one or another factors since 2006 and “we had been making efforts to involve the armed forces to ensure credibility of the census since 2013, however, due to non-availability of the armed forces personnel, census was postponed.” As now the armed forces have provided 42,000 personnel for one phase, the government has decided to conduct the census in two phases and has provided training to 158,295 people for 168,120 blocks across the country to conduct the exercise.

The meeting was informed that Council of Common Interests (CCI) in its meeting held on 29th February, 2016 deliberated the issue and decided to hold the census under the supervision of armed forces at man-to-man level. The chairperson after taking sense of the meeting decided to hold an exclusive meeting on the issue to address the concerns of the members. He said that first phase of census would start from March 15, 2017 and the process comprising two phases would be completed by mid-May 2017.The committee decided that its next meeting would be convened shortly and chairman NADRA would also be invited in it.