Published in Dawn on May 15, 2023
ISLAMABAD: With five extensions and over 246.5 million people counted across the country, the federal government on Sunday told the provinces that field operations for the seventh national census must end on Monday (today) and that the deadline would not be extended again.
“The census field operations will not further be extended and the provincial governments must complete census enumeration/verification till the stipulated date of May 15, 2023,” Chief Census Commissioner Dr Naeemuz Zafar wrote to the governments of four provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.
As of May 12, Pakistan’s population — excluding AJK and GB — was counted at 240.6m — 240,602,348, to be precise. The census of 2017 had put the country’s population at 207m.
Some 121,215,805 individuals have been counted in Punjab, 56,566,804 in Sindh, 39,651,697 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 20,865,742 in Balochistan, and 2,302,307 in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).
Provinces told to wrap up exercise today as no more extension on the cards
Besides, more than 5.9m people were counted in AJK and GB until last week.
Mr Zafar reminded the provincial and regional governments that it had been decided during the 13th meeting of the Census Monitoring Committee on May 10 that the census field operation would not be extended beyond May 15 as it was linked with the delimitation for the upcoming general election.
He asked the provincial census commissioners and those in AJK, GB and Islamabad to speed up the verification exercise to complete it positively on May 15.
The decision to extend the ongoing population and housing census operations for two weeks until May 15 was taken in April only for verifying and covering the leftover structures/houses in selected districts.
Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif took notice of the repeated extensions of field enumeration activities.
The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) then formally announced the closure of census field operations in all areas except 66 districts, where the deadline has been extended until Monday.
It was decided that field operations in these districts should specifically focus on the verification and coverage of leftover areas. Of the districts, 33 are in Punjab, eight in Sindh, nine in KP, three in Balochistan, seven in AJK and four in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The field operations for the census began on March 1 and were initially scheduled to complete on April 4. However, the deadline has been extended five times since then.
The last extension granted at the 12th meeting of the Census Monitoring Committee on April 28 was for two weeks, i.e. until May 15.
“During the 13th meeting of the Census Monitoring Committee, it was decided that the census field operation will not be further extended beyond this date due to its linkage with delimitation for upcoming general elections,” Mr Zafar wrote.
Furthermore, during a May 12 meeting of demographers, it was recommended that census field operations might not further be extended, mainly due to continuous births, deaths and migration dynamics of society, which may badly impact the results if not prudently taken care of during the census field operations.
The census commissioner recalled that PBS had also been stressing for quite some time to complete the field operations, as the statistics bureau was required to hand over the final results to the Election Commission of Pakistan at the earliest so that constituencies could be delimited for the general election.