NA panel raises concerns about census process, asks for transparency

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  • Country had been divided into 186,120 census blocks of 200 to 250 houses each.
  • Census may be held on traditional method using paper-based questionnaires

Expressing serious apprehensions about the proposed process for conducting the 6th census in the country, the National Assembly panel on Tuesday unanimously directed the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to ensure the accuracy and transparency during the census process.

National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatisation’s 47th meeting was held here on Tuesday in parliament house under the Chairmanship of MNA Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh.

The meeting was attended by Saeed Ahmed Khan Manais, Muhammad Pervaiz Malik, Mohsin Shah Nawaz Ranjha, Shizra Mansab Ali Khan Kharral, Mian Abdul Mannan, Shiza Fatima Khawaja, Leila Khan, Nafisa Shah, Syed Mustafa Mehmud, Asad Umar, Abdul Rashid Godil, Muahmmad Ali Rashid, the MNAs, besides the senior officers from Ministry of Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Privatization, Statistics,  Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the NBP and Zarai Taraqiati Bank (ZTBL).

Briefing the NA panel regarding the preparation of implementation status of the upcoming census in the country, Chief Statistician Asif Bajwa informed the panel that Council of Common Interest (CCI) in its meeting held on February 29, 2016, deliberated the issue and decided to hold the census under the supervision of armed forces.

Bajwa said due to non-availability of a requisite number of armed forces by March/April 2016, the census cannot be held in March/April, 2016, and has to be postponed. He said that the CCI in its meeting held on December 16, 2016, decided that the census may be held on the traditional method using paper-based questionnaires starting from March 15, 2017. He added that census is going to be held phase wise in the country.

Briefing the committee, Asif Bajwa said the country had been divided into 186,120 census blocks of 200 to 250 houses each. He said census would be conducted in two phases. It would be started simultaneously in all the provinces and one enumerator would cover two blocks, he added.

After a detailed discussion, some members showed their apprehensions regarding the increase in blocks and double entry during the census process. The panel expressed its concern about the verification of Afghan refugees and their identity. The panel recommended that disabled persons should also be highlighted in the census form and unanimously directed the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to ensure the accuracy and transparency during the census process. The NA panel decided that next meeting would be convened soon and NADRA chairman would also be invited to the said meeting.

During the course of this meeting, Standing Committee on Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatization of the National Assembly expressed its displeasure over the absence of governor, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), presidents of the SBP, the National Bank of Pakistan and Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited and decided to call the said officers in the upcoming meeting in-person.

The committee once again directed to Ministry of Finance & Revenue to ensure the compliance of the directions of the standing committee for providing briefs of the meeting well in time, in future, for advance study of the members.

The committee was briefed by the representatives of the ZTBL, the NBP and the SBP regarding the reasons of high markup rates on agriculture loans. The committee was informed by the representative of the ZTBL that 8.5 pc markup rates were charged on its administrative expenditures. The committee has shown its concern on the high markup rates charged by the ZTBL and recommended that single digit markup rates should be charged to the agriculture sector.