Lahore: The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) and Peoples Commission for Minorities Rights (PCMR) have expressed their serious concerns on the manner of the ongoing census. In a press conference entitled “Quest for Credible Population Census: Inclusive Processes and Transparency” Former Minister Ijaz Alam Augustine, Dr. Majid Abel and Peter Jacob, representing CSJ and PCMR stated that even though the date for the 7th Population Digital Census has been extended 3rd time the enumeration as well as the provisional data reflected a lack of preparedness and training of staff, etc.
CSJ’s executive director Peter Jacob stated, “The civil society has serious reservations on the way the census has been conducted. PBS claimed the process would be completely digital, the staff would be fully trained to use the devices, and no gaps will be left to ensure everyone is counted, but the ground reality is beyond PBS’s claims.” He emphasized the importance of the census, its socio-political impact, social justice and future planning and mapping to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.
CSJ further stated that during the past year, it had repeatedly engaged with the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) with recommendations to make the process credible, transparent and inclusive. CSJ showed their communications with PBS, One Man Commission formed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, NADRA and the Council of Common Interests (CCI).
Regarding the correct count of religious minorities, CSJ also issued a White Paper in June 2022 about the declining demography of the minorities in the previous census at a press conference in Islamabad, impressing upon the need for a credible census. Yet PBS has missed out including all the religious diversity of Pakistan, including Baha’i and Kailash which are recognized minorities. PCMR stated that PBS had enough time to prepare, but neglected the necessary aspects of preparation rigidly.
CSJ had also engaged in awareness campaigns among minority communities and observed and facilitated the enumeration with volunteers in 24 districts. Moreover, it informed PBS about irregularities such as the use of paper in data collection, etc. PBS therefore must extend the date for improving the process and correct entry of data to achieve credible and accurate results. The best course would be to make the collected data available at the union council level and allow people to identify the missed population. A culture of secrecy would further damage the trust and its credibility therefore a third-party evaluation of the data compilation would be necessary.