ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court yesterday hinted at summoning Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif if the federal government continued to delay the matter of population census in the country.

The Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) said the arrangements for the census could be completed in three months, on which the court asked him to start the census by March 15 next year and complete it in two months (by May 15).

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, heard suo motu notice about the inordinate delay in population census.

The bench directed the AGP to submit blueprint of the govt plan for the national population census with the approval the prime minister on next date of hearing (December 7), failing which the court would summon the PM to explain his government’s position.

The court observed if the government was not willing to fulfil its constitutional duty to hold census, it should better amend the constitution accordingly.

The chief justice remarked that without population census policymaking process had no value because there was hell of a difference between population in 1998 (when last census was conducted) and 2016.

Terming next general elections on the existing delimitations mockery with the nation, the chief justice observed that not even one political party had shown interest in this matter of national importance.

He said delay in holding of census had negative impact on the individual, the society and the democratic system. He said the census would break status quo on delimitations in order to entertain manifold impacts of social and infrastructure development in the country.

Citing bad governance in Sindh Public Service Commission, the chief justice observed the apex court took suo motu notice in the matter as a result of which seven persons, including the SPSC chairman, resigned from their posts. The performance of the federal government was no different from that of the Sindh government, he added.

The attorney general told the court all the stakeholders at federal and provincial level had been taken on board, adding they had shown full support for conducting census.

He also said the hardware and software requirements along with total financial cost of the proposal were being worked out along with a time frame. The census results could be tabulated in 15 days as everything was computerised. He said there was no ill intention on the part of the government as it earnestly desired to conduct the census.

The hearing was adjourned until December 7.

INP adds: The Supreme Court rejected the federal government’s arguments and reasons and directed it to announce a final date to hold population census in the country.

The apex court issued a warning to the prime minister that he could be summoned if the government failed to abide by the orders.

During the proceedings, Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali observed: “The prime minister should himself appear in the court if a final date is not announced.”

The court said the government had no other option but to hold census. The bench observed the government’s intention was mala fide regarding the census issue.

“The government does not have fair intentions. In fact, the status quo suits all political parties,” the CJP said. The apex court said the government should give a final date for the census by December 7; otherwise, the court would summon the prime minister.

Justice Ameer Hani Muslim asked the attorney general when the prime minister could appear before the court.

The last census was carried out in 1998 when the population was 132 million.