ISLAMABAD - Although the Supreme Court of Pakistan has shown serious concern over the delay in conducting population census, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics yesterday made it clear that it could not carry out it before March 2017 due to the military engagement in operation Zarb-e-Azb.

“Population census is likely to be conducted in March or April next year with the help of the army,” said Asif Bajwa, chief statistician, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), a body responsible for conducting census after getting approval from the Council of Common Interests. He categorically stated population census was impossible without the army’s help.

The process has been delayed because army men are engaged in operation Zarb-e-Azb in the North Waziristan tribal region, he remarked. Sharing the future plan, Bajwa said Pakistan Bureau of Statistics would hold a meeting with army officials in November or December this year to confirm their availability.

He revealed the Ministry of Finance had released Rs 1.90 billion for population exercise out of the allocated Rs 14 billion budget for census. As many as 207,000 workers are required to complete the task across the country, he added. Total amount to be incurred on the census is estimated at Rs 14.5 billion of which Rs 6.9 billion will be allocated for PBS and Rs 7.5 billion for security purposes, he affirmed.

Pakistan has not conducted census during 18 years; the last time it was conducted in 1998. The first census in Pakistan was conducted in 1951, second in 1961,, the third in 1972, the fourth was conducted in March 1981 while the fifth which was due in 1991 was carried out in March 1998.

Pakistan was due to conduct census in 2008 and 2010, which was delayed owing to political unrest, conflict and natural disasters. In March 2015, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) decided to conduct a fresh census in March 2016. However, the government did not start the national exercise due to the military engagement in operation Zarb-e-Azb.

The Supreme Court of Pakistan took suo motu over much delayed population census in the country. The apex court, on the other day, noted any attempt to defer the matter of population census in the country might lead to postponement of the next general elections.

Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have also asked the federal government to conduct population census in the country. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak asked Finance Minister Ishaq Dar this week to resolve the matters pertaining to census.