The census is facing a lot of challenges, especially in FATA. A month ago, the FATA disaster management authority de-registered over 63,297 internally displaced families. The reason was that they had settled in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and were refusing to go back. Since this was creating hindrances for the enumerators, they were no longer going to be counted as citizens of FATA.

The action was commended by everyone because swift decision making was required to push the exercise forward. What was expected after the de-registration, was smooth enumeration. However, a new conflict has unfolded. The Federal Government has failed to carry out the exercise in the agencies in North and South FATA due to a lapse in the law and order situation in the region.

The odd solution given by lawmakers in FATA is to carry out the exercise by the use of Google maps. According to them, services provided by Google maps - satellite imagery, panoramic views of streets and demography, route planning etc, can be helpful in areas where enumerators cannot be present in person. They also plan on relying on old data collected by the FATA disaster management authority. This is a ridiculous alternative and another case of different policies being applied to FATA than the rest of Pakistan. The pool of information that is collected after spending Rs.14 billion will not make much of a difference because of lack of transparency. This is a region from where clear reliable data is most needed. That legislators are blocking the state from getting information, and that census teams are being attacked, only means that this information on the population is valuable and is a matter of national security.

We have recently witnessed an attack on the census team in Lahore. If it can happen in one of the metropolitans of the country, areas like FATA are at a huge risk and the problems for the enumerators will only increase during the second phase of the census that is due to begin from April 25.