ISLAMABAD - The government yesterday announced that all preparations have been made for the sixth housing and population census, starting from March 15 (Wednesday) after a hiatus of 19 years.

State Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said Rs18.5 billion have been allocated for the key national exercise, to be conducted in two phases by 118,918 numerators - who will have assistance of 200,000 trained Army personnel.

Speaking at a joint press conference with ISPR Director General Major General Asif Ghafoor and Chief Census Commissioner Asif Bajwa, she said the first phase stretching from March 15 to April 15 will be followed by a 10 day break for the movement of logistical arrangements, after which the second phase will go on until May 25.

“This is a prodigious exercise… We are in a sound state of readiness and preparedness as comprehensive knowledge building and capability enhancement have been conducted through an exhaustive and transparent campaign.”

She said that all the numerators are government employees and the process would be conducted simultaneously all across the country. The census mechanism has been designed to ensure data accuracy and transparency which was imperative for provision of social services to the common man.

The minister said for the first time in the history of country the transgender population would be counted and accounted in the census, while a separate form had been prepared to hold count of the disabled persons and record the nature of their disability.

She said that all the persons living in Pakistan would be in scope of the population census, including dual nationals (if in the country on the reference date) and diplomats, adding that the data of diplomats would be obtained from the Foreign Office.

Marriyum said that after May 25 provisional lists will be published including number of males and females and rural and urban population.

To a question she said that a Help Line, 0800-57575, has been set up for any kind of information or report regarding the census process. She said that Geographic Information System technology will be used during the demographic profiling.

It was informed that any person tendering wrong information to the census team would be penalised for six-month imprisonment along with Rs 50,000 fine in cash.

ISPR DG told a questioner that all the people in Pakistan would be included in the census and not a single head would be left over.

He clarified that 84 percent of temporarily displaced persons (TDPs) had returned to their native areas while the rest lot had already been registered with the authorities concerned so there should be no confusion in that regard.

He said there are 168,000 blocks and one solider will be with one numerator in each block. He said the army personnel will have direct link with Nadra to verify the data.

Besides 168,000 blocks, he said, 20,631 circle levels and 3307 in-charge levels had been established. The headquarters for conducting the entire process would be housed at Army Air Defence Command Rawalpindi.

“It will be a unique event that every soldier will go door to door for carrying out head and dwelling counts, which is required to be considered mark of thanks from Pakistan Army,” he said, asking the general public to fully cooperate with the census staff for ensuring transparency.

Giving details about the census process, he said the armed forces consulted the previous census records, particularly that of the recent one held in 1998 when the process were completed in 90 days with the help of some 250,000 personnel.

Despite `engagement of armed forces in various operations, now it was decided to deploy over 200,000 army men to assist for conducting the census process within 60 days, Major General Asif Ghafoor said, adding the army was committed to providing foolproof security during the drive.

“Insha Allah there would not be any security-related issue during the entire exercise and in case of any eventuality or threat to peace, Pakistan Army is fully prepared to take up the challenge in an appropriate manner,” he said.

Referring to the recent statement of the COAS, he said General Qamar Javed Bajwa had already declared every Pakistani as a soldier thus everyone should keep eyes and ears open and be vigilant not to miss to report any untoward happening or unusual activity.

For the purpose, a hotline (special telephone line) had been established which would work round the clock for passing on any such information or to respond any query in that regard, he added.

Answering a question, he said all the process of threat assessment had been thoroughly conducted and when and where it would be needed immediate deployment of personnel would be undertaken.

To another question, he said the troops already present in Balochistan and Federally Administered Tribal Areas would continue to remain in the respective areas and if any further requirement arose the force would be replenished accordingly.

Marriyum, during the press conference, specified the budget split to be divided as Rs6 billion for the armed forces who would be overseeing the census, Rs6.5 billion for logistics and the remaining Rs6 billion would be deployed for the civilian mechanasia to conduct the exercise.

The minister, while highlighting the importance of population census, said representation in the Parliament was based on the population data while the allocation of resources to the provinces and infrastructure development was also based on the population count. “So holding of census is very essential to have such estimates,” she added.

The proposed census is being conducted after 17 years which otherwise would had taken place in 2008 after years per the constitution.

According to analysts this census is of fundamental importance for the economic development as well as security of the country.

They believed that Pakistan needed a through survey of its population and housing units to set the course for its economic planning and development in the 21st century.

This of crucial importance after Pakistan has been fighting its war against terrorism for now more than fifteen years, which has not caused huge economic losses to the country but also displaced its population across the country.

They also believed that since Pakistan has started multi billion dollars China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a Chinese funded project, it needs to do the crucial exercise for its better planning to capitalise on the new economic opportunities and development.

Pakistan has already set up a special security division for the security of the CPEC which as regarded as game changer in country for economic development and the region as whole.

Analysts also believed that Pakistan needs this crucial census to ensure peace and stability across the country and the region and through exercise would be able to identify the millions of aliens largely the Afghans who have been posing serious challenges to the national security because of hostile intelligence agencies trying to sabotage the CPEC.

Through the sixth census Pakistan would trace the aliens by physically verifying their particulars who had illegally obtained Pakistani documents including identity cards as well as passports.