ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court has been informed that census across the country will be held upon the availability of the army men.

Additional Attorney General Muhammad Waqar Rana on Thursday submitted a concise statement on behalf of the federal government, wherein it is stated that Statistics Division/ Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) is in touch with the defense authorities for the availability of army personnel.

A two-member bench comprising Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed will take up suo moto on the delay in census today.

The report says; “As soon as the availability of army personnel is ensured, PBS will conduct the census in the country as per schedule approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) for holding the census in 2016.”

The PBS statement said that approximately 1,67,000 military personnel would be required for the deployment at man to man level apart from command structure and security arrangements.

However, the defense authorities have responded that availability of armed forces for census operation could be ensured only once the security situation in the country improves.

The PBS has also informed the CCI in its last meeting on March 25 that in the prevailing situation, wherein armed forces personnel are not currently available, and a fresh timeline schedule for holding census cannot be proposed presently.

Upon this, the CCI agreed that efforts should be made to conduct the census in the calendar year 2016 subject to the availability of armed forces personnel in order to ensure transparency and credibility.

In the light of the CCI decisions, the PBS has continued its preparations to hold census during 2016 subject to the availability of armed forces personnel. The PBS has currently held meetings with the chief secretaries of Sindh Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and AJK to take them on board while meetings with other stakeholders are in the pipeline, says the reply.

It is also told the apex court that the PBS is also exploring other possible alternative methodologies. In this context, an international conference is being held towards the end of this month (July), where speakers will share methods of holding census in difficult areas.

The statement further informed that the army chief has also pointed out the issue of Afghan refugees in Balochistan, which would adversely impact the ethnic profile of the province, adding that it was pointed out in the letter that the Afghans are holding Pakistani CNICs and these should be cancelled before any census can be taken.

It is also submitted that the population census is the biggest peace time logistic involving mobilization of about 20,000 manpower including 167,000 enumerators, one for each block and their supervisory tiers. It would also incur an expenditure of Rs14.5 billion.

It is multidimensional and multi-stage exercise which requires planning and coordination all over the country to reach every household from Khujrab to Karachi. The reply also tells that census could not be held in 2008 due to the law & order situation in the country, paucity of staff and financial constraint.