ISLAMABAD - The government yesterday told the Senate that the conduct of much-awaited population census would be possible between November this year and March next year but remains conditional only with the improvement of security situation as well as availability of troops.

“The census could be conducted either in November 2016 or in March 2017,” said the Law and Justice Minister Zahid Hamid while responding a call attention notice in the Senate.

The minister said that census were postponed due to the non-availability of troops keeping in view the volatile security situation of the country and the decision of its postponements was taken in February this year in a meeting of the Council of Common Interests (CCI). “The CCI in 2015 had decided to hold census in 2016 as around 3,58,000 personnel from the armed forces troops needed for this purpose were not available because of the security situation,” he said. He said nobody could deny the significance of census and it was the PML-N government that conducted last census in 1998.

Earlier, Lt. General (Retd) Abdul Qayyum speaking on the issue urged the need to hold 6th consensus that were pending for the last many years as last census were held in 1998.

Separately, Chairman Senate Finance Committee Saleem Mandviwala told the house that efforts were being made to finalise the recommendations of the Senate to the National Assembly on the Finance Bill 2016 till today. The report would be presented before the house today if recommendations were finalised, he said.

Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan on a point of public concern pointed out that the federal government was not removing the Inspector General of Police of Ajaz Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) despite a letter written by AJK PM in this regard. He alleged that the officer had political inclinations and his posting would be detrimental for the conduct of smooth upcoming general elections in AJK. He said that such behaviour of federation towards AJK could harm Pakistan’s efforts on Kashmir cause. The chair sought a report from the government.

Senator Kalsoom Parveen questioned about the government’s arrangements ahead of the moon soon rains and likely floods in the country. “Whether the government had some early warning system or not,” she said. The chair also sought a report from the Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq.

Senator Farhatullah Babar on a point of public concern expressed concern over the recent sentencing of political activist Babajan and others in G-B on charges of terrorism.

Babajan has been protesting against political, constitutional and human rights violations in the area and organising rallies and demonstrations. Terming it as abuse of judicial processes by the administration, he called for the release of Babajan.

“On one hand we deny mainstreaming the area flaunting official stance on Kashmir issue and on the other human rights defenders were sentenced dubbing them as terrorists,” he said adding that this would alienate the patriotic people of this sensitive area and make the realisation of CPEC dream difficult.

He proposed the human rights committee to examine abuse of judicial processes, denial of the rights of people and stifling the voice of GB people.

On the issue of Panama Leaks, Senator Babar said that while calls were being made for the accountability of PM for surfacing his family’s name in Panama Papers, no one was talking about a sitting judge of the Lahore High Court supposedly named in the same financial scandal.

The duality of approach in treating one section of the society differently from other sections and the sacred cow syndrome must come to an end. We must apply the same yardstick to everyone. At this the Chairman remarked that the sacred cows were beyond the pale of accountability.

The issue of funding to the National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) also received Senate attention and questions were raised over the need for a parallel human rights body with the name of National Institute for HR when a body set up by the parliament was already in place.

Senator Babar commenting on the issue recalled that the Chairman had recently remarked in the house that the new body was being set up to accommodate some blue eyed boy. He said that the human rights committee of the senate was already seized of the matter and will dwell deep into it.

PML-F Senator Muzaffar Hussain Shah also raised the funding issue of NCHR and added that the National Commission on the Status of Women (NCSW) was headless for some time. He said that the government was not serious to appoint its head.