ISLAMABAD -  The apex court on Tuesday directed the Pakistan Bureau of Statistic to submit statement why questions about special persons excluded from the census form.

The national population census is commencing, first time in 19 years, from today (March 15).

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, heard the petition of six persons with disability. The bench expressed concern over the exclusion of information regarding the disabled persons.

However, the chief justice said that at this stage the census process could not be halted, adding it is starting from today (March 15). He said that if the census process is halted then it would have consequence for future. He questioned what are the reasons to remove the column related to disabled persons?

Advocate Raheel Kamran Sheikh had filed the petition on behalf of six persons with disabilities under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. The federal and provincial governments and the national and provincial councils for rehabilitation of disabled persons are among the respondents in the case.

The petitioners requested the top court to direct all departments concerned to ensure collection of necessary data on the incidence of disability besides ensuring proper identification of persons with disabilities, documenting impairments and categorising types, causes, duration and severity of the disabilities.

The petition stated that during the course of consultations with PBS, the petitioners were assured that the appropriate forms would contain questions in this regard.

“This was reflected in an earlier copy of the questionnaire generated by PBS and shared with the petitioners and called ‘Form 2’, however, the most recent version of the form excluded all such questions for collecting information about persons with disabilities,” read the petition. “It only deals with queries pertaining to demographic details of households.”

The petitioners contended that such omissions in ‘Form 2’ meant that the census would actually be limited to a ‘headcount’ exercise and crucial information for addressing various social challenges, such as assisting persons with disabilities, would once again not be collected and, therefore, remain unavailable.

The petitioners told the apex court that the paucity of reliable data in this regard largely obstructed effective enforcement of laws or policies intended to assist persons with disabilities.

According to them, if lawmakers and administrative functionaries continued to work with outdated data, they would continue to remain unaware of the actual number of people who needed specific intervention, treatment, training and rehabilitation.

The hearing is adjourned till Thursday, March 16.