Studies suggest that the word ‘Census’ is derived from Latin word ‘Censere’ which means ‘To Estimate’. The word estimate is often used to determine quantity. In ancient periods when invasions and war were common and there were no particular forces for wars, a census was taken to ascertain how much manpower was fit or available for warfare. A few kings conducted it for revenue generations or tax collection as well. The history of conducting census is primordial and vast. China, Egypt, Medieval Europe and Greece also preserved ancient records. Since our ancestors realised the importance of the census it has become an important operation all over the world. Almost all countries of the world conduct census on decennial basis. It has become necessity in the world of competitions.

Census in modern world isn’t limited to two the aforesaid purposes only. In modern nation-states people started using the census to gauge population of rural and urban settlements, to ascertain the number of voters in a particular constituency, for thr availability of health and education facilities, to know the percentage of ethnicity or religious populations etc. The census can also be helpful in improving socio-economic conditions by providing employment opportunities in accordance with availability of manpower. It can be beneficial in improving law and order situations as better calculations lead to better distribution of facilities. Whit better facilities chances of people being involved crime cane be reduced to a greater extent.

There is a very famous quote by Peter Ducker, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”. Many other management thinkers opine the same.

Census can be called a “Complete Health Report” of the national socio-economic body and can generate detailed check-ups to diagnosis real socio-economic suffering even at grassroots levels. Thus it provides opportunities to the country’s administration to cure these sufferings by making stringent efforts and good governance. In the scenario when the government isn’t even aware the actual population growth rate it would be difficult for it to run state machinery for the welfare of common man and claim good governance.

Pakistan emerged as an independent state on the world map on 14 August 1947. To make this happen Muslims of the sub-continent rendered great sacrifices under the leadership of Quaid-e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. When this newly born country reached the age of four years it organised it’s first ever census in the year 1951 to enumerate the people living in the country after independence. According to the results the country had a population of 75 million people. This included the population of both East and West Pakistan. In 1951 not only Pakistan but India, also conducted it’s first census. Since than India has been conducting the census after every ten years and it’s has conducted 7 censuses up till now. On the contrary Pakistan has conducted only 5 censuses during the same period. The country has been waiting for the 6th national census since last decade. The United States of America is also on the list of the countries who conduct census after every decennial.

If we look at history we would see that this is not unprecedented that our country is witnessing a delay in organising the census. A delay happened for the first time in 1971. The country’s third census was delayed by one year due to the Indo-Pak War and political instabilities. 1971 brought major political and geographical setbacks.

The fifth census was due in the country in 1991 but it was held in 1998 amid political instabilities and law and order situations. Pakistan witnessed three general elections during the time period of 1990 and 1996 which ultimately resulted in a delayed census. In 1998 Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif organised the fifth national census. Now again it is Nawaz Sharif’s government and the government is all set to hold the census in March 2017 as per the verdict given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. If this happens Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be first leader to organise two consecutive censuses as Prime Minister.

I still remember the slogan which I had heard in 1998, “Murdum shummari khana shumari hum sub ki koumi zimadari”, though I was too young at that time to realise the importance of the census. I remember how patiently my father and our neighbourhoods filled the forms provided by the census team. This nation has been waiting since 2008 to fill census and fulfil its national responsibility.

The sixth national census was due in 2008 but it was postponed till 2010. It is pertinent to mention here that in 2008 the country witnessed general elections and the political leaders made alliance to send President General (r) Pervaiz Musharaf out of President House. Later, political uncertainties, a worsening law and order situation and natural disasters caused delay after delay. A civilian government came and went without a census.

After the 2013 elections Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister for the third time and also the first to hold this portfolio thrice. After assuming the offices the PML-N government inked the historical agreement of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in 2015. Since than PML-N ‘s politics have been spinning around this agreement. The PML-N is about to complete four years of its tenure and is only left with a few months to handover this setup to a caretaker government before general election in 2018.

The incumbent Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had allocated Rs 14.5 millions in the federal budget 2015-16 for the sixth national census which was earlier scheduled for the year 2016. This time it seems like that nation’s wait is about to be over after the Supreme Court’s verdict for March 2017.

The Council of Common Interest (CII) has consented and preparations are under way for a housing and population census. The military will be providing security for the field teams of census along with other law and enforcement agencies.

If the census happens it would it will bring revolutionary changes in the political atmosphere and impact the general election in 2018. But it will also bring the record of holding two consecutive census to the lap of Nawaz Sharif.