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Pakistan Reader# 397, 14 November 2022

Pakistan: The Controversy over Census



How the delay in the census affects the next electoral process

Joel Jacob

On 7 November 2022, the government announced that the seventh census will be delayed for the third time. The government cited foreign source procurements due to the prevailing economic situation as the reason for the delay. The Ministry of Planning directed the PBS to send a fresh summary to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) and the Prime Minister’s Office with a fresh timeline for the seventh digital Census 2022. The government has given February-March 2023 as the new date for holding the seventh housing and population census. Earlier, the field surveys had been planned from 15 October to 15 November.

Why the delay?
In April, reports stated that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has set a four-month time frame for completing the exercise based on the 2017 census and population statistics. The census has been delayed for several reasons. First, the issues surrounding the foreign procurements of resources and finances to conduct the census. Second, the hindrance caused due to the devastating floods in Pakistan. Third, the technicalities surrounding the digitisation of the census
.
What are the fallouts of the delay?
The delay in the census directly impacts the general elections that are scheduled for 2023. Unless the census is released the ECP would not be able to delimit and demarcate constituencies. Additionally, the delay in releasing the census would hinder the process of training staff and logistic preparations for the general elections.

What are the hurdles to the digitalization of the census?
There are several challenges to the digitalization of the census resulting from technical and non-technical issues. The technical issues include near-perfect training sessions to develop the capacity of the staff in a cascade model which uses master trainers to train the trainers, software development and software solutions and the durability and safety of the tables used. On the non-technical, the issues include delivery of the tablets for the staff and workers involved in data collection and creating awareness around the digitalization process of the census. Additionally, with the general elections coming, all this will be time bound which adds to the digitalization challenge.
 
References
Census delayed,” The Nation, 11 November 2022
Census delay,” The News International, 9 November 2022
7th digital census delayed by four months,” The Express Tribune, 9 November 2022
ECC holds up funds for next population census,” The Express Tribune, 18 October 2022
 

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