Go for population census in March, SC tells govt

CJP seeks schedule signed by PM on next hearing or Nawaz will be summoned; says holding election without census a joke with nation; Justice Amir Hani says today govt says census can’t be held without army and tomorrow ECP will say same thing

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday directed the government to hold the long-delayed population census within two months, from March 15 to May 15 2017.

Presiding over a three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) hearing the suo motu case of population census, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Anwar Zaheer Jamali, remarked that the population census did not seem to be taking place. “It seems as if no other way is left before us except summoning the prime minister. If the population census is not to be conducted, then an amendment be made to the Constitution. The government has no intention to hold the census. Holding election without population census is a joke with the people,” remarked the CJP.

He observed that national policies were being formulated in the air and no one knew about the exact number of people living in the country. “No political party has come to the court on this national issue. Arrangements should be completed by the start of March. Population census should be completed within two months from March 15 to May 15 2017. Two months are enough for it.”

The CJP further remarked that a final written schedule — duly signed by the prime minister — for the holding of the population census should be submitted to the apex court.

“Democratic system relies on the population census; if the census is held then new constituencies will be carved out. This status quo suits all the political parties. If the census is not conducted as per the Constitution then we will summon the prime minister. The census cannot be held the way you say. Several months have elapsed after taking suo motu notice. How the constitutional institutions are being treated is before all of us. Look at the Sindh Public Service Commission. Appointments have been made against merit. Seven persons tendered resignations when the court took notice, while over 4000 appointments were made.”

Attorney General (AG) Ashtar Ausaf told the court that participation of all the provinces was a must for holding the census. He told the apex court that arrangements had been finalised at the division level and a computerized system was being introduced for holding the population census for the first time.

The attorney general told the court that as soon as the arrangements were finalised, the population census would be conducted.”We should not be blamed for what has been done in Sindh,” said the AG.

The CJP remarked that matters were alike in Sindh and Punjab. “The court’s orders are not being implemented.”Justice Amir Hani Muslim remarked: “All right. The PM should say the provinces are not cooperating. Today the government says the census can’t be held without the army. Tomorrow the Election Commission will say the election can’t be held without the army. Skirmishes are going on at the LoC. This way the population census Election Commission will say the election can’t be held without the army. Skirmishes are going on at the LoC. 

This way the population census will not be started in April too. If the population census has not to be held then the PM should appear in the court.” The AG said the government was ready to hold the census on whatever date the court gave.

The court directed the holding of population census from March 15 to May 15 2017. The court directed that the schedule — duly signed by the prime minister — be presented in the court on the next hearing and adjourned the hearing till December 7.