Pakistan postpones population, housing census amid security issue

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Islamabad, March 01 (ANI): The Council of Common Interests (CCI) of Pakistan has decided to postpone its population and housing census.

The decision was made unanimously by a meeting presided by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and four Chief Ministers.

Sharif’s secretariat issued a statement which said a fresh date for conducting the census would be announced after consultations with the stakeholders.

According to reports, the provinces had objected to the presence of refugees and illegal immigrants in the country. Traditionally, Sindh and Balochistan provinces don’t welcome migration of Pakhtuns to these provinces, but Chief Ministers Qaim Ali Shah and Sanaullah Khan Zehri used the word Afghans, and not Pakhtuns, during the meeting.

Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pervez Khattak called for repatriation of Afghan refugees living in the province.

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Reports say that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif remained silent despite the fact that his province had a sizable presence of both Pakhtuns and Afghans.

Statistics Division Secretary, Shahid Hussain Asad said the country had been divided into 166,819 blocks for which staff of 210,239 heads was required reported Dawn.

Since Pakistan’s armed forces were already engaged in the Zarb-i-Azb operation, the deployment of army for conducting the census throughout the country in March or April was not possible the meeting informed.

The CCI according has asked the Bureau of Statistics to propose a new date and consult the armed forces about availability of the required human resource.

Dawn reported that according to an official, the bureau proposed to conduct the census on province-wise bases or on the pattern of local body elections, but the proposal was not supported. It also said that the number of soldiers required for data collection was not a problem, but ensuring security of the soldiers was an issue.

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The official also said that the army has suggested holding of the census in phases.

In the meeting, the CCI had also approved setting up of an inquiry commission to fix responsibility for alleged illegalities in the Kacchi Canal Project.

The inquiry commission will be headed by a retired judge of Supreme or High Court and secretaries of water and power, planning and finance ministries will be its members.

In the meeting, it was informed that the project was initially approved by Ecnec at a cost of Rs27.5 billion in 2003 and later the PC-I cost was revised to Rs57.7bn.

The project had started prior to the approval of feasibility study and PC-I.

Dawn reported that Sharif had asked for a fresh feasibility study, along with implementation plan to be prepared immediately.

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CCI will hold next meeting on March 25 and would discuss one-item agenda of the National Flood Protection Plan-IV (2015-25).

The committee comprising of ministers of water and power and climate change and the four chief ministers will present the plan.

The CCI also approved the draft of the Securities and Exchange Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2016.(ANI)

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