ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Friday directed the federation to inform the apex court in two weeks about the time frame for conducting census in the country.

A two-member bench comprising Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, hearing suo motu, ordered the additional attorney general to get instruction from the authorities as when the census would be held in the country and submit its report in two weeks. The CJP had taken suo motu notice of not holding census in the country despite lapse of eight years. Onset of the hearing, AAG Rana Waqar informed that he had submitted concise statements regarding suo motu on delay in holding census.

The chief justice said: “We are not interested in the statements. Abrogate the constitution if the government does not like to adhere to it.” “This is not the first time that the elected government has violated the constitutional provisions,” he added.

Justice Jamali said it seemed that the constitution is considered like other books and placed in shelf as decoration piece. He said they were not interested in the concise statement and directed the AAG to get instructions from the government regarding timeline to conduct census. Rana Waqar said the federal government in this year financial budget had allocated funds for holding census and Rs14.5 billion will be spent on it. He said army men support would be required in the exercise of census, adding the government does want only census but ‘credible census’.

The federation statement says approximately 1,67,000 military personnel would be required for the deployment at man-to-man level apart from command structure and security arrangements.

It said the Statistics Division/Pakistan Bureau of Statistics is in touch with the defence authorities for the availability of army personnel.

“As soon as the availability of army personnel is ensured, the PBS will conduct the census in the country as per schedule approved by Council of Common Interest for holding the census in 2016,” the statement further said.

The AAG pleaded there is no time frame mentioned in the constitution. The census in the country is held under International Convention, which says that census should be held after every 10 years.

Justice Azmat Saeed remarked it means the federal government says ‘there is no legal obligation to hold census’, adding then don’t hold census for the next 200 years.

The AAG argued that under section 31 of General Statistics (Reorganisation) Act, 2011 ‘The Federal Government may, from time to time, by notification in the official Gazette, declare that a census of population and housing conditions of Pakistan shall be taken by the Bureau during such period as may be specified therein.’

Rana apprised that in India the census was held in 1981 and the next census instead of 1991 was conducted in 1998. He said Council of Common Interest meeting, which held on March 25 had agreed that census will be held before the end of this year.

The statement also mentioned that all prior arrangements for holding census is completed wherein focal persons have been appointed by the provinces and the Provincial Census Commissioners nominated.

The provincial governments have frozen the boundaries of administrative units in the country. The Data Processing Centre at Islamabad has been upgraded and test runs conducted.