The federal government has announced that the field operations for the seventh national census in Pakistan must conclude on Monday, May 15, 2023, without any further extensions. Chief Census Commissioner Dr. Naeemuz Zafar conveyed this decision to the provincial governments, as well as those of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).
As of May 12, the population count for Pakistan, excluding AJK and GB, stood at 240.6 million individuals, a significant increase from the 207 million recorded during the previous census in 2017. The population breakdown includes 121.2 million in Punjab, 56.6 million in Sindh, 39.7 million in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 20.9 million in Balochistan, and 2.3 million in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). Additionally, more than 5.9 million people were counted in AJK and GB.
Dr. Zafar emphasized that the census field operations would not be extended beyond May 15, as decided during the 13th meeting of the Census Monitoring Committee on May 10. This deadline is crucially linked to the delimitation process for the upcoming general election. He urged the provincial census commissioners, as well as those in AJK, GB, and Islamabad, to expedite the verification exercise to ensure its completion by the stipulated date.
Previously, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed concern over the repeated extensions of field enumeration activities. Consequently, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) officially announced the closure of census field operations in all areas except for 66 districts, where the deadline was extended until Monday. These districts will primarily focus on verifying and covering any remaining structures or houses. Among them, 33 districts are in Punjab, eight in Sindh, nine in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, three in Balochistan, seven in AJK, and four in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The national census operations commenced on March 1 and were originally scheduled to conclude on April 4. However, the deadline has been extended five times since then. The latest extension, granted at the 12th meeting of the Census Monitoring Committee on April 28, allowed an additional two weeks until May 15. It was emphasized during the 13th meeting that no further extensions would be granted, given the crucial link between the census and delimitation for the upcoming general elections.
The importance of completing the field operations promptly was highlighted during a meeting of demographers on May 12. They underscored the impact of continuous births, deaths, and migration dynamics on census results if not prudently addressed during the field operations. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics has also stressed the need to finalize the census and deliver the final results to the Election Commission of Pakistan expeditiously to facilitate the delimitation of constituencies for the general election.