‘Do Count Us’ turned into a nationwide campaign on social media on Feb 10th 2017, in which leading persons with disabilities posted their video messages influencing government to include persons with disabilities in the census (1).
A delegation of women with disabilities again met the Chief Statistician Mr. Asif Bajwa and the meeting ended with the hopeless results then a series of press conferences started with the first conference held in Islamabad(2) on February 16th (3) and media played its due role to highlight the issue. It was considered as the violation of UN Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities (UNCRPD) which has been ratified by Government of Pakistan in 2011(4).
The Supreme Court (SC) on March 13th sought an explanation from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) for excluding questions seeking disability information during the sixth national population census, starting from March 15. A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar, expressed its concern over the exclusion of questions seeking information related to persons with disabilities. (7)
The CJP observed, however, that the census process could not be halted at this stage. The hearing of the case was later adjourned till Thursday, March 16.
The development came during the hearing of a petition filed by advocate Raheel Kamran Sheikh on behalf of six persons with disabilities under Article 184(3) of the Constitution. The federal and provincial governments and the national and provincial councils for rehabilitation of disabled persons are among the respondents in the case.
The petitioners later moved a miscellaneous application requesting the top court to direct all departments concerned to ensure collection of necessary data on the incidence of disability besides ensuring proper identification of persons with disabilities, documenting impairments and categorising types, causes, duration and severity of the disabilities.
The petition stated that during the course of consultations with PBS, the petitioners were assured that the appropriate forms would contain questions in this regard. “This was reflected in an earlier copy of the questionnaire generated by PBS and shared with the petitioners and called ‘Form 2’, however, the most recent version of the form excluded all such questions for collecting information about persons with disabilities,” read the petition. “It only deals with queries pertaining to demographic details of households.”
The petitioners contended that such omissions in ‘Form 2’ meant that the census would actually be limited to a ‘headcount’ exercise and crucial information for addressing various social challenges, such as assisting persons with disabilities, would once again not be collected and, therefore, remain unavailable(5).
On March 16, 2017, a bench constituted of three honorable Judges of the supreme court and headed by Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar Sahib, heard the case in detail and inquired the Lawyer and representatives of Bureau of Statistics to justify their position for not including the questions related to persons with disabilities in the census 2017. Honorable chief justice of Pakistan also pointed out the fact that the question for transgender is included but not for persons with disabilities.
The lawyer representing the state, and responsible state machinery tried their level best to get away with their responsibilities for not including the questions related to person with disabilities. During the discussion, apex court also learnt that state is using census forms printed in 2007 to carry out the National Census in 2017. The state has also ignored the decision of the Lahore High Court by the same petitioner for the same issue.
After hearing all the list of excuses by the state the Honorable Chief Justice Mian Nisar Saqib Sahib uphold the order* the Lahore High court on the same issue (see para 7 of the attached court order) and directed the Bureau of Statistics to include three more cells in the gender column to add males females and transgender with disabilities (as clearly indicted in the attached court order of Lahore High Court in Point.7). (6)(7)
The form will now be filled for
Category Code/ Numbers
Male (with disability) 4
Female (with disability) 5
Transgender (with disability) 6
Orders has been issued to enumerators from PBS and it is being advertised widely for awareness by Government authorities. Once again responsibility is reseted on the shoulders for masses to accept disability and help census team to have an accurate count of disabled citizens of Pakistan for an effective and inclusive policy making.
Shafiq-U-Rehman, President Milestone and provincial coordinator CBIDN for Punjab posted the first message
STEP conducted the first press conference in collaboration with Sayya Association and other development partners led by Abia Akram and Asim Zafar
Mr. Kamran Sheikh, the Lawyer from CBID-N, Mr. Asim Zafar, Secretariat Coordinator and Mr. Imran Nazir (Executive Member CBID-N) were present in the court room and witness all the proceedings of the apex court