The curious case of GB’s census data

By Noor Akbar

A month ago, I was making a PowerPoint presentation on the latest population statistics of Pakistan and its administered regions — Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan — as part of my lesson plan for an online session.

I sifted through the related books, visited websites, and other reliable sources including the official website of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to find the relevant data but to my dismay I could not find any.

The official website of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics provides details about population statistics of all four provinces of Pakistan at all levels, right from taluka to district, except for Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

I scrolled up and down the website and found this option, “Data request”. As per guidelines, I requested district-wise complete population data so that I could refer to it as per need while teaching about the demography of Pakistan and areas under its mandate i.e. AJK and GB.

Within 24 hours I received an email confirming the receipt of my request and it being processed forward to the relevant authority.

After a couple of days, I received another email from the Chief Statistical Officer, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics informing me that census data pertaining to AJK and GB is restricted for official use only and is supplied to the government departments/organizations on prior production of certificate duly signed by the head of the department indicating that “the census data will be used only for official purpose and will not be shared with any individual/department/ organization either government or private”.

I have some questions in this regard:

According to Article 19-A of the Constitution of Pakistan, “every citizen shall have the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance”. Does the current GB Governance Order contain any such provision related to access to information in matters of public interests?

Is there any security issue or state interest at stake that prevents making the data public or the data is used as a commodity that NGOs would buy for their research, etc.?

Lastly, was there any local newspaper, in print or online, or any news platform, YouTube channel, etc. that updated its readers and audience of Gilgit-Baltistan about 2017 census results citing the competent authority (reliable source)?

Noor Akbar is a teacher by profession. He writes on varied topics including culture, ethics, politics, and society.


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