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Contempt plea in Khowar language exclusion case disposed of

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court (PHC) disposed of a contempt petition against the absence of Chitral’s Khowar language in the form for the forthcoming population census.

The court disposed of the petition after Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) assured that an earlier court’s order on the issue will be placed before the Council of Common Interest, the competent forum.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Abdul Shakoor pronounced the order after a joint reply was produced on behalf of the PBS chief statistician and two other officers declaring that as the matter fell in the purview of the CCI under the Constitution, the earlier high court decision would be placed before the next meeting of the CCI, the competent forum for considering and including the Khowar language in the questionnaire of the Seventh Population and Housing Census.

The PBS also regretted a ‘lapse’ on its part by not placing the earlier judgement of the PHC before a relevant committee making preparations for the census.

The contempt petition was filed by Shahid Ali Yaftali, a lawyer from Chitral, who had challenged the non-inclusion of Khowar language in the census form despite an earlier order issued by the high court for it in 2017. 

During previous hearing, the court had sought the response of the respondents, including PBS chief statistician Dr Naeemuz Zafar, deputy director general Rabia Awan and deputy census commissioner Akhtar Ali Khan.

Deputy attorney general Altaf Ahmad and deputy census commissioner Akhtar Ali Khan submitted joint reply on behalf of the respondents wherein it was submitted that generally, Population and Housing Census was conducted after a gap of 10 years, however, the CCI, while approving the results of the Sixth Population and Housing Census in April 2021 also decided to conduct the seventh census as early as possible to address the reservations of the provinces.

According to it, the CCI, in its 49th meeting held on Jan 13, 2022, approved the holding of the seventh census within 18 months to provide the data to the Election Commission of Pakistan for delimitation purpose for conduct of 2023 general elections.

The reply read, “The timeline approved by the CCI was very challenging and therefore, the PBS started the preparatory work of the 7th population census on war footing and convened a meeting of the committee of renowned demographers to finalise the questionnaire.

“At that time, the concerned section of PBS was erroneously unable to sensitize the committee regarding the decision of the Peshawar High Court, therefore, PBS highly regretted the lapse on their part.”

The PBS officers said ‘census’ was the ninth subject of the Federal Legislative List and according to Article 154 of the Constitution, the CCI would formulate and regulate policies in relation to matters in Part II of the Federal Legislative List and would exercise supervision and control over related institutions.

They added that such matters came under the purview of the CCI.

According to them, as soon as the decision of the PHC was brought to the notice of the PBS administration, a meeting was held under the chairmanship of chief statistician to discuss the modalities for inclusion of Kohwar and other languages in the census questionnaire and its implication on census operation.

The petitioner said before the last population census conducted by the PBS, he and intellectual and writer Dr Inayatullah Faizi had moved the court seeking inclusion of the Khowar language in the census form.

He said the high court had disposed of the petition in June 2017 directing the PBS to make that language part of the form for the seventh population census. 

The petitioner said in disregard to the court’s order the new proforma prepared for the next population census didn’t include the Khowar language. 


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