Pakistan on 15 March 2017 launched its first countrywide census in almost two decades amidst tight security. It was inaugurated by Chief Statistician Asif Bajwa in Attock district, the largest province of Pakistan’s Punjab.
The process involves the participation of around 119,000 officials including 84,000 enumerators. Apart from this almost two lakh soldiers have been deployed to provide security and to monitor the proceedings to ensure authenticity.
• The census would be conducted in phases. The first phase, which has already begun, will continue till 15 April and then would be followed by a 10-day break.
• Phase one will cover 63 districts of the country including 16 in Punjab, 13 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 15 in Balochistan, 8 in Sindh, 5 each in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit-Baltistan and one in a tribal region.
• The second phase is scheduled to begin from 25 April and will end on 25 May 2017. It would cover 21 districts each in both Punjab and Sindh, 18 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 17 in Balochistan and Islamabad and five each in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan.
• Pakistan last conducted a census in 1998, in which it recorded a national population of nearly 180 million.
• Currently, the population of Pakistan is estimated to be around 200 million, which makes it the sixth most populous country in the world.
According to the constitution, the population census should be held every 10 years to determine the exact population and allocate the resources accordingly. However, it had been delayed due to security concerns and political instability.
The collection of the census has become a political issue lately and led to a rise in security concerns in the country as Pakistan’s largest province Punjab fears that its share in the national resources may decrease, as the population in other provinces may have increased in these past two decades.
Besides this, the country’s smallest province Balochistan also fears that the local Baloch people may become a minority due to the increasing presence of Afghan refugees in the province who are believed to have acquired the citizenship of the country through fraud.
The final outcome of the census will, however, be known only by July 2017. It may lead to a further demarcation of constituencies ahead of 2018 general elections.