Following the controversial census data on minorities, a leading rights group has recommended delaying the 7th National Census until 2023.
Christian leaders rejected the data, released last year, which found that Christians make up 1.27 percent of Pakistan’s population of 207.68 million, according to data released last year. They were 1.59 percent of the total population as per the 1998 census.
In a press release issued on Feb 1, the Center for Social Justice urged the government to postpone holding a census to April 2023, to allow proper preparation; removal of the culture of secrecy in gathering and compiling the census data; an early awareness campaign on registration; use of alternative means of verification; confidence-building release of comprehensive and segregated provisional census results to avoid misunderstandings caused by delay in announcement of final census results.
“The census results were disturbing for religious minorities. The official census data showed an overall growth of about 60 percent from 1998 to 2017, whereas the population growth of religious minorities showed surprisingly asymmetrical trends,” it stated.
“The growth of Christian population was only 25.71 percent, while Hindus 70 percent, and the scheduled castes population increased exponentially by 157.58 percent. The Qadiani/Ahmadi population declined by 64.28 percent, “Other religions” declined by 60 percent. The Christian population declined significantly by 0.32 percent in the aggregate figure. The overall minority population fell from 3.73 percent in 1998 to 3.53 percent in 2017(0.18 percent decrease in 19 years).”
Wajahat Masood and Peter Jacob, the Chairperson and Executive Director of CSJ proposed several recommendations, including filling the vacant posts for population census commission/Bureau at federal and province-level on an urgent basis.
They also urged authorities to engage local civil society organisations/volunteers to assist enumerators in all areas in general and in minority settlements in particular and ensure that all religious communities such as; Sikhs, Buddhists, Kalash, Jews, Parsi, Baha’i, etc. are counted and presented separately rather than accumulatively as “others” (segregated data, including the social indicators).
Sabir Michael, a human rights activist and professor at the University of Karachi, rejected CSJ’s call to delay the seventh population and housing census.
“We demand a free and fair count. The last census has already affected our political and social weight. It disturbed our economic interests. Have our men become impotent or women became infertile?” he said while talking to Kross Konnection.
“Hindus have become a strategic minority to counter Indian propaganda. Christians are being deliberately undermined for being a resilient community. Our churches and NGOs resist discriminatory developments.”