From Washington-Pakistan’s religious minority claims that it seems to underestimate the significant delay in the census released by the government in May. The 6th Census was completed in 2017, but the Pakistan Census Bureau released the data on May 19. The last census was conducted in 1998. The 2017 census began under former Prime Minister
From Washington-Pakistan’s religious minority claims that it seems to underestimate the significant delay in the census released by the government in May.
The 6th Census was completed in 2017, but the Pakistan Census Bureau released the data on May 19. The last census was conducted in 1998.
The 2017 census began under former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from Punjab, Pakistan’s most prosperous state. However, the results were delayed as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh complained that their population was undervalued.
On April 12, the Common Interest Council (CCI), the constitutional body for resolving power sharing disputes between the federal government and the state, met under Prime Minister Imran Khan and approved the release of the latest data.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan governments are both allies of the Pakistan Tehreek-Eye Movement (PTI) government in Khan, but under the Pakistan People’s Party Sindh withdrew dissent and the CCI’s decision resulted in an unfair distribution of federal resources. Insisted that it would be connected.
Increase in majority of Muslims
Pakistan’s 1998 census recorded 132.3 million people, but newly released 2017 data show a population of 27.68 million, excluding Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. Increased has.
Data show that Muslims have grown to 96.47% of the population, while religious minorities have grown to a reduced or minimal extent. Hindus made up 1.73% of the population. Christian, 1.27%; Ahmadiyya, 0.09%; Scheduled caste, 0.41%; Others, 0.02%.
Peter Jacob, director of the Center for Social Justice in Lahore, told VOA that the number of Christians has dropped by 0.32% from the previous census to about 2.5 million now.
“Even if Christians emigrate abroad and convert to Islam, we suspect that our church records may underestimate at least 500,000 Christians,” he said.
“We’re having a hard time finding accurate data, and for some reason the government isn’t helping. It’s not investigating,” he said.
Pakistan’s Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Ahmad Jawad, told VOA that the Sharif government had launched the 2017 census and the PTI government followed it up.
According to Javad, the United National Movement, a national-based political partner of Sindh’s federal government, was most opposed to the census results. He said groups opposed to the outcome should rely on Congress.
“Parliament is the best forum for raising these concerns. The next time you need to do a census, consider whether you need to do another census so that you don’t have any objections next time. “
Jawad admitted that the system was flawed and said Pakistan would rely on the National Database Registry (NADRA) to improve data collection to address future dissent.
“We are also ready to consider the objections raised by religious minorities for the next census,” he added.
The PTI government plans to start the next census in October. However, the Sindh government and its Hindu minority support convening a joint session of parliament to record their objections.
Religious minorities say the recent census of their population was lower than expected, despite immigration and forced conversion to Islam.
Karachi’s Supreme Court lawyer, Neil Keshaf, said 1998 census data showed that the Hindu population was close to 2 million. However, a new census shows that it has grown to only 3.5 million people in 20 years.
Given that Hindus live in rural areas and generally have high fertility rates, Keshaf estimates higher numbers.
He suspects that migration did not explain the low population growth and that underestimation had occurred-as Jacob doubted about the Christian population.
He quoted an estimate by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan: that in the last six years only 8,000 people have emigrated to India.
According to media reports, hundreds of Pakistani Hindus have paved the way for visas and Indian citizenship following a 2019 offer by the Indian nationalist Bharatiya Janata government. However, many of them then returned to Sind, where they lived for generations.
Religious minorities argue that former governments also tended to underestimate Islamabad as it allowed smaller members to be drawn in and allocated fewer seats in parliament and the Senate.
Currently, religious minorities can only vie for 33 seats in parliament and 4 seats in the Senate.
“We have created reserved seats for religious minorities so that elected minority members across the country can increase their rights in parliament,” Jawad told VOA.
However, Hindu community lawyer Keshaf said, “The designated seats are just tokens for political parties and give them the power to select candidates who do not represent the grassroots community.”
“Christians were not allowed into the federal cabinet,” Jacob said, while Islamic fundamentalist parties became visible.
The minority intends to award government seats to non-Muslims (such as members of the small polytheistic Kalash community and Sikh senators) to enhance Pakistan’s image as a diverse and tourism-friendly country. I say I’m just there.
Sikhs were also disappointed that the government did not create a religious column for them in the 2017 census, despite lobbying. Instead, it put them together in “others”.
Prior to the 2017 census, Pakistan Sikh Council leader Sardar Rameshsin said in a statement that the government’s failure to list Sikhs was “totally rude to the community.” Stated.
Pakistan’s NADRA records show 6,146 registered Sikhs from an estimated 2 million at the time of the 1947 split.
Rights activists say that many Sikhs, mainly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, have left Pakistan to escape Islamic extremist attacks and institutional discrimination.
As a sign of goodwill to the Sikh community, Pakistan launched the Kartarpur Corridor in 2019, a visa-free route that gives Indian-based Sikhs access to Pakistan’s Punjab pilgrimage sites.
Some Ahmadiyya community leaders say censuses may underestimate them because many hide their religious identities.
Ahmadiyya were declared non-Islamic by Pakistan in 1974 and were banned from publicly practicing Islam.
“Ahmadiyya are prohibited from publicly proclaiming or spreading their faith, building mosques, or calling on Muslims to pray,” said Human Rights Watch.
Kamal Sleman, leader of Ahmadiyyamato in Punjab, told VOA: “Materials” and six members of our group are in jail for trying to teach the Quran. “
Suleman said Ahmadiyya had emigrated to Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom due to limited freedom and continued religious discrimination.
Suleman called for “fundamental change” to address minority concerns, “Pakistan citizens should not be judged by religion, but should end the” majority minority “perspective. “He added.