Pakistan faces accusations of undercounting Hindus, Christians in latest census

Published on Sep 02, 2021 10:53 PM IST
  • The results of Pakistan's sixth Population and Housing Census were delayed after some provinces, including Sindh and Balochistan flagged the issue of undercounting.
Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan.(Reuters)
Pakistan's prime minister Imran Khan.(Reuters)
By | Edited by Kunal Gaurav, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Religious minorities in Pakistan have accused the government of undercounting them in the latest census data published in May, four years after the survey was conducted. The survey for the sixth Population and Housing Census was undertaken under former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and got completed in 2017. The results, however, were delayed after some provinces, including Sindh and Balochistan flagged the issue of undercounting.

Pakistan Bureau of Statistics published the data of the sixth Population and Housing Census after approval from a constitutional body that resolves power-sharing disputes between the provincial and federal governments. While Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan caved in under pressure from the Imran Khan government, Sindh continued to raise objections on the census data.

According to the 2017 census data, Pakistan’s overall population has grown to 207.68 million, an increase of around 75 million since 1998 when the country recorded 132.3 million people. The census suggests that the Muslim population in Pakistan grew by 96.47% while the population of other religious minorities reported negligible growth and even shrank in some cases.

Hindus in Pakistan account for 1.73% of the total population while Christians make up for 1.27% of Pakistani residents. Other minorities like Ahmaddiyas account for less than 0.1% of Pakistan’s population. Karachi Supreme Court attorney Neel Keshav claimed that the Hindu population in Pakistan is likely to be much higher, reported Pakistan Today.

"The 1998 census data showed a Hindu population of nearly 2 million. Yet the new census showed that it had only risen to 3.5 million in 20 years," the Pakistani daily quoted Keshav as saying.

Human rights groups have frequently raised concerns over the condition of religious minorities in Pakistan. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) had said in a 2019 report that both the Hindu and Christian communities in Sindh and Punjab continued to report cases of forced conversion.

"Even though Christians have migrated overseas and converted to Islam, our church records make us suspect that Christians may have been undercounted by at least half a million. We're struggling to find accurate data, and somehow the government is not helping. It is not investigating," Pakistan Today quoted Center for Social Justice Director Peter Jacob as saying.

(With inputs from agencies)

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