By Aamir Latif
KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) - Pakistan’s population is projected at anywhere between 210 million and 220 million in the wake of its long overdue census process that ended on Wednesday night, a senior government official told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.
The government of Pakistan and the UN had previously estimated the current population to be between 180 million and 200 million.
The two-phase census process, which was made possible only after the Supreme Court ordered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to hold the exercise, began on March 15 after a gap of over 18 years.
Transsexual people were counted separately for the first time in the country’s history in the process.
The enumerators also counted millions of Afghan refugees who have been residing in the country for a long time separately. Authorities estimate Afghan refugees living illegally in Pakistan to be over a million.
The census also determined specific population of religious minorities, particularly Christians and Hindus, whose current numbers are based on estimates.
Violence had marred the over two-month long process, including armed attacks on census teams and a deadly clash along the Pakistani-Afghan border.
Habibullah Khattak, spokesman for the government’s Bureau of Statistics department responsible for overseeing the census, said: “Keeping the population growth, and current figures of death and births in view, we can say that the projected total population of Pakistan could be 210 to 220 million.”
The official results of the country’s sixth census are expected to be announced by the end of July; over 700 tabulators would start compiling the results from next week.
“We have started collecting population data gathered during the census from across the country from today [Thursday], and this process will take another week to complete.
“The tabulators will hopefully start the tabulation process within next 7-8 days,” Khattak added.
Some 151 districts of the four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan region, northwestern tribal region, and Azad Kashmir were covered in the two phases of the census between March 15 and May 24.
Pakistan -- estimated to be the second-largest Muslim country in terms of population after Indonesia -- currently ranks as the sixth most populated country in the world.
According to the 1951 census, there used to be just 33.7 million people in the country, which rose to 42.8 million in 1961, 65 million in 1972 and 85 million in 1981.
The last census of 1998 estimated the population at roughly over 130 million with Punjab emerging again as the most populated province, followed by Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.
- Violence mars process
“Security remained an issue during the census exercise,” Khattak said and lauded the services of security forces and the census teams who he said did a “remarkable job” despite the reported loss of lives.
Pakistan army had deployed 200,000 soldiers to provide security to over 119,000 enumerators across the country.
Seven people, including four army troops, were killed and 24 injured in a suicide attack targeting a census team in Punjab province’s northeastern Lahore city in early April.
Two census workers were among eight injured in a landmine blast that struck their vehicle in northwestern Kurram Agency near Afghanistan border late April.
In one of the deadliest border clash between Pakistani and Afghan border forces earlier this month, over a dozen people were killed and 80 others injured on both sides when Afghan forces allegedly opened fire on a census team carrying out a head count in two divided villages, Killi Luqman and Killi Jahangir, along the border.
The clash led to the closure of the Chaman border crossing between the two countries.