The Missing Religious Minorities in Census

Adnan Aamir
Islamabad: Religious Minorities make up 3.5 percent of the total population of Pakistan as of 2017 whereas they only make up 2.5% of CNIC holders in Pakistan.
This was revealed in “Confusing Demographics of Minorities: An Assessment of the Census Data in Pakistan” a White Paper on census published by the Centre for Social Justice.
This White Paper was released in the backdrop of the 8th anniversary of the landmark Justice Jillani Judgement about Minorities. In the judgment, former Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani issued seven directives to the federal and provincial governments for the protection of Religious Minorites in Pakistan.
Read Also: Justice Jillani Judgement: State of Minorities in Balochistan
The paper shows that religious minorities are not recorded with National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) in accordance with their population proportion in the census.
The paper further reveals that 17 Religious Minorities are registered with NADRA whereas the census 2017 only mentions five. 13 religious minorities are clubbed in the unnamed category of Other Religions, which is a reductionist approach.
The paper also suggests that the population of the Religious Minorites was not correctly recorded in the census of 2017. “The demographic picture of religious minorities shows inconsistent and illogical growth, even a decline which leaves doubts about the credibility of data produced by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics,” states the report.
The population of Muslims grew by 57% from 1998 to 2017. Whereas during the same period the population of Religious Minorites grew by 49%. This hints toward a possible under-recording of the population of Religious Minorites.
Another interesting revelation by the report is that the population of Religious Minorites has increased in developed districts and declined in underdeveloped districts of Punjab during the period 1998-to 2017. This sheds light on the possible migration of Religious Minorites towards relatively prosperous districts for a better life.
The paper recommends that the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics should train and instruct its staff to ensure that the entire population with their religious, ethnic, gender, or racial identity, etc. is counted in enumeration and reflected in the results. The report also suggests that government should ensure that all religious minorities including Buddhists, Kalash, Jews, Baha’i, etc. irrespective of their strength, are presented separately rather than accumulatively as “Others”.
Religious Diversity in Danger
Peter Jacob, the Executive Director of the Center for Social Justice, said that we have raised questions and the new census will answer them. He said that the comparison of Census and NADRA data shows that there are serious discrepancies. “These revelations hint that religious diversity is in danger in Pakistan and this is not a good omen,” He lamented.
Jacob added that competent people must not be ignored in the census monitoring committee. “We recommend that [census] needs to be made transparent and all the processes from the selection of the staff to enumeration, should be accurate and transparent,” He clarified.
Jacob warned that if the same old practices are adopted then the next census will also be controversial and will not be a service to the nation.
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