Pakistan’s Christian community leaders have voiced their doubt about the results of the sixth population and housing census-2017 about the population of minorities in the country
Pakistan’s Christian community leaders have voiced their doubt about the results of the sixth population and housing census-2017 about the population of minorities in the country. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) in its May 18 report on minority population said Christians constitute 1.27 percent of the country’s total population of 207.68 million.
Expressing concern over the census results, released after three years of the official report, senior church leaders, politicians and community leaders said they were “disappointed” by the figures relating to Pakistani Christians which showed their numbers have declined over almost two decades.
The 1998 census had declared that Christians form 1.59 percent of the total population (132 million at that time) whereas the Hindu population stood at 1.60 percent. The 2017 census shows Hindus now comprise 1.73 percent of Pakistan’s population, making them the biggest minority group in the country.
Participating in an online discussion hosted by Christian media advocacy platform Kross Konnection, the presiding bishop of the largest Protestant denomination – the Church of Pakistan - Bishop Azad Marshall said he was “shocked and disappointed” by the census results of the Christian population.
“I had voiced my concerns over the transparency of the census exercise when it was being conducted in 2016, and had also offered the church’s complete support but unfortunately the then government did not pay heed to our suggestions.”
“We believe that the figures of the Christian population have been grossly underreported in the 2017 census,” he said.
According to Bishop Marshall, ignoring Christians living in small pockets across the country, incomplete filling of the census forms and general ignorance about the importance of obtaining national identity cards could have contributed to the decline in their numbers.
“However, we can also not rule out hidden agendas behind the shockingly low numbers of the Christian population,” he was quoted as saying in media.
Bishop Marshall said the census results would have a direct impact on the political and social standing of Pakistani Christians.
“We are taking this issue very seriously and the Church of Pakistan will do everything within its means to ensure that Christians across the country are properly enumerated and registered in government databases before the next official census,” he said.
Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has posted the final results of the 6th Population and Housing Census 2017 on its website, according to which the country’s total population stands at 207.68 million, with an annual growth rate of 2.4 percent.