A Controversial Count?
The 6th census, after all the hues and cries, has finally reached a conclusion with the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PSB) declaring the results of the country-wide population count and details. The results reveal an increase of 57% in the total population (excluding Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan) of the country in the last 19 years, and the total population at present stands at 207,774,520 as compared to 132,362,279 back in 1998. Of all the states, the Federal capital territory, Islamabad, recorded the highest population annual growth rate of 4.91%, while the other provinces stand at a maximum of 2%. While Punjab and Sindh have witnessed a decline in their population growth rates, Punjab still remains host to the largest population of 110 million, with Sindh following on the second spot with a population of 48 million. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Baluchistan, although lag behind in numbers, have registered an increase in their respective population growth rates.
The census results also revealed an astonishing increase in male gender population, which now stands at 106.449 million, outnumbering the previously leading female gender now recording a population of 101.314 million. The males in our society constitute 51% of the total population, while women are 48.6% of the latter. 0.24% of the population was identified as transgender.
The trend of urbanisation has taken an inverted growth trajectory, and has increased from 32.52% in 1998 to 36.38% in 2017. Sindh province is the most urbanised among all the provinces in Pakistan as per the results with 52.02% of its population based in urban areas. Approximately 33% of Sindh’s total population lives in Karachi and Hyderabad alone. Karachi, yet again, tops the list of most populous cities of Pakistan with a population of 14.9 million, recording an increase of 59% in the last 19 years. Contrary to Sindh, and Karachi, the Islamabad capital territory recorded an acute decline in urbanisation with the population in urban areas dropping down to 50.58% as opposed to 65.72% in 1998.
The release of a further detailed breakup of population and its growth trend by the Bureau of Statistics in near future will enable us to gain a thorough insight into the overall Human Capital Index (HCI) of the country with an analysis of primarily imperative indicators such as literacy rate, health and infant mortality, the per capita income, and others.
The census, prior to being conducted, remained a victim of political criticism, and controversies were hurled from all ends. Lack of availability of required finances along with military support in terms of human resource allocation for ensuring security during the process also lead to a delay in the conduction of this major activity.
After almost two decades, 19 years to be precise, now that the census has been carried out, the results seem to have raised many eye brows, as expected, and seem to have given birth to many new questions instead of answering the existing concerns appropriately.
An increase in male population as compared to that of females, increase in Islamabad capital territory’s population growth rate but declining urbanisation there, Sindh being the most urbanised province, Pakistan’s population ballooning up by 57% although two of its most populous provinces, Punjab and Sindh, have witnessed a decline in their growth rates, and many more are the questions that have made the declared results of the census controversial, and require detailed and logical explanation by the PSB (Pakistan Bureau of Statistics).
Although, on one side, the population census is essential to determine the future policy path to be taken by the country in terms of social, economic, and developmental arenas, it is a key element, on the other hand, that determines the political future of the country as well as the political parties, as it jots down the exact population of the country, explains the demographic shift from rural to urban parts of the country as well as inter-province movement which can prove to be game changers in the general elections, since seats allocated in the National Assembly will be devised by the new demographics. The new population figure would also change the employment quota allocated to provinces in government jobs. And last but not the least, the allocation of financial resources to provinces would also be affected, not to forget that the National Finance Commission (NFC) Award, already, has always remained a major cause of discord between the provinces. Hence all this political wrangling over the census.
Political parties, other than the one forming the government, have already expressed their reservations over the results generated by the census. MQM has categorically rejected the results disclosed, and has announced to protest in upcoming days. PPP senator, Saeed Ghani, was surprised with the declaration of Sindh as being the most urbanised province, as Punjab is believed to be the host of most urbanised population.
Census and Its Consequences
It is important to quote figures, but it is imperative to quote the right figures, else the entire activity will be in vain. Accurate tabulation of census results is essential to gain both political and provincial acceptance of the census. A census quoting wrong numbers can mislead the country in devising inappropriate socio-economic and developmental policies, change the political infrastructure via wrong allocation of seats to National Assembly, disturb the allocation of financial resources and jobs to the provinces, and many more.
The 6th census was due to be held in 2008, however, due to reasons, necessary or unnecessary, was forced into delay. Now with the census carried out, and its results shared, we have at our disposal a better understanding of our demographics, if and certainly not perfect. With this first step taken, it must now be ensured that the data provided is accurate, and results are tabulated error-free, in order to set the future policy directions right for Pakistan.