Population count: NADRA records cannot substitute for census, says Ravi Pinjani

About 4.8 million people were not counted in Sindh’s population in the 1998 census

Our Correspondent September 11, 2016

KARACHI: The records of National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) cannot substitute for census, said barrister Ravi R Pinjani.

He was addressing a discussion on the need for a census organised by the Irtiqa Institute of Social Sciences at the Pakistan  Medical Association House on Saturday.

Pinjani emphasised that delineation can be done on the basis of census and not on NADRA records since the authority is a government organ and its records can be manipulated for personal gains.

Malir University of Science and Technology Prof Mehtab S Karim presented on ‘Urgency of Census and Inimical Forces’. According to him, the only recourse for the discrepancies in the 1998 census is to have the census conducted as soon as possible. He told the audience that according to Article 51-3 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the census should be conducted in every 10 years.


Prof Karim shared that the first census in the region was held in British India in 1881 and, since then, regular censuses were conducted after every 10 years. Since independence, five censuses have been undertaken in 1951, 1961, 1972, 1981 and 1998.

He mentioned that the sixth Population and Housing Census was first scheduled to be held in September, 2008, but was postponed. The issue of sixth Population Census was considered by the Council of Common Interests in a meeting in 2010 under the then prime minister and it was decided to hold the next census in 2011. A housing census was conducted in 2011, counting the number of people in each household. However, the results showed that the population had already reached 190 million (instead of 170 million) and the provincial distributions were not fair, he said.

Growing population

Prof Karim shared that Sindh constituted 18.1% of Pakistan’s population in 1951 census, 19.6% in 1961, 21.8% in 1972, 22.8% in 1981 and 23% in 1998. He stated two main reasons contributing to the relatively higher increase in Sindh’s population as compared to others. First, Sindh has been on the receiving end of migrants coming to the province from within the country as well as from abroad.

Second, the birth rate in the province was and remains as high as in any other province. He further added that Karachi has the highest in-migration rate, which is 8.8%. Meanwhile, Lahore stands at 5.8%, Peshawar 5.5% and Quetta 3.8%.

Influx in Karachi

The 1998 census indicates that while Karachi contained about 7% of the country’s population, over 20% of all those who migrated internally during the last 10 years before 1998 ended up in the city. In comparison, the four largest districts - Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Multan that altogether contained about 21% of the country’s population - received about the same number of internal migrants.

According to official documents, the 1998 census counted 11.8 million people in Karachi but the Census Bureau considered two million of these as ‘aliens’. Therefore, the official population of Karachi was reported as 9.8 million. Besides, about 2.8 million of rural Sindh’s population was underreported, he added.

Further discrepancies

Prof Karim said there was a major discrepancy in the average household size in the rural and urban areas of Sindh as reported in the 1998 census. According to the data, the average household size of rural areas in Sindh was 5.5 persons and 6.8 in urban areas. In Punjab, the average household size was recorded at 6.9 persons in rural areas and 7.2 in urban areas.

The professor shared that based on evidence from various surveys it is likely that about 4.8 million people were not counted in Sindh’s population in the 1998 census.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 12th, 2016.


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