ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will conduct its first census in 19 years in March, the statistics bureau said on Thursday, hoping to end years of wrangling by politicians concerned about how a survey would affect the makeup of their local electorates.
Changes could be significant as 60 per cent of the country's population is under the age of 30.
In 2015, the World Bank estimated the country's population at 188.9 million but the official 1998 figure of 134.7 million is used. The population has exploded since first census in 1951, when there were 33.8 million inhabitants.
Political leaders across the country have voiced concerns about the census, fearing a loss of influence from any changes in provincial demographics.
Foolproof arrangements: Census preparations reviewed
Chief census commissioner Asif Bajwa said the Pakistan Army had been drafted in to provide security and ensure there was no harassment of officials.
"With every civil enumerator will be a military officer to ensure that the enumerator can enter the correct data without being intimidated by local political figures," Bajwa told a press briefing in Islamabad.
Electoral seats in the parliament are assigned using population density data, and with rural populations fluctuating due to urbanisation, powerful feudal landlords and political families fear losing influence in Islamabad.
"Some regions are over-represented in the parliament and the political elite are wary of the census because it changes the voting pattern, changes the representation in the parliament," said Shahid Faiz, chief executive of Free and Fair Election Network.
Census forms: G-B residents concerned over omission of regional languages
Bajwa said 200,000 military personnel would assist civilian counters to complete the 70-day data-gathering campaign, which will start on March 15.
In January, authorities announced that the transgender community would be included in the 2017 census.
Originally scheduled for March, 2016, the headcount was postponed due to the unavailability of army personnel to oversee security.
The United Nations Population Fund will assign international observers to oversee the administration of the census, Bajwa said.