Census 2017: A declaration of national solidarity

It’s only fifteen days since the sixth national housing and population census kicked off, commencing almost two decades since the last one, which was carried out in 1998. Two weeks on, the team is almost done with its first phase with an aim to finalize the activity by April 15 in order to start its second phase that will end by May 15. While the first phase of the census focuses on 63 districts of the country, including 16 in Punjab, eight in Sindh, seven in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, seven agencies of FATA, 15 districts in Balochistan, and five each in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, the second phase shall cover 21 districts of Punjab and in Sindh, 18 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 17 in Balochistan, Islamabad Capital Territory, and five each in Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.

The census has been well planned to educate the citizens on the importance of census while guiding them to avoid any errors. The government has developed an exclusive help line 0800-57574 for queries regarding the census process. Although overseas Pakistanis are not included in the census process, those staying abroad for less than six months are included in the survey. However, it is essential to mention family members who are living abroad for over years now. Coordination and the vigilance committees are established at district level to monitor the process and ensure accuracy of data collection. To ensure secure and smooth operation of the census, the armed forces are working with the civil enumerators for ensuring a transparent and smooth conduct of census.

Census 2017 enumerator dutifully performing his duty on a hot sunny afternoon

According to a tweet, shared earlier this year in January, by Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (DG ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor, the Pakistan Army would help government conduct the 6th Population and Housing Census while providing up to 200,000 soldiers for the security of the enumerators. In a latest Press Release, it is informed that security arrangements are being reviewed in all the districts across the country.

It is encouraging to note how the various religious communities in Pakistan are coming forth to fully cooperate with the government during the present census. Participation in the census shall serve as an evident to the fact that Pakistan is a peaceful nation which recognises and respects its minorities. It would clearly define Pakistan as nation blessed with cultural diversity.

Prior to the commencement of Census 2017, the Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw of the Roman Catholic Church in Pakistan, reached to Christians across the nation to show solidarity with the Government of Pakistan to make Census 2017 a success. An exclusive video message has been shared across social media and local Catholic radio to guide the community regarding the census. Letters have also been sent out to all the Churches urging the parishioners to make their count.

In a special message read out during Sunday prayer services at the Churches in Urdu and English, the Archbishop’s message said:

“I invite all the Christians across the nation, no matter where they live, to participate in the census and cooperate with the government officials to provide the accurate data. Give the right information to avoid ambiguities in future. Ensure that your name and relevant information is included, and trust the enumerators on this. Participating in the census is not only are right but our duty. Participation is also essential to show our strength and contribution towards the progress of the nation. May God bless us and bless our dear country Pakistan.”

The Archbishop Sebastian Shaw message on Census 2017

Churches across the nation are also organizing workshops to educate the parish members of the community on this matter. An exclusive workshop by Caritas Pakistan Multan has already been conducted with community leaders from 19 Parishes of the Multan Diocese. 63 leaders and parish representatives participated in the awareness session, which was presided by His Lordship Most Rev. Bishop Benny Mario Travas. Catholic in Pakistan, a social media platform for communication with the community, is also continuously building awareness on this matter to ensure coexistence and national solidarity.

Pakistan is one of the most culturally diversified nations in the world. However, negative perceptions induced through various mediums of media in the recent years has distorted the image of the country. The previous census were held 19 years ago, which means almost two decades ago. This was before the event of 9/11 that was followed by war on terrorism in Afghanistan. In the aftermath of 9/11 and during the events of war on terrorism, anti-Pakistan agents have made uncountable attempts to harm the nation. The government and security forces are on a mission to eliminate the plague of extremism that has been trying to engulf the nation. Initiatives such as Peaceful Pakistan are dedicated towards promoting peaceful narrative and anti-extremism discourse.

Census 2017, hence, comes as a support uniting the hearts of the nation by considering and proclaiming ethnic diversity of Pakistani citizens. In fact, Census 2017 come as a blessing to the transgender community as this would be the first census in the history of Pakistan to be doing so. The sixth national Census 2017 is indeed a declaration of national solidarity.

Marian Sharaf Joseph is an independent journalist. Her work for local and global publications focuses on culture and community affairs

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