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February 13, 2017

Christians strive for ‘proper’ count this time round

Karachi

February 13, 2017

‘Dissatisfied’ with previous survey, community leaders convene meeting today

As the government prepares for the long-awaited population census scheduled for March, Christian clergy and rights activists are striving to ensure that members of their community are counted accurately this time round.

Terming the results of the 1998 census “flawed”, the activists said Christian leaders had realised the magnitude of acquiring reliable statistics of the community in Karachi.

“We are dissatisfied with the figures drawn from the last census,” said Zahid Farooq, an advocate for the rights of non-Muslims. “It shows that some forces are unhappy with the exact number of non-Muslims, especially Christians.”

But this time, he added, “the community has understood the importance of the census and their clergy and leaders are on the go”.

More than 140 Roman Catholic and Church of Pakistan (Protestant) leaders from various parts of the city, under the headship of Archbishop Joseph Coutts and Bishop Sadiq Daniel respectively, are expected to meet at the auditorium of the St Patrick’s High School on Monday evening to discuss the upcoming population count.

Farooq said the churches could play an important role not only in developing awareness and motivating the community to participate in the data-collection process but also in forming church-level committees to ensure their inclusion in the census. “Holding an informal count of Christians in the city is also on the cards.”

Anthony Naveed, Sindh chief minister’s former special assistant for interfaith harmony, said the approaching population poll was imperative for non-Muslim communities, especially Christians. “The census will not only help Christians know their accurate number but also help them socially and politically.”

He said the practice of conducting regular population count was encouraged in their faith, adding that the government should sensitise the census staff to the importance of religious minorities and train them to collect the communities’ required particulars.

Political leaders from minority religious groups, especially Christians, have long been demanding an increase in their seats in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures proportional to their population.

In 1970 the NA’s seats were 145, which were increased to 210 in 2008 and 342 in 2013. But the seats for non-Muslim communities have been standing still at 10. “It seems it’s because of not including the correct number of non-Muslims in the census,” concluded Naveed.

 

Christians of Karachi

After Lahore, Karachi is considered to host the largest number of Christians. Although there are no official statistics available, Christian activists estimate that the number of their community members should be between 700,000 and 800,000.

Essa Nagri, Manzoor Colony, Akhtar Colony, Azam Basti, Pahar Ganj, Khuda Ki Basti, Ittehad Town, Michael Town, Christian Town, Mariam Colony, Saddar, Father’s Colony and Grax Colony are Christian-populated neighbourhoods with more than 5,000 voters from the community.

Around 90 per cent of the Christian population speaks Punjabi while the remaining is English-speaking. Farooq said Punjabi-speaking Christians started migrating to Karachi from Sialkot, Narowal, Kasur and other districts of Punjab in 1965.

“In Punjab they were mainly involved in the agricultural sector,” he added. “But after their migration to Karachi they started working in industries, municipality and the health and education sectors.”

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