ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will conduct its next census in 2016 following a gap of 18 years, a period in which the nuclear-armed Muslim country’s population is estimated to have grown by more than 50 percent.
The last census was carried out in 1998 when the population was counted at 132 million people.
It is since believed to have crossed the 200 million mark, an estimate based on figures from yearly growth statements issued by the country’s statistics bureau and survey work, making Pakistan the sixth most populous country in the world.
According to a statement issued Wednesday the census would cost 14.5 billion Pakistani rupees ($145 million) with the preliminary findings available in June 2016 and the final results issued in December 2017.
Pakistan was due to conduct a census in 2008 and 2010 but political unrest, conflict, and natural disasters contributed to delays.
The census is also a sensitive issue politically because it determines the amount of development budget allocated to each of the country’s provinces.
Some analysts believe that Pakistan’s less populated provinces, such as restive southwestern Baluchistan, have experienced higher growth rates than Punjab which has traditionally dominated the country’s politics.
The census would also reveal changes in the country’s religious and ethnic makeup, for example in Karachi, a city which has seen a major influx of Pashtuns from the country’s Islamist-insurgency hit northwest in the past decade.
High growth rates are expected to place stresses on the country’s food and water security as well as raising employment concerns for an overwhelmingly young population.