As the census draws nigh, Pakistani Christian leaders strive to create an awareness regarding the “accuracy” of the census of Christian population- which could lead to revisit the number of seats allocated to minorities in National and Provincial assemblies. They urge for a revised policy for representation of Christians in Parliament on the basis of renewed data of Christian population in the country.
On February 13, a conference was held in Karachi which was attended by church leaders from all mainline denominations including Catholic, Protestant, Church of Pakistan and others. The church leaders called for united efforts to endorse for countrywide accurate census of Christians. This conference was presided over by Catholic Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi and Bishop Sadiq Daniel of the Church of Pakistan.
At this occasion, Christian rights activists, church leaders, pastoral workers, social and political workers attended this conference. “Let’s step forward to unite the entire Christian nation without any distinction between creed; let’s involve every single pastoral worker, including bishops, pastors, catechists and lay people, in order to get the correct numbers,” Archbishop Coutts said.
Bishop Sadiq Daniel was of the opinion that an accurate census has become inevitable for the betterment of Christian community. “It is not only vital for our development but also for our rights in the country,” he said. The Catholic and Anglican Churches unanimously agreed to run awareness campaigns after Sunday services and other church programs.
Zahid Farooq a staunch advocate of rights for non-Muslim Pakistanis stated: “The national assembly used to have 145 seats which included 10 seats for minority members, but now the seats of the national assembly number 342 but there are still only 10 seats for minorities. We must team up to get our basic rights in the country we belong to. This census will not only decide our future but will also benefit minorities in Pakistan.”
Anthony Naveed, CM Sindh’s former special assistant for Inter-Faith Harmony stated:”It will be a time for us to be recognized as per our numbers in order to demand our rights. I encourage every single family to prepare their documents including their identity cards to get things done correctly.”
The approaching census was scheduled in 2008 but was delayed and is now rescheduled for March this year. Last census was held in 1998 according to which Pakistan’s total population was made up of 2.8 percent of non-Muslims. Christians were ranked as second largest minority population numbering 2,600,000.