The Council of Common Interest (CCI) decided that a census will begin in Pakistan on March 15, 2017, and will be split into two phases.

The CCI made its decision after the Supreme Court (SC) directed government to begin a population census.

It was decided that all four provinces will collaborate for the census and a committee will be formed to monitor its timely start. The committee will comprise of federal secretary of statistic department and provincial chief secretaries.

It was also decided that a national security fund may be established to deal with terrorism and that a proposal will be sent to the National Finance Commission.

Much has changed since the last census in 1998 when the population was 132 million, but it is now believed that the population may have crossed the 200 million mark which makes Pakistan the sixth most populated country in the world.

Nasir Saeed director CLAAS-UK said it is important for the minorities, and especially for the Christians, to take part in the upcoming census.

He said: “Christians have been demanding a census to be held for some time, and a Christian even took this matter to the supreme court. Therefore, now they must ensure that their correct details especially in the column of religion are entered in the related forms. Normally officers by default enter Muslim as the religion.

“Christians always have apprehensions and claim the government is not showing their correct number and they are far too high in number than the government reflects, so now it is an opportunity to take part and ensure that their correct details are entered.”

He added: “The last census was held in 1998. While it should be held every 10 years, bad Pakistani governments have been delaying it for political reasons but now the supreme court has ordered it and the government has no choice.

“The census will help minorities to know their exact number and it may help them politically and socially.”