More than two years after conducting its population census in 2017, Pakistan has failed to release the data pertaining to minority communities – Hindus, Sikhs, Christians etc.According to the data available on the website of its official census conducting body – Pakistan Bureau of Statistics – the total population of the country has been pegged at 20.77 crore. However, the religion-wise data hasn’t been revealed yet. Sources said that the deadline for publishing the data was March 2018.

As per the 1998 census – the last census and currently, the only official data available – the minority community constituted 3.72 per cent of Pakistan’s total population.

The 1998 census pegged total population of the country at 13.23 crore. The ‘Population by Religion’ data of that census puts Muslim population at 12.74 crore (96.28 per cent), Christians at 21.04 lakh (1.59 per cent) and Hindus at 21.17 lakh (1.60 per cent). Other groups included 0.22 per cent Qadiani [Ahmadis] (2.91 lakh), 0.25 per cent Schedule Castes (3.30 lakh) and 0.07 per cent Others (92,646).

Of this, Sindh had maximum Hindu population (6.51 per cent) and Islamabad had maximum Christians (4.07 per cent).

No separate data was provided for Sikh community in 1998 census too, as per the official website.

Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, Dr Ramesh Vankwani, member National Assembly in Pakistan from Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and also patron-in-chief of Pakistan Hindu Council, said, “Pakistan’s latest population census was conducted in 2017 but data for minority count is still awaited. We are also waiting.”

Asked for the reason behind such prolonged delay, he said, “We are also unaware of the reason”.

Vankwani, however, claimed that as per the latest data provided by National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), another body in Pakistan which only counts persons having National Identity Cards (NICs), there were over 22 lakh Hindus, 16 lakh Christians and 16,000 Sikhs in the country.

“But then NADRA counts only persons having NICs and those who are eligible to vote. It is no indicator of total population. According to our estimates, there are nearly 70 lakh Hindus in Pakistan but we cannot reach any exact number till census data is not published,” said Vankwani.

“At the time of Partition, there were nearly 23 per cent non-Muslims in Pakistan,” he added.

Mangla Sharma, member provincial assembly (MPA) from Muttahida Quami Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), had moved a resolution in Sindh assembly demanding that minority data of 2017 census be published at the earliest. “As per the 2017 census data, we have been given unofficially, Hindu population in Pakistan has declined by 0.19 per cent since 1998. But till official numbers are not released, we are clueless,” Sharma told the Indian Express over phone.

Sharma estimates Hindu population in Pakistan at nearly one crore and Sikhs at 40,000. “We say there can be 1 crore Hindus in Pakistan because still thousands of women and children are not NIC holders and thus not counted by NADRA. Also, nearly 50 per cent of population in Karachi has been left out in 2017 census too for which we had moved a separate resolution in assembly demanding recounting,” she said.

According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics data, Pakistan conducted its first population census in 1951 according to which its total population was 3.37 crore, increasing to 4.28 crore in 1961, 6.53 crore in 1972, 8.42 crore in 1981, 13.23 crore in 1998 and 20.77 crore in 2017.