Rising poverty and skyrocketing property prices have forced thousands in Karachi to survive without proper shelter and a roof on their heads. After spending the whole day doing hard labour or begging on the roads, this oft-forgotten segment of society spends its nights sleeping under the bridges, on the footpaths or in public parks.

A special phase of the ongoing census to count these homeless dwellers of Karachi commenced on Tuesday night.

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Census enumerators carried out the process of counting the homeless residing outside the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi and its surroundings from 10pm to 4am.

The census staff was accompanied by police, Rangers and army personnel during the counting exercise.

After seeing police and army men alongside the enumerators, some drug peddlers and homeless individuals took flight; but those who did become a part of the count appreciated the exercise, which is taking place across the country after 19 years.

They expressed the hope that the census would enable the government to take steps to resolve the hardships faced by the homeless.

The overnight counting process covered the homeless populations of Liaquatabad, Soldier Bazaar and the environs of the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, but many other areas still remain to be completed.

Reports said the enumerators will be able to complete the counting of the homeless in remaining areas of the city within two or three days.

During the census, officials verified the identity documents of people living at 20 spots. In case of those not possessing any ID documents, the enumerators entered their names in the census form while apprising the nearby police stations about them.

Pakistan’s largest-ever population census kicked off on March 15 in 63 districts of the country after a delay of 19 years.

The weeks-long process will deploy a team of more than 300,000 and involve 55 million forms — as well as a second, separate form distributed by the military.

The first phase of the census will end on April 15. The second will take commence on April 25 and run till May 25, with final results expected by the end of July.