Rehan Ahmed
Rehan Ahmed

ISLAMABAD: The country’s population has crossed 240 million and the growth rate stands at 2.55 per cent, according to the 2023 national census, whose results were approved by the Council of Common Interests (CCI) on Saturday.

And as the government has reiterated that the general election, due to take place later this year will be held using the new census findings, it indicates polls could be delayed by several months.

The latest census shows the country’s population has jumped to 241.49m in 2023, an increase of around 33.8 million people compared to 2017, when the last census was conducted, and over around 110m compared to the 1998 census.

The growth rate has jumped to 2.55pc from 2.4pc in 2017 but was lower than 2.69pc in 1998.

Sarwar Gondal, focal person of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), told Dawn that all structures of Pakistan have been geotagged during the latest census.

The CCI’s approval of the census has set the stage for new countrywide delimitations of the constituencies — an exercise that may need about four to six months, a senior government official told Dawn.

Besides, a constitutional quandary arises if changes are made to the constituencies by reallocating seats from one province to another based on the new census results, he said, adding that in the previous census, seats were transferred from Punjab to Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Consequently, the official said, a constitutional amendment would be necessary in this scenario, which would require a two-thirds majority. The current government’s term is set to expire on Aug 12.

The last election in 2018 was conducted based on delimitation conducted on pre-2017 census data, with a one-time waiver granted for this purpose.

However, under the present circumstances, the government will be compelled to conduct the upcoming election based on the 2017 census, for which constituency delimitations have already been carried out.

Mr Gondal, the PBS official, said census data played a crucial role in guiding governments to allocate funds and release funds to provinces, districts and local areas. It was also used to determine the redistribution of National Assembly seats by defining the boundaries of legislative districts, he said.

Province-wise census results

While Punjab and Sindh have seen their population growth rates rise to 2.53pc and 2.57pc, respectively, when compared to the 2017 data, the growth rates in KP, Baloch­istan and Islam­abad have decreased.

The most significant change was observed in Islamabad, where the growth rate plunged from 4.91pc in 2017 to 2.81pc in 2023.

Balochistan’s growth rate has slightly dropped but still stood at 3.2pc, the highest of all.

The census results also show that around 61pc of Pakistanis live in rural areas compared to 39pc in urban areas. This suggests that the rural population has decreased or shifted to urban areas, as 64pc people used to live in rural areas in 2017 and 68pc in 1998.

This downtrend in rural population numbers was also visible in all provinces. However, Islamabad was an exception, where the percentage of the rural population has consistently increased from 34.4pc in 1998 to 49.6pc in 2017 and to 53pc in 2023.

Published in Dawn, August 6th, 2023

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