Pakistan embarked on its largest-ever census on Wednesday, 15 March with the headcount kicking off in dozens of districts. This is the country's first such enumeration, a politically charged exercise, in close to two decades.
Backed by heavy military presence, the enumerators will do a door-to-door headcount in 63 districts across the Muslim-majority country during the first phase of the census. This is rapidly growing Pakistan's sixth census since its independence which is now home to an estimated 200 million people.
The entire census is expected to be completed within two months as close to 118,000 enumerators have been drafted in from various government departments for the process. Up to 200,000 military personnel have been deployed as part of the security arrangements.
The census has been delayed by 19 years due to a multitude of reasons including political/military infighting, lack of funds and unavailability of security personnel. The census is expected to throw up dramatic results in the sixth most populous country in the world, as the latest count will take renewed political boundaries, numbers of religious minorities, and the financial situation of the people into account. For the first time, the transgender population will also be taken into account.
"It's a very hectic process, but we are ready for it. We had some reservations about security initially but we were assured about it by the government," a teacher named Nadeem Ehsan told the AFP news agency. The government has urged the public to actively participate in the census and cooperate with the authorities.
However, the military, a powerful entity in the politically volatile country known for a fragile civilian leadership, will act as "observers" in order to ensure a smooth process. The census results are expected in July 2017.