Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has come in support of the minority Sikh community, who have expressed anger over their exclusion from the country's first national census in 19 years.
It is estimated that around 20,000 Sikhs live in Pakistan, which the community believes is a sizeable population and should have been included among official religions during census.
Following the outrage, Khan, who is the founder and chief of the political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, called on authorities to rectify the mistake. "Shocking to know that the Sikh religion has not been included in the religion column of the census forms. This omission must be rectified," he tweeted.
Elaborating on the issue, Radesh Sing Tony, chairman of a Sikh committee had told the daily Dawn News on Saturday (18 March) that the census forms were designed to count Sikhs under the "other" religion category, which would not provide an accurate number for the Sikh population in the country. "This is an injustice, we are being deprived of our rights," he said.
Tony added that he had written to the chief justice of Pakistan and the chief justices of Peshawar and Sindh High Courts conveying their concerns over the census.
Spokesperson Habibullah Khan reportedly admitted to the mistake and said: "Yes, a sizable population of Sikhs is living in Pakistan, but have we missed them in the census."
He explained that the forms being used for the current census were first printed in 2007 when there were only five official religions in the country. The Sikh community had a small presence back then, but their numbers have grown over the years, the spokesperson added.
The survey was launched about a week back in Pakistan and approximately 119,000 officials, including 84,000 enumerators, are assisting authorities to ascertain the country's population, according to The Tribune.