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A third sex, nine languages, many faiths

Pakistan will count transgenders as a separate third sex in the population census beginning Tuesday.This will be Pakistan’s first census in 19 years. The forms had been printed well in advance of court decisions to include them in the count.

Now enumerators have been informed that those surveyed will have three numeric choices for their gender: 1 for men, 2 for women, 3 for those who declare themselves transsexuals.

Language is considered an essential tool in evaluating the makeup of multi-ethnic Pakistan — but only nine of the country’s estimated 70 will be listed, to the dismay of many communities. No regional languages from sparsely populated Gilgit-Baltistan will be included nor will Gujrati — spoken by some Muslim immigrants from India who believe the lack of recognition will drive their mother-tongue towards oblivion.

The census will provide an insight into the true number of religious minorities, especially the Christians and the Hindus. Estimates are approximate and disputed, ranging from two to 10 million for the former and 2.5 to 4.5 million for the latter.

Citizens can declare themselves Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Ahmadi. Otherwise, they can be members of scheduled castes or ‘other.’ There are no separate options for Sikhs, Parsis or Bahai.

Fast-growing Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, with an estimated 200 million people, but has not held a census since 1998, despite a constitutional requirement for one every decade.

A team of more than 3,00,000 people will be deployed and will involve 55 million forms — a challenge in a country known for corruption and dysfunction. It will be the basis for revising political boundaries, parliamentary seat allocations and federal funding, while also giving a clearer picture about religious minority numbers in the Muslim-majority country.

Many within the country are unhappy about how the presence of approximately two million Afghan refugees, whose nationality is difficult to determine because of falsified documents, could skew the numbers if they get counted as Pakistanis belonging to the Pashtun ethnic group.


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