Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Population Census in Afghanistan

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Population Census in Afghanistan

Population census is the official enumeration of a country's total number of people. It includes not only numbering of the people but also certain attributes attached to them. Like, gender, age, profession and other necessary attributes. A detailed census also includes the information regarding the distribution of population and the number of houses. Population census or simply census must be carried out for a particular period of time and it must be recurring. Mostly, a period of ten years is considered suitable for the census to be repeated. The objective of the census is to have an estimate of the total number of people in a country and based on the information availed, certain conclusions must be carried out about the nation as a whole. Finding out the number of people, their attributes, their classification in various groups can be really helpful in administration and development policies.

Carrying out a census in a country is not a simple phenomenon. It is really time consuming, requires manpower and definitely a considerable portion of budget. Further, the process involves many complications and requires professional guidance. Basically the process of a census involves (a) preparatory work; (b) enumeration or collection; (c) data processing, including data entry, editing and tabulating, (d) databases construction and dissemination of results; (e) evaluation of the results; and (f) analysis of the results. All the stages involved in the process must be performed with great care if the census has to be free of errors, which can result into misleading results and conclusions.

The data produced as a result of a census can prove to be an asset for the governing authorities in particular and the nation as a whole in general. It is believed that reliable information is of utmost importance for policymaking, planning and decision making and administration. So, the authorities relevant to public administration can receive valuable information from census data, which makes them capable of making better decisions and design effective policies and arrangements. Apart from that the same data and information can be really helpful in management and evaluation of programs in education sector, housing, health facilities, labor force, transportation and other necessary areas that are essential for public welfare. Without reliable census data, the deficiencies and the shortcomings in the areas mentioned above can not be ascertained and the authorities can not carryout effective decisions on how and where to allocate resources and how often to do so. One of the most important uses of the census data is in the demarcation of constituencies and the allocation of representation to governing bodies. This use of census data can be helpful in providing just government system, which is one of the most basic requirements of a democratic society. Proper representation of the people in accordance to their number and their constituencies strengthens the grass root democratic patterns and provides a platform to resolve conflicts and to give every member of a society representation in the government. This concept is the true demand of diverse societies, like that of Afghanistan, which is composed of various races and ethnic groups.

Moreover, census is also extremely important for research; especially for the social scientists. After the scientific analysis of the composition and distribution and other attributes of the population, the sociologists and political scientists can make valuable contributions regarding the future developments and the requirements. The demographic changes that are taking place and the ones that have to take place in the coming times can be forecasted to a certain extent. These research works can be of immense importance for both the students of social sciences and the political authorities. In addition, the census data can prove to be an asset for business and industry. With the comprehensive data available through census they can speculate the demands for housing projects, food and clothing requirements, schools, furnishings, recreational facilities, medical supplies and other products.

The developed countries of the world are very serious about carrying out population and housing censuses. They make sure that the census process should happen regularly; i.e. after every ten years, with some of the countries even opting for repitition after every five years. This is one of the reasons of effective management of their countries. There are countries in the world that are yet to have their first population census. Such countries are mostly the third world countries that suffer from intense economic problems and continuous waves of clashes and wars. The socio-political and socio-economic conditions in such countries have never given them an opportunity of having detailed population census as peace has been one of the main pre-requisites of a detailed population census. Afghanistan is one of the same kinds of countries. Its first comprehensive and scientific census is yet to be carried out. The country's first census carried out in 1979-80 could not be completed because of the political changes in the region. For almost thirty years the country depended on the same data, which contained major errors.

The census scheduled 2008 and further postponed for 2010 has not been conducted yet. Estimations that are available as that of 2010 are also with many controversies. They are derived from the incomplete census of 1979. These estimations are not considered true representative of the people of Afghanistan.a comprehensive census which was never cashed. The circumstances prior to first presidential election in 2005, were most suited for this purpose, but the insincere considerations of political groups spoiled everything. The diverse and suffering people of Afghanistan have been in dire need of such census. So much fund and support have poured in Afghanistan for the last few years but because of no detailed data available for its population, the deficiencies have not been identified appropriately and the funds and supports have not been able to be used effectively and for the required areas.

Furthermore, the structure of Afghan society has been very diverse. The estimations depicted today about Afghanistan's demography by many statistical sources are overwhelmingly opposed by different ethnic groups in the country. It is believed that Pashthun majority has been over-stated, and the difference between Pashthun population and second and third dominating ethnic groups – Tajiks and Hazaras – has been over-calculated, thus, declaring Pashthuns a dominating majority. The estimations in case of Hazaras are especially controversial. They are represented in 2010 estimations as 10% of total population, which in accordance to the area they cover seems to be with evident error. Such controversies in the country can serve as sever blow to democratic evolution and can discrimanate the people from their true representation in the government.

The solution lies in the comprehensive, detailed, scientific and unbiased population census in the country. The coming World Population Day, July 11, 2011, must be celebrated with the promise to take out practicle measures in order to facilitate such a census in the country. World Community along with UNFPA, that are determined to carry on population census in all the countries of the world that have been suffering in this regard, can cash the opportunity in Afghanistan to inculcate in the minds of the concerned authorities and common people the importance of a detailed population census. The government, simultaneously, must make sure that all efforts in this regard are facilitated in the best possible way and with complete devotion and sincerity.

Dilawar Sherzai is the permanent writer of the Daily outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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