Written by: Nazir Hussain Safdari
Census is an official counting of a region’s or nation’s people and compilation of economic, social and other data, usually for formulation of development policies and plans and demarcating constituencies for elections.
The basic role that census can play is to identify the basic needs of residents in a country. In addition, government sectors produce statistics that help them to better understand a country – its population, resources, economy, society, culture and gauge population of rural and urban settlements – to ascertain the number of voters in a particular constituency or to know the percentage of ethnic groups or religious population etc. The census can also be helpful in improving socio-economic conditions by providing employment opportunities in accordance with availability of manpower. It can be beneficial in improving law and order situations as better calculations lead to better distribution of facilities. With better facilities, chances of people being involved in crimes can be reduced to a greater extent.
Census is considered as a national need for our country. For many years, different ethnicities have not been represented as per their actual number, and many administrative issues remain unresolved because of the same issue. Census can be an initial step for the government to review its strategy and policies. It can also solve the ethnic fractions that Afghanistan has been facing for the last four decades.
A transparent census under the international community’s presence in our country can be a historical achievement for all the communities of Afghanistan. The different communities and residents in Afghanistan want to have their representatives in Afghan Parliament according to actual percentages.
Moreover, census can play a role as “Complete Health Report” of the national socio-economic structure and can generate detailed check-ups to diagnosis real socio-economic suffering even at grassroot levels. Thus, it provides opportunities to the country’s administration to cure these sufferings by making stringent efforts and good governance. In the scenario when the government isn’t even aware of the actual population growth rate it would be difficult for it to run state machinery for the welfare of common man and claim good governance.
Afghanistan can build a nation if all the citizens accept their identity as Afghans. It is the basic need for national unity. However, it must not result in ethnic discrimination of any sort.
If a transparent census is carried out, it will bring a revolutionary change in political atmosphere of our country and can a precursor to some very important changes in the society.
History of Census in Afghanistan
The first national census of Afghanistan was not conducted until 1979. Before that Afghanistan was among the few countries in the world that had never undertaken such a survey, and, as a result, it suffered all the socioeconomic uncertainties that might be expected from such a lack. Although the census of 1979 by no means eliminated all these uncertain¬ties, it nevertheless marked the beginning of a somewhat scientific reporting of the population in Afghanistan.
The National Demographic Survey was launched on the initiative of the Ministry of Health and the Afghan Family-Guidance Association, with the cooperation of the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID), and carried out by a team from the State University of New York.
During the summer of 1974, the same team conducted a complementary survey among the nomad population. Unfortunately, none of the results from that part of the survey is available. The only information that has been issued is a preliminary estimate of about 1.2 million for the total nomad population, half the official estimate.
Generally speaking, the results of the 1979 census confirmed the broad trends observed in the survey of 1972-73. The sedentary population had risen to 13,051,358, of whom 1,976,738 (15.1 percent) were urban dwellers. Life expectancy at birth was 40.7 years, one of the lowest in the world. The natural growth rate was 2.6 percent a year, which meant that the population would be doubled every twenty¬-nine years. In contrast to earlier samples, in which both rural birth rate and urban mortality had been underestimated, it appeared that the natural increase was actually higher in the villages (2.7 percent) than in the towns (2.2 percent). The sex ratio consistently showed a notable excess of men over women. The average number of people per household rose to 6.19 (6.29 in town, 6.16 in rural areas). The census also provided abundant data on the levels of education, marital status, and economic characteristics of the population. On the other hand, on the night before the census began, Prime Minister Nūr-Moḥammad Tarakī, went on radio and television to ban the question on ethnic affiliation that had been included in the questionnaire, probably fearing that doubt would be cast on the official claim of distribution of different ethnic groups. Later, according to Census of 1978 by Amnesty International, Pashtuns were 38 %, Tajiks 21%, Hazaras 19%, Uzbeks 11 % and others 11 %.
According to Initial reports of National Statistics Department in 2005, the total population of Afghanistan was 24 Million, which consisted of 12.3 million male and 11.8 female.
According to last 2017 report by National Statistics Department, the current population of Afghanistan is 29.9 million people. While, Afghanistan’s population is estimated at 36.37 million in 2018 based on the most recent UN data. It’s unclear how accurate these estimates may be, given that the last census was nearly 40 years ago in 1979. This census estimated the population at 15.5 million.
Why Transparent Census is Needed?
All countries in the world need to ascertain the exact population in order to provide better facilities for its citizens. Afghanistan also needs to conduct a national census, which should be purely scientific, so that it can become aware of the actual population growth rate to run state machinery for the welfare of common people and claim good governance and generate detailed check-ups to diagnosis real socio-economic sufferings even at grassroots levels.
Creation and division of new provinces and districts can also be based on scientific and reliable census report. Currently, updated and reliable census data is required to solve many administrative and political issues in the country that are hampering the way to political stability and lasting peace in the country and the region.