Even as India was recently declared the most populous country in the world, its rival and hostile neighbour is not behind.
Pakistan's Council of Common Interests, a national body, recently unanimously approved the results of the census carried out by its Statistics Bureau for the year 2023.
What do the numbers say?
Pakistan's population, excluding Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), was recorded at 240,602,348 as of May 12.
This is an increase from the 2017 census which had estimated the population to be 207 million.
The population count for different regions in Pakistan is as follows:
Punjab - 121,215,805
Sindh - 56,566,804
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa - 39,651,697
Balochistan - 20,865,742
Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) - 2,302,307.
Additionally, the population count for PoK and GB reached over 5.9 million by last week.
Thus, Pakistan's population has now reached 241.49 million, with an annual growth rate of 2.55 percent.
According to the census results, with regards to population growth, Punjab has a growth rate of 2.53 percent, while Sindh has a growth rate of 2.57 percent.
Balochistan's population has a growth rate of 3.2 percent. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has a a growth rate of 2.38 percent, and Islamabad has a population boasts a growth rate of 2.81 percent.
The rural population in the country accounts for 61.18 percent, while the urban population is 38.82 percent.
Second census in a decade
The decision to conduct a new census was made in April 2021 by the Council of Common Interests (CCI), which was chaired by then-prime minister Imran Khan.
This decision came after objections to the previous census were raised by the government of Sindh, led by the PPP, and the MQM-P, a coalition partner of the federal government at the time.
Both the PPP and MQM-P believed that the population of Sindh had been underestimated in the 2017 census. The MQM-P had particular concerns about the urban areas of Sindh, including Karachi.
The Seventh Population and Housing Census began on March 1 and ended on May 15, following five deadline extensions.
However, the numbers and results of the census have taken everyone by surprise, including the Islamic country's own leadership.
The numbers point to a significant unprecedented population explosion in the country, and here's a primer on why it can be a cause of concern for India and its security interests.
Concerns For India
These numbers depict an alarming rate of growth in the country, far more than what analysts expected, pointing to an explosion that can have economic ramifications in so far as catering to the needs of the country's population is concerned.
In fact, Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz, in response to these results, expressed concern over the population growth. He stated that in the last six years, the population has increased by 35 million, which is alarming.
He further emphasised that Pakistan's population growth rate is significantly higher than its economic growth.
To address this challenge, the Prime Minister highlighted the importance of controlling and managing population growth by accelerating economic development.
On the other hand, while Indian security forces already grapple with constant infiltrations at the border, the increasing population of Pakistan poses a greater danger of such instances rising at an uncontrollable pace.
It would also mean a greater requirement of effort to prevent such attempts, apart from the terror base that continues to prosper in Pakistan's hinterlands.
India is already grappling with illegal infiltration on its eastern borders, and its consequences for border security and internal peace.
Preventing a similar situation on the western front is therefore of critical importance.
India's national and internal security, and demography cannot be hostage to the economic woes of its neighbours.
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