Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has expressed shock over the omission of Sikhism from Pakistan's national census and called for rectifying 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," Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran tweeted.
Sikhs are a small minority in Pakistan but their exclusion from the census has been criticised by the civil society and Sikh community leaders. "Every other religion is mentioned in census except Sikhism, which is being recognised across the world," Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa Minority's Alliance President Radesh Singh was quoted as saying by the Nation.
"But sadly our federal government has forgotten this community in the most significant national event that can change the fate of every Pakistani," Singh said. The Sikh community representatives have called it a conspiracy to create a rift between Sikhs and the Pakistan government.
"If the government does not include Sikhs in the census, how will it know about the number of Sikhs living in country?" another Sikh leader was quoted as saying.
Pakistan last week launched a countrywide census, the first in nearly two decades, amidst security fears and concerns about the political fallout of the massive exercise.
Some 119,000 officials including 84,000 enumerators are taking part in the census with 200,000 troops providing security and monitoring the process to ensure authenticity.
The final outcome of the census would be known by July and it may lead to demarcation of constituencies ahead of general elections next year. Pakistan, with about 200 million people, is the world's sixth most populous country. The census will show the exact number of people living in Muslim-majority Pakistan.