Pakistani bishops have called for a new population census to help give a more accurate count of religious minorities, says Agenzia Fides. The last population census was in 1998.

Up-to-date figures will help the government assign the right proportion of public service jobs to minorities – a provision designed to help balance inequalities. Official figures show that Christians make up two per cent (3.9 million) of Pakistan’s population.

A statement from the annual Bishops’ Conference said: “We appeal to the government so that it supports this practice, and controls irregularities”. The statement also condemned “the increasing corruption in the country” and the management of public affairs in accordance with private interests.

The bishops asked priests, catechists and teachers to encourage the Christian population to register their names in the data-collection process. A new census was planned for 2016 but has not yet been made official.

The bishops also heard that the Catholic Church and other main Protestant denominations are studying a bill to reform the Christian Marriage Act, which dates back to 1872. As the Act stands, it includes provisions “markedly different from the Personal Laws [relating to marriage] for other faiths in Pakistan”.