Nationwide census due before parliamentary poll

Kabul, December 7, 2004 - The first ever national census in Afghanistan will be completed before the parliamentary elections, planned for April next year, government officials said Tuesday.

The first survey project in a decade, funded jointly by the Afghan government and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), has been carried out in almost 30 out of 34 provinces.

General director of the census department, Mohammad Ali Watanyar, said the remaining provinces of southern Paktika, Zabul and Helmand, as well as the newly established Daikudni province, will be complete within the next month.

The scheme, which was launched in the winter months following the fall of the Taleban two years ago, has had some teething problems and experts say its completion will depend on the adverse winter conditions in the remote provinces.

All the three provinces suffer cold winters during which it usually snows. But Watanyar gave assurances that the census will go ahead despite the freezing conditions.

"We will work hard to complete the process in these provinces despite the snow and rain," he said. The parts of the survey that have already been completed have been adopted by a UNAMA and UNFPA team, who assigned two experts to assess the census.

Each survey team comprises eight counters and one supervisor. Mohammad Sabir, head of a team in Wardak province, said, with the cooperation of local security official, his team traveled to all the villages in his area and registered people from every family. "We registered every child, man and woman from every family," he said.

Agha Shirin, a resident of Bagramai district in Kabul, confirmed that census workers have come to his home and registered all the family members. There are a total of 249 posts in the new parliament. The provinces which have fewer than half a million population will be given nine posts.

The provinces which have between half a million and one million people will get 15 posts. Those with between one and two million people will have 19 posts. The provinces with two to three million people will have 23 posts and those with more than three million will get 29 parliamentary posts.