Statistics suggest that 6.2 percent of Pakistan’s population suffers from some kind of disability. However, the percentage could be much higher than this, considering the primary issue for inclusivity activism is that data collection for the national census is structurally flawed. Pakistan Bureau of Statistics after getting approval from the Technical Committee for Disability, using a module designed by the Washington group, introduced the National Disability Survey Module PSLM 2019, which was a flagship initiative by the government that has brought our census closer to validity and accuracy but, there is still a long way to go.
An accurate census of persons with disabilities would provide a clearer picture of the national status on disability and how to better address these issues via a number of inclusive infrastructures, disability-assistive technologies such as wheelchairs and the provision of independent living facilities and special needs schools. Part of the reason inclusivity activism falls behind in Pakistan is due to societal prejudices and attitudinal barriers. Although development sector organisations and the government have worked tirelessly for awareness campaigns and inclusive infrastructure in offices, there is still much more to be done.
Persons with disabilities living in rural Pakistan suffer much more because of the above-mentioned obstacles. They do not have the resources to attain mobility, skills, or education to become productive individuals and members of society. Resultantly, they are left isolated, unattended and in miserable conditions in their own homes. Pakistan’s non-disabled population must also realise the potential of persons with disabilities given that they are provided with the right information and easy access to inclusive resources. Ms. Kim Phaokhamkeo, Country Director of the International Labour Organisation, when speaking at the Community Based Inclusion Development’s (CBID) annual conference held recently in Islamabad, indicated, “Everyone deserves a fair income, visibility, safe working conditions and equality. This ensures an inclusive and sustainable future for their own lives and their families.” Not only would the provision of these tools create family contentment, but it would prove a great asset to our national economy.
6.2 percent is at least 14 million citizens of Pakistan, which is no small number of unemployed, unhappy people. The reason this number is so high in our country is attributed to the additional challenges of natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes and even the fearful terrorist attacks that still threaten this nation. If we start tackling natural calamities with proactive disaster management and terrorism with the establishment of higher national security, the probability of disability development as a result of such accidents would significantly decrease.
Federal government institutions such as the Federal Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives and Ministry of Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety as well as Provincial governments have made huge strides in supplying the necessary funding, welfare, and infrastructure to aid the inclusivity movement. The Sindh government set an example for all other provinces when it passed the first legislation in 2018: Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Law which included a quota in government positions allotted to persons with disabilities.
Taking inspiration, federal, provincial and development sector institutions alongside civil society must continue to take welfare, policy level and awareness efforts for the progress of the inclusivity movement because we are all stakeholders in the matter of catering to the rights of marginalised groups of society. Mr. Nadeem Ahmed, Social Policy Advisor of the Federal Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives, also speaking at the CBID conference this month, reminded us of, “the two SDG rules of no one being left behind and the necessity of respecting and appreciating diversity.” With multi-sectoral advocacy and action towards inclusivity, Pakistan is on the road to achieving an international standard of provision of disability rights and resources.