Caring disables, a national obligation

Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) are among the most marginalized sections of society in Pakistan, un­heard and unseen, while the ef­forts on part of successive govern­ment towards mainstreaming and integrating them are equally insuf­ficient and inconspicuous. Their miseries continue; only in their routine lives they are facing chal­lenges, which may remain insur­mountable if the society, commu­nity and government do not come forward and extend a willing help­ing hand. 

Likewise, the third world coun­tries vow to extend all kind of moral and material support to safeguard dignity, wellbeing and rights of the disabled in Paki­stan but these remain to be inad­equate. The 2.54 percent of the total population comprises vul­nerable persons, who are leading a miserable life in the absence of basic necessities of life. It is dif­ficult rather impossible for them to get jobs especially in the govt sector; the prevalent injustic­es plaguing the society affect the disabled the most, hence their sense of deprivation grows up with every passing day.

The number of the handicapped in the entire region has raised manifold particularly within the last many years.

The 8th October 2005 earth­quake alone, for example, left thousands of people, including women and children physical­ly disabled. In addition the ongo­ing war against terrorism in the region has also left behind thou­sands of such episodes. A large number of children, women and elders have been deprived of their significant body components like limbs and arms inflicted by rou­tine terror incidents. 

Under the circumstances, the people at the helm of affairs did not bother to formulate any com­prehensive strategy to cope with the challenge that has caused de­spondency amongst them of a greater magnitude. Most of the disabled in Pakistan lack basic fa­cilities of living a better life. Ac­cording to the latest statistics, 1.4 million persons are with dis­abilities in Pakistan, most of them are children without an access to schools. Existing facilities in lim­ited capacity, quantity and quality add to the dilemma.

In the absence of fundamental amenities and basic facilities of life, the disabled are often com­pelled to go for begging at bus stops, shopping malls, business centres, outside the mosques and pathways to earn their bread. Par­ents forcibly send them for beg­ging at picnic points. Another is the business of children’s smug­gling; the handlers train them for begging purposes. Most unfortu­nately many of the poor parents sell their toddlers to the child-lift­ers and get money in return. Even the kidnappers kidnap the com­pletely able children and make them disabled after amputating their limbs or other parts of body. The Darbar of Shah Daula in Gu­jrat city of central Punjab used to be the hub of such activities. Poor parents who could not afford bread for the disabled children, especially with lesser grown head skull, used to devote them for the Darbar. There they are given to the beggars for using them for beg­ging wearing long green rags. 

The government had enact­ed the Disabled Persons Employ­ment and Rehabilitation Ordi­nance 1981 for the benefit of the disabled people, which applied to both government and private en­terprise. The governments have, however, failed to implement it in its true letter and spirit, especially denying them the jobs quota.

Pakistan ratified the United Na­tions Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on July 5, 2011. Pakistan was among the 145 countries which ratified this Con­vention and thus its implemen­tation was responsibility of the state and development organiza­tions including the disabled peo­ple’s organizations. Being a signa­tory of this Convention the state is bound to ensure them their rights but the dilemma is that all existing and previous regulations pertain­ing to giving basic rights to the dis­abled have not been implemented. In other words these laws only ex­ist in papers.

As far as the NGOs’ role in this regard is concerned, a few NGOs are in the country engaged in working for the betterment and welfare of these people. These or­ganizations seem active on world disabled day and merely chant slo­gans for their rights and then dis­perse. They look helpless to play their respective role, whether they have financial constraints or they are not sincere enough.

In this respect only a Lahore based organization, LABARD, (La­hore Businessmen Association for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled), seems to be of stature. Its perfor­mance has been commendable for reintegration of the specials, but there scope of work is limited. The organization only accommodates local people and from the near neighbourhoods. Keeping in view the miseries’ of special people, the executives of LABARD must con­sider expanding their network na­tionwide. Other organizations in the metropolitan cities should fol­low the steps of LABARD to facili­tate the special people.

The disabled persons are part of the society and it is the nation­al obligation for all of us to take care of them by mainstreaming them through inclusive opportu­nities. The government should be mindful of the troubles confront­ing the disabled persons in all spheres of life, and initiate pos­itive steps to bring them into na­tional mainstream. The job quota allocated under Disabled Persons Employment and Rehabilitation Ordinance must be increased by 5 percent. It is also binding on the government to introduce account­ability law for the organizations in order to implement the job quo­ta. The special people in Pakistan need employment opportunities, educational independence and health facilities. Though the Pun­jab government has enhanced job quota for job for disables from two to three percent, it’s a good sign, but this should be theoret­ical in full letter and spirit. Disa­bles are hapless angels of the soci­ety who should not be considered as a burden.

BY MAHTAB ABBASI

–The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist and can be reached at mehtab.abbasi847@gmail.com

–The writer is an Islamabad-based journalist and can be reached at mehtab.abbasi847@gmail.com

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