By Farhat Fatima
ISLAMABAD, Jan 29 (APP):Allah Almighty has bestowed mankind with countless abilities to see, listen, speak, walk, think and much more regardless of their religion, caste, creed, sex, race and mobility.
The creation of human beings is the best ever creation among all creatures on earth and in the heavens and Allah Almighty commands to equally protect the rights of all human beings particularly of the differently-abled persons.
After the human rights enshrined in holy scripture, our Constitution guarantees social and economic well-being of all citizens.
Article 38 (d) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan states “provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief, for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race, who are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment.”
It also guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and expression for all people and equal protection of the rights of normal as well as differently able persons by providing social justice.
Pakistan also ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in July 2011 with Ministry of Human Rights being the Focal Ministry to coordinate and facilitate implementation and reporting of UNCRPD.
Although many statutes, rules, or legislation are in place, in many instances, the societal response towards this common responsibility remains sluggish with many seeing the differently-able persons with scorn not caring that they were not so by virtue of their follies.
Rather, these people are equally capable to deliver in different arena of life if provided ample opportunities as being provided to normal people.
Instances are all around right from cramming the Holy Quran by a blind student, or the one surviving without both arms or the one becoming a great scientist; Stephen Hawking. History shows that differently-able persons can do a lot if patronized and encouraged through proper education and training.
Therefore, different governments embarked on a number of initiatives like “The Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance, 1981” which laid the foundation for the institutional care of such persons.
This Ordinance ensures PWDs’ rights to education, employment, rehabilitation; emphasizing to create Funds and establish National Council for Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons.
Later in 2010, after 18th Amendment in the Constitution, although powers related to disability and associated matters were devolved to provinces, Federal Ministry of Human Rights shouldered the responsibility of better coordination and implementation of international Conventions.
As the provinces were required to enact proper laws for protection of the rights of differently-able persons after 18th amendment and in June 2018, Sindh government promulgated the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Act.
Such acts were also promulgated by Balochistan in 2017 and Gilgit Baltistan in 2019 as similar legislation is in process in Khyber Pukhtunkha and Punjab provinces.
The Federal Government also devised an Action Plan for Human Rights that covers various actions with regard to rights of marginalized groups including PWDs.
Reserved job quota for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) is being implemented to ensure their participation in various professions while a Treaty Implementation Cells (TICs) have also been established at Federal and Provincial levels including Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Counting on other routine measures, the Government has provided elevators and lift services for PWDs at Metro Bus Stations for their direct access; elevators and lifts are provided at every entrance/exit point for their direct access to each bus station.
Provision of level boarding to and from the bus without involving any steps has been ensured. One space for PWDs with wheelchair and four designated seats have been reserved for other PWDs.
In most of the Government offices (Ministries and Departments) and private offices, special elevators, lifts, chairs, ramps etc. are available for PWDs besides measures like mass transit projects envisioned under Vision 2025 by the Planning Commission of Pakistan.
To promote participation in political processes and in decision-making, an awareness campaign was launched by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the Postal Ballot facility offered to PWDs.
Besides ensuring their access to polling stations and polling booths, they also imparted training on casting votes.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Bait-ul-Mal across the country has also set up a special cell to facilitate PWDs on a priority basis.
They are extended financial support as well as accessories like artificial limbs, hearing aids, wheelchairs and white canes etc.
For the first time in the country’s history, it has also been decided to give the status of Special Friend of PBM to each family having one or more differently-abled persons.
This provision authorizes families with one differently-able person to get Rs 30,000 assistance per annum from PBM and families with two or more such persons to draw Rs. 60,000 per annum besides other aids.
Moreover, Ministry of Planning Development and Reform has been requested to include Disability Impact Assessment (DIA) in their PC-I like (Environmental Impact Assessment) EIA.
Since, the government has taken numerous measures to facilitate differently-able persons, it is also a shared responsibility of private sector and the society as a whole to treat such people with honor and respect and ensure training and jobs opportunities for them on priority.