ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza has called for making concerted efforts to remove barriers preventing people with disabilities from full participation in the electoral process.

Speaking at a seminar held to mark the international day of persons with disabilities here on Friday, he said the barriers hindering electoral access of handicapped people should be dismantled to allow them to be treated on a par with other people and play an active role both as voters and as candidates in elections.

He linked the fairness of elections to inclusiveness of all people and stressed the need that every citizen should have full access to the electoral process. He also referred to Article 25 of the Constitution which guarantees equality of all citizens.

The event was organised by gender and disability electoral working group of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as part of efforts to create an environment that provided disabled people opportunities to cast their votes with dignity.

The chief election commissioner asked the ECP, civil society, political parties and the media to act in unison to achieve this important goal.

Speaking on the occasion, ECP secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammad said the ECP was striving to create conducive environment for all marginalised groups, including people with disabilities, for equal participation in the electoral process.

He said the ECP was taking steps to ensure easy access to polling stations of all handicapped people in the next general elections.

Head of the United Department for International Development Joanna Reid lauded the ECP for organising the seminar and said that the UK was committed to supporting social and economic development of Pakistan.

She observed that participation of persons with disabilities in electoral and political processes was crucial to have a voice in the decision-making process.

“We must continue to work together to ensure that all persons with disabilities who are of voting age are registered as voters and have access to voting,” she said.

Country director of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems Shabbir Ahmad and chief executive of the Special Talent Exchange Programme Atif Sheikh also spoke on the occasion and highlighted the evolution of disability rights movement.

The speakers noted that inclusion of retarded people in the electoral process should be at the core of election planning and implementation.

In March this year, the ECP had formed the working group to suggest ways of enhancing participation of women and disabled people in the electoral process.

Published in Dawn December 3rd, 2016