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PESHAWAR: A group of physically challenged persons have announced that they will boycott the July 25 general elections to record their protest over the government’s failure to announce reserved seats for them in the national and provincial assemblies.

Speaking at a news conference at the Peshawar Press Club on Monday, Syed Mohammad Ilyas, the founder of Friends of Paraplegic, an organisation of people with different physical disabilities, said Pakistan had endorsed the UN Charter of 2011 regarding the disabled persons. But, he regretted the hundreds of physically challenged people were still deprived of due rights. He added that the disabled people didn’t get due respect and status in the society.

Flanked by the organisation’s office-bearers Irfanullah, Sanaullah and others, Mr Ilyas said minorities, which made about four per cent of the total population of the country, had been given reserved seats in the legislatures, but disabled people, making 15 per cent of population (approximately 30 million), had been ignored in allotment of special reserved seats and other rights.

Under the country’s constitution, Mr Ilyas said the physically challenged persons were fully entitled to get all the rights but the successive governments never paid them attention and thus such people became a burden on their families.

The disabled people, he said were facing many difficulties due to non-provision of facilities at hospitals, educational institutions and public places. He referred to the national census, in which all segments of society were counted, but not the disabled persons, which meant that the government was not interested in their uplift.

Mr Ilyas regretted that the political parties didn’t mention anything about rights of special persons in their election manifestos.

This time, he said they had decided to boycott the polls and urged the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure reserved seats for the disabled persons in the parliament so that they could be able to raise voice for their rights from the forum. The boycott, he said would continue unless their demands were accepted.

Published in Dawn, July 17th , 2018