ISLAMABAD: Though they do mention persons with disabilities, none of the political parties’ manifestos include their plans for addressing issues faced by disabled people, a new study says.

The Disability Audit of Political Parties’ Manifestos was conducted by the Potohar Mental Health Association (PMHA) in collaboration with the Hashoo Foundation and the manifestos of the PML-N, PPP, PTI and the Awami National Party (ANP) were reviewed for the audit.

The audit report says that there were differences in the nature of the commitments made in regards to disabled people by various parties.

Audit notes improvement in manifestos this year as most do mention persons with disabilities

PTI says it will provide medical facilities through health cards and calls for steps to celebrate persons with disabilities such as marking them as heroes and bringing them in the spotlight.

The PPP manifesto is better drafted in regards to persons with disabilities. It includes measures for making those living with disabilities are equal citizens.

ANP says persons with disabilities should be given access and encourage them out of their homes.

The report noted that unlike the past, clear references have been made this time by all the leading parties for working for the welfare of persons with disabilities.

No party had previously called for legislating in this regard and all three of the major parties have this time called for taking measures for passing comprehensive legislation for the welfare of persons with disabilities.

The audit has welcomed the improvements as they are in line with Pakistan’s obligation under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which calls on subordinate country-level legislation for the welfare of persons with disabilities.

It suggests that there was a need for engaging those living with disabilities in the political process such as decision making, and contesting elections, to which political parties have committed to now.

Speaking at the launch ceremony at the National Press Club, PMHA Chief Executive Zulqurnain Asghar said though political parties claim they will give importance to persons with disabilities, they never make good on their promises.

“Some 15.4pc of the country’s population is living with disabilities, which is about 30 million people but their lives are limited to their homes. There are some simple steps which can be taken for this such as malls and markets should not be approved if they do not include ramps or children with disabilities should be admitted in all schools,” he said.

The majority of people with disabilities will not be able to cast their votes because steps to facilitate them have been taken at less than 1pc of the polling stations, Mr Asghar said.

Human rights activist Dr Bashir Hussain Shah said many people were left with disabilities during the 2005 earthquake but nothing was done to facilitate them and make them active members of society again.

“I suggest political parties should consult with persons with disabilities before making laws because many of the bills tabled in parliament are just copies of bills from other countries,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 23rd, 2018