PESHAWAR: Though many organisations of people with physical disabilities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Wednesday boycotted polling their votes as protest against lack of facilities, those who arrived at the polling stations faced serious problems in access to the polling booths and thus returned without casting their votes.

Talking to this correspondent here on Wednesday, Syed Ali Shah, a police constable who has lost both legs in a bomb blast, said that he knew many disabled persons who wanted to poll their votes, but they could not move easily and thus they preferred to avoid entering the polling booths.

Mr Shah suggested that the Election Commission of Pakistan should seriously consider the problems being faced by the people with disabilities as they had a vast population in the country.

Vow to launch campaign for their rights

Similarly, chief of the Friends of Paraplegic, a representative organisation of disabled persons in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sanaullah Khan said that the boycott was observed across the province. He said that protest demonstrations were also held in different areas. He asked for approval of the proposed ‘KP Persons with Disabilities (Rights, Rehabilitation and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities) Act, 2017’ to resolve major problems of the disabled people.

He said that the number of disabled persons was increasing in the country, but the government was not serious to pay them attention.

He said that the Friends of Paraplegic was a representative organisation of the persons with disabilities which had already presented its charter of demands to the government, but no attention was given to it so far.

Mr Sanaullah said that their major demand was two per cent quota in reserved seats of parliament for the disabled persons on the pattern of religious minorities and women, but the ECP did not consider it and thus they boycotted the July 25 general election. He said that the special persons would launch a campaign and the boycott would continue till acceptance of their demands.

He said that Pakistan had endorsed the UN Charter of 2011 regarding the disabled persons, but hundreds of physically challenged people were still deprived of due rights. He said that the government was least bothered to at least ensure accessibility of the special persons to the polling booths.

Another office-bearer of the organisation, Irfanullah, said that minorities, who made about four per cent of the country’s total population, 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.

He said that the disabled people were facing many difficulties due to non-provision of facilities at hospitals, educational institutions and other public places. He referred to the national census, in which all segments of society were counted, but those with different physical disabilities were not considered which meant that the government was not interested to make special persons useful members of the society.

Shaheen Disability Welfare Association, Laki Marwat, president Anwar Kamal Khan said that special persons in his district also boycotted the election.

When contacted, the head of Paraplegic Centre, Peshawar, Syed Mohammad Ilyas regretted that it was duty of the political parties to give priority to the special persons in their election manifestos and then seriously work for their welfare. He said that political parties didn’t mention anything about rights of the special persons in their election manifestos which meant that they did not consider them as citizens/voters.

“The special persons believe that no one would take their demands seriously unless they reach the assemblies,” he said and added that they wanted the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure reserved seats for the disabled persons in parliament so that they could be able to effectively raise voice for their rights.

Mr Ilyas said that under the Constitution the physically challenged persons were entitled to getting all the rights.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2018

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