ISLAMABAD: Stakeholders have identified weaknesses in the ICT Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill before a parliamentary committee on human rights considers it next week, and have urged the committee to seek insight from people living with disabilities.
At a press conference on Thursday, stakeholders also demanded representation for people living with disabilities in the local government, saying that is the only way their problems would be addressed.
The ICT Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act was drafted by the Ministry of Human Rights and tabled by Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari. If passed, it will be implemented in the capital.
Human rights parliamentary committee, which will take up bill next week, urged to seek insight from people living with disabilities
Former senator Farhatullah Babar noted that disabilities are not always permanent. He said they can affect anyone at any time and should be anyone’s issue.
“Unfortunately, because of society’s attitude, problems for people living with disabilities have been increasing. Although some legislation has been made in the provinces, a bill has now been moved for legislating in the centre. I suggest that the parliamentary committee invite the concerned people, because only that is how their issues can be addressed,” Mr Babar said.
He added that people living with disabilities need to be empowered politically by giving them representation in political institutions such as the local government.
“There is no political will to address the issues of people living with disabilities. Political parties only talk about facilitating people living with disabilities to cast votes. Although people living with disabilities are ignored in society, women with disabilities suffer more. I suggest they should be linked to the Benazir Income Support Programme,” he said.
He added that Pakistan’s parliament was the first to say that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) would be implemented, as all the goals are the requirement of the country.
“The performance of the local government should be linked with the achievement of SDGs. Moreover, the bill on disabilities is weak because it speaks about physical disability. There is also mental disability and autism, which should be included in the bill,” he said.
Rights activist Amjad Nazeer said it was unfortunate that people living with disabilities are suffering in developing countries across the globe.
“It is unfortunate that even the National Press Club is not accessible to people living with disabilities. During the elections, 95pc of polling booths were not accessible to people living with disabilities,” he said.
Waheed Shah, another activist, said people living with disabilities should be included in policymaking because they are ingored by the government.
“In the 1998 census, the government claimed that there were over 2pc people living with disabilities but according to the World Health Organisation there are around 13pc people living with disabilities in Pakistan,” he said.
Potohar Mental Health Association Chief Executive Zulqurnain Asghar said that although political parties talk about people living with disabilities, they hardly address their issues.
He also told Dawn that the language used in the bill is gender-blind. Apart from the section on reproductive rights, he said, the bill uses the word ‘him’ and makes no mention of women even though women are also included in people living with disabilities.
“We don’t want charity, we want our rights and government should ensure that we should be treated as equal citizens,” Mr Asghar said.
Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2019