ISLAMABAD: Speakers at an event on Wednesday feared that the disability rights bill that has been adopted by a parliamentary committee and sent to the government may not be tabled in the National Assembly soon.

At the launch of the Urdu version of a report titledEmpowerment of PWD: Democratic, Rights-Based and Inclusive Legislation, speakers urged the Ministry of Human Rights to finalise a draft of the bill, which would be the first piece of national-level legislation on the rights of people living with disabilities (PLWD), and table it.

The event wasorganised by the Potohar Medical Health Association (PMHA) in collaboration with the Voluntary Service Organisation.

Speaking at the launch, former senator Farhatullah Babar said there is only the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance 1981, which is used to provide jobs to people with disabilities.

Urdu version of report on empowerment of people with disabilities launched

He said:“It took almost four decades to make the legislation. A fill has finally been adopted by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights. Although the government should ideally table the draft inparliament within two months, it may take much more time. I suggest the media,civil societyactivists and other stakeholders push the government to legislateat the earliest.”

He added that once this bill is passed, activists could push the provinces to make legislation of their own or adopt federal law through aresolution.

“Moreover, correct data on PLWD in Pakistan is not available. The area is very vast, as the more you do the more you will discover,” he said.

The aforementioned bill, titled TheIslamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2018, was drafted by the humanrights ministry and tabled by its minister, Dr Shireen Mazari, last year.

PMHA head Zulqarnain Asghar said he attended bythe first meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Human Rights and was pleased to seethat the disability rights bill was on the agenda.

“The bill was later referred to a subcommittee headed by Mahreen Razaque Bhutto and I was also invited to brief the committee on it. I suggest that the government should ensurelegislationat the earlier. It isunfortunate that thegovernment does not give sufficient rights to PLWDs,” he said.

Psychiatrist Dr Bashir Hussain, who is also a rights activist, said that there is a general impression that the demand for disability rights is a Western agenda, but this is not correct.

“However, things are changing with the passage of time. If a husband starts beating his wife people become involved and decline the argument that it is a personal issue of the family,” he said.

Farah Zulqarnain said that although Sindh, Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan have passed legislation for people with disabilities, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have not.

Hadia Nusrat, a gender expert, said that women with disabilities face more discrimination than men.

According to the report, there are many mythsprevalent in society about people with disabilities. Theexclusion of people withdisabilities begins at home and is exacerbated in schools, andderogatoryepithets further exclude theirpresence in society.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2019