PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday ordered the attachment of the salary of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary for not filing comments despite the issuance of repeated notices on a petition seeking orders for the federal and provincial governments to implement international conventions for the development of persons with disabilities and provide them with free health facilities.

A bench consisting of Justice Qaiser Rasheed and Justice Mohammad Nasir Mehfooz ruled that the chief secretary’s salary would remain attached until he filed comments on the petition filed by two people with disabilities, including Asad Khan and Sher Alam Khan, both residents of Mardan.

The next date of hearing will be announced later.

Barrister Asadul Mulk appeared for the petitioners and contended that the petition was filed around two years ago but the provincial government hadn’t been filing the sought-after comments despite being given repeated notices.

He hasn’t responded to plea of disabled persons for free medical treatment, other rights

He said the federal government had filed its comments about the petition.

The bench expressed anger at the non-filing of comments by the government and observed that it was an important matter which should be decided at the earliest.

The respondents in the petition are the federal government through the national health services secretary and director, secretary of the finance division, secretary of the law and justice division, managing director of the Pakistan Baitul Mal, secretary of the Benazir Income Support Programme, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government through chief secretary, and others.

During the hearing, the bench also wondered whether facilities were available in the Bus Rapid Transit project for persons with disabilities.

Additional advocate general Syed Sikandar Hayat replied that special arrangements had been made for such persons.

The petitioners requested the court to direct several departments and projects of federal and provincial governments, including federal ministry of health service and KP health department, to constitute a panel and liaise with each other to formulate coherent policies and guidelines for safeguarding the constitutional rights of the disabled persons within a specified period as their abdication of responsibility is adversely impacting the fundamental rights of the petitioners.

They sought the court orders for declaring that the state of Pakistan has failed to discharge its obligations under international law and various treaties (regarding the disabled) signed by it through its inability to draw and implement coherent policies and guidelines regarding the disabled person.

The petitioners had claimed that they were suffering from certain curable disabilities but medical treatment required up to Rs150,000 each.

They said they had approached the relevant authorities for financial assistance, but to no avail.

Finally, the petitioner filed an application with the PHC Human Rights Directorate, which entrusted the case to Barrister Asadul Mulk, who filed a comprehensive petition highlighting several international conventions and treaties related to persons with disabilities.

Barrister Asadul Mulk said the number of the people living with disabilities in Pakistan varied between 3.3 million and 27 million if government statistics or those of international agencies were relied upon.

He said the ratification of international human right treaties by the government of Pakistan was meaningless unless there is some actual implementation of those treaties.

The lawyer said Pakistan was a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (Disabled Persons) Convention, which covered the rights of disabled citizens comprehensively.

Also, Pakistan is a signatory to instruments such the Equality of Treatment (Social Security) Convention, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Right, which cover the rights of the disabled in general.

“It is the petitioners’ case that the federal and provincial governments have done little to germinate the content of their rights as elaborated in the above mentioned international instruments in domestic law and social policy,” he added.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2019