ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad Capital Territory Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2020 lapsed on Thursday after the three-month time period to pass the draft bill expired.

The Senate, which had 90 days to pass the bill, could not meet due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We had worked hard on the bill to ensure rights of citizens with different abilities. However, the bill now stands rejected. It will be tabled again as a private members’ bill as soon as business resumes,” Senate Committee on Human Rights Chairman Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar told Dawn.

Members of the Senate committee had observed earlier in March that while successive governments had taken some important steps to advance protection of the rights of people with disabilities the state had much more to do to ensure the right to accessibility to people with disabilities.

The draft of the bill had already been passed by the National Assembly.

After passage from NA, Senate had 90 days to pass the bill but it could not meet due to Covid-19 pandemic

The proposed bill was drafted to address a number of issues of persons with disabilities.

According to the draft available with Dawn, the Constitution guarantees the fundamental rights of all citizens, including persons with disabilities, without discrimination. As a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Pakistan is obliged to ensure and promote the full realisation of rights and freedoms for persons with disabilities by taking appropriate legislative, administrative and policy measures.

In line with the national and international commitments, the ICT Rights of Persons with Disability Bill 2020 had been prepared through a consultative process for protection and promotion of rights of people living with disabilities.

In 2011, Pakistan ratified the UN convention that ensured the right of accessibility as well as equity in education, health and employment. Earlier, there was only “Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance 1981”.

In the last meeting of the Senate committee on human rights, members representing differently-abled persons registered their complaints that ranged from being disallowed to board aircraft without attendants to being denied ATM cards and lack of improved software to access websites. This was besides accessibility issues, absence of ramps, into banks and other public and private buildings.

Chief coordinator Pakistan Foundation Fighting Blindness, Rabail Peerzada, demanded more textbooks for the visually impaired.

International relations graduate Mohammad Shabir, who was also visually impaired, hoped that there would be improvements such as latest software to enable them surf web pages with ease.

Minister for Human Rights Dr Shireen Mazari had taken personal interest in pushing the bill for approval.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2020

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