IT emerged during a session of the Sindh Assembly on Monday that the provincial government had done little to collect data for the number of differently abled persons in the province. Although the provincial government has enacted the Sindh Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2018, which was hailed by many as a good step towards the meaningful implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the administration’s obvious lethargy in data collection cannot be condoned. The Sindh Assembly was informed that the relevant department was in the process of collecting data of differently abled persons in the province — a piece of information that was shared in response to an MPA’s query if the government knew how many women were differently abled in Pakistan. The response came from Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla, who said that the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities had hired 46 differently abled people but hiring in other departments had come to a halt owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. The lawmakers were told that the provincial government intends to establish vocational training centres for the differently abled, besides asking banks and multinationals to hire more PWD.
Unfortunately, PWD are one of the most marginalised communities in the country. The fact that they are even underrepresented in the census exposes the utterly apathetic attitude of our policymakers towards their plight. According to the 1998 census, PWDs comprised 2.38pc of the population. However, by 2017, the number of PWDs in Pakistan had absurdly dropped by more than 80pc to a mere 0.48pc. Pakistan has been a signatory to the UN convention on PWD rights for more than a decade, but the differently abled still remain on the fringes of the workforce and also public life. Sindh — in fact, all the other provinces as well — must enable the differently abled to be independent and part of the mainstream. What PWD truly need is society’s acceptance and opportunities where they can show their full potential.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2021