ISLAMABAD - Over 27 million persons with disabilities (PWDs) have been living in Pakistan and about half of them are children.

Unfortunately, majority of them belongs to the poor segment of society and huge majority of them is not getting any rehabilitation or development services and living their lives in sheer misery.

The situation is acute and needs to be addressed on emergency basis by the government. They have no representation in legislature, budget, ministries and decision-making circles. The PWDs demanded of the government and parliamentarians to legislate all matters regarding disability law to meet their unmet needs and break the barriers they face in participating fully in their society.

The demand came at a press conference on the occasion of International Day of Persons with Disabilities marked on Monday. The persons with disabilities were gathered by Sanjh Shakti, a national alliance of Disabled Persons’ Organisation (DPOs) for the rights of persons with disabilities.

Zulqurnain Asghar from Iradha said, “Over 27 million persons with disabilities in Pakistan make 15 per cent of the population but only two per cent employment quota in public and private organisations has been allocated for them that is also not implemented.

The job quota is also only for grade 1 to 15 and PWDs have no representation in higher-grade jobs. In Rawalpindi district administration only 70 PWDs have been working out of 10,000 employees.” 

It is also an unfortunate fact that a majority of the PWDs and children with disabilities (CWDs) belong to the poor segment of the society who do not have resources to provide all the developmental services to the PWDs.

Also the charity organisations working for the welfare and development of PWDs have meager resources and can reach to only a very small portion of them.

Advocate Saqib Javaid regretted despite that Pakistan was a signatory of United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and it had ratified the Convention also still the legislature failed to pass any act for PWDs to ensure the protection of their rights. 

Another key element for achieving the goal of creating support, understanding and indeed respect for people with disabilities is raising the general societal level and acceptance of the right of all people, including those with disabilities, to live an honorable life with dignity and as productive contributing member of the society.

And to break the stigma about disabilities and to facilitate the process of education for PWDs, inclusive education system must be promoted in formal, non-formal and technical institutions, maintained Iftikhar Malik, President Now, a Disabled Persons’ Organisation.

Adil Khalil said infrastructure is not accessible for the PWDs in private and public sector’s buildings despite that State has the responsibility to ensure that buildings are accessible.

They demanded representation of PWDs in senate, national assembly, provincial assemblies, and decision-making bodies regardless of race, colour, cast and religion. Proper health services must be provided to all the PWDs in private and public sector without any discrimination.

They also sought the establishment of special ministry for PWDs, allocation of budget, increase in employment quota and its implementation and accessibility to infrastructure to ensure their participation in routine life and make them useful persons of society. 

Others who address the gathering include Mohammad Touqeer-ur-Rehman, Nawaz Gondal and Asad Rauf, a visually impaired black belt holder in karate.