ISLAMABAD-Speakers on Wednesday while highlighting the problems of differently abled persons said that Persons with Disability (PWD) demand rights not charity to become an equal part of the society.

National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) conducted a consultation on ‘Implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in Pakistan: Legislative and Institutional Impediments’ on October7, 2020 at NCHR Head Office.

This consultation was chaired by the MNA Ms. Zil-e-Huma representing the Parliament, former Senator Mr. Farhat Ullah Babar, Mr. Atif Shiekh Executive Director STEP, Mr. Zulqairnan from Potohar Mental Health Association and other members of civil society.

Ms. Zil-e-Huma highlighted the issues of accessibility of PWDs and ensured that the government will take up this issue on priority basis. She further stated that the private organisations and other institutions should work to make the spaces more accessible in collaboration with the government.

Former Senator Mr. Farhat Ullah Babar highlighted the issues that the lack of statistical data on PWDs poses. On the topic of enabling the environment, he proposed a way forward by compiling a book on experiences and challenges faced by PWDs who are in service. 

He urged all the political parties to create a special wing on the PWDs that will help in the policy making on promotion and protection of PWDs. He further stated that these special wings must have participation of PWDs.

Mr. Zulqarnian, represented the Potohar Mental Health Association highlighted the issue of lack of inclusion of persons with disabilities in politics. He further said that the legislation regarding PWDs is gender blind as it only uses the pronouns ‘he/him.’  He urged that the language of legislation regarding PWDs should include other pronouns as well.

Mr. Atif Sheikh from Special Talent and Exchange Program (STEP) shed light on the role on the environment in enabling PWDs. While the laws on PWDs exist but lack implementation of these laws which creates hurdles in creating enabling environments for PWDs. He argued that there is a need for change of approach towards PWDs from charity-based thinking to Rights-based approach.

Dr. Salman Asif, highlighted the stigma attached with persons with disabilities, particularly women living with disabilities. Dr. Asif stressed that these issues must be thoroughly discussed while advocating for policy and legislative reforms.

The consultation concluded with the assurance by NCHR that further discussions will be conducted in the near future which will discuss at length particular issues faced by the persons with disabilities such as barriers in accessibility, economic empowerment and political inclusion.