ISLAMABAD   -   Experts at consultative session stressed the need for formulation of an effective policy to address the issues of disabled people in society.

National Commission for Human Rights-Pakistan NCHR in collaboration with Potohar Mental Health Association (PMHA) held an event titled “Consultative Dialogue on ICT Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2018”.

The consultation was attended by Chairman NCHR Justice (Retd) Ali Nawaz Chowhan, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Dr Javaid Rehman, a large number of persons with disabilities and other members of civil society.

Article 38 (d) of the Constitution of Pakistan urges the State to ‘provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief, for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race, as are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment.

Justice (Retd) Ali Nawaz Chowhan, Chairman NCHR said that effective policy-making requires reliable and valid data on all aspects of disability. There are no standardised instruments for data collection in Pakistan on disability that provides comprehensive data. He further said the census conducted in 2017 presented a very low number of PWD in Pakistan.

Showing the number to be at only 0.48 per cent of the total population, which is shockingly below international averages. This is a serious concern on the part of Pakistan Bureau of Statistic who is unable to provide accurate figures regarding persons with disabilities.

He also added that the definition of persons with disabilities in the proposed bill does not cover all forms of disabilities and is not in line with the definition provided in the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities.

Moreover, he added that we need to change our approach towards persons with disabilities from sympathy to empathy. Persons with disabilities do not need our pity or charity, what they need is the protection of their rights. Zulqarnain Shah, Executive Director PHMA said that persons of disabilities must be given representation in the parliament as they constitute country’s biggest minority yet their rights and their need for mainstreaming has never been given due importance. He further added that the proposed bill is full of lacunas and the input of persons with disabilities was sought in the drafting process of the bill.

Former senator Farhat Ullah Babar added that there is a lot that needs to be improved in the proposed bill. For instance, the section 16 titled “political participation” only mention the right to vote and does not mention their right to contest elections. Furthermore, he added, the proposed National for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons in Section 21 only include one person with disability which itself is discriminatory.