LAHORE - The sit-in by 15 visually-impaired persons entered the seventh day on Friday.

The sit-in is being staged on the track of the Metro Bus Service in the scorching heat of May and the holy month of fasting. The protesters are demanding implementation of job quota for special persons.

Hafiz Abdul Razaq, 55, is visually impaired. He belongs to Bahawalpur and he has been jobless all these years. He says no government ever helped special persons earn livelihood for their families in a dignified manner.

“The Punjab government should give us jobs and renew our contracts. They don’t really care about us. They even threatened us against staging the sit-in,” Razaq said.

Visually impaired persons took to the street again after a series of sit-ins and protests in the past, December 4, 2017; December 3, 2016; March 2, 2015; April 13, 2015; June 8, 2015; January 11, 2016 and August 1, 2016.

The protesters have demanded that the authorities heed to rights of persons with special needs. This includes regularising services of visually impaired persons working on daily wages and creating better employment opportunities for them.

The protesters accused Social Welfare Department Director General Waheed Akhter Ansari of harassing them and their families through third parties.

A visually impaired person who has been doing a telephone operator’s job at Town Hall on a contract basis, said his contract was not renewed after it expired in March. “I did master’s in 2014 from the Punjab University, but the government did not consider us for any suitable job,” he said.

Hazrat Abdullah Ibne Makhdum, 17, is a polio-affected person from Sharif Abbas, a village in Jhang district. He says he has done matriculation, but the government did not consider him for any job.

Uman Saeed came from Islamabad to support his community and press for acceptance of its demands. He said Deputy Commissioner of Lahore Sumair Ahmed Syed telephoned him and asked him to vacate the place, but he said he needs assurance for acceptance of his demands. “I will not bluff with my community as they are saying we have asked the deputy commissioner of Bahawalpur to look into the matter,” he said.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has called on the federal and provincial governments to meet legitimate demands of the visually impaired protesters who have been staging a sit-in at Kalma Chowk.

In a statement issued Friday, HRCP said, “It is duty of all governments who call themselves civilized to protect rights of vulnerable persons and ensure their access to employment, fair wages and decent work.

 

 

Faizan Ali Warraich