The decision of disabled persons to abstain from voting in the PK-107 constituency of Khyber is a sad situation, but not surprising given that no politician or party has looked to address the community’s concerns in the former Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) or beyond. The FATA Disabled Persons Association has a membership of 5000, all of whom decided to forgo casting their votes because of the lack of any policies or promises drafted by political parties to cater to their needs.

The four demands of the Association are essentially asking for the provision of basic rights of disabled persons in the region; the provision of monthly disability stipend, an increased quota in government jobs, the provision of free healthcare and education and the establishment of a skill centre. These are fundamental rights that must be looked after, regardless of which gender, race, sect or community demands for them.

The oversight of politicians to cater to disabled persons in both FATA and the rest of the country is probably not down to a callous refusal to work for their problems, but rather the attempts to make ones’ life easier by only looking for votes from groups that form a majority and hence, can make bigger dents in the vote banks of candidates in opposition. With 5000 disabled persons scattered throughout FATA, no one candidate will have to rely on the votes from disabled persons as a means to win the election, which is why they choose to ignore them completely. The philosophical question of whether politicians work to serve their country and its people or to win votes is seemingly answered judging by the attitude of the politicians and parties in the country in reference to disabled persons.

However, while candidates themselves might be guilty of such oversight, the fact that no major political party has provisions for disabled persons within their manifestos is almost criminal. Whichever party is at the helm of government – provincial or federal – has a duty to cater to all the citizens within its jurisdiction, not just those that are in majority. Catering to marginalised sections of the country is imperative if we are to move forward on the path of progress. Denying disabled persons the right to quality education and health, to work and to support them when they themselves cannot is the government’s responsibility and political parties must be made to include provisions for this in their manifestos and policies going forward.