Early legislation on rights of persons with disabilities urged
Islamabad (TP) October 2, 2019: Speakers have called for the early adoption of legislation by the federal and provincial legislature to safeguard the rights of special persons.
They said that draft legislation was in the process of adoption in the National Assembly and once it is passed, provinces should also bring such laws or allow the Center to legislate on behalf of them.
They were speaking at the launch of the Urdu policy brief titled “Empowerment of Persons Living with Disabilities: Democratic, Rights-Based and Inclusive Legislation”, organized by the Potohar Mental Health Association (PMHA) with the support of the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), said a press release issued here.
The brief was drafted to apprise the parliamentarians of the fundamental rights of PWDs in the light of United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), international legislations and practices to help draft comprehensive legislation since a government bill is in the legislative process.
Pakistan People’s Party former senator Farhatullah Babar said that it was a landmark achievement though it took decades to prepare the draft law on the rights of PWDs.
He said that since the draft bill after consultations have gone through parliamentary committees, it was the government’s responsibility to present it in the National Assembly at the earliest for a formal debate.
And once it is passed at the federal level, he said, provinces should follow suit and pass such legislation either themselves or through a resolution allow the national parliament to legislate for them, because after the passage of the 18 constitutional amendment, it has been devolved to provinces.
Babar said that national statistics about PWDs are not accurate that need to be rectified. The recent census does not show true representation of PWDs. He suggested that there was also a need to launch a massive education drive to sensitize the government as well as the masses about the rights of PWDs.
“Disability is not a permanent thing. It can strike anyone anytime. Nobody is immune to a disability, this should be the slogan, he said, “because there is a general impression that if one is healthy, he/she would never suffer from it.”
PMHA’s Chief Executive Zulqurnain Asghar said that the global slogan of disability rights movement, “nothing about us without us” demands the inclusion, participation, and representation of PWDs in all spheres of society.
“A comprehensive law for the protection of persons living with disabilities is still awaited. Previously, Balochistan and Sindh have passed legislation for the rights of PWDs but Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments have not made legislations,” he said.
VSO Country Director Hashim Bilal also emphasized the need for enacting such legislation in provinces as a majority of the population lived in provinces.
Analyst and anchor Ammar Masood said that developed countries have advanced facilities and infrastructure for PWDs but in Pakistan, there are even no basic educational institutions for them. “Parents, as well as governments, hesitate to invest in them. Special schools have become a source of political appointments rather than the source of education,” he said.
“People who have not gone through personal experiences cannot understand and feel the trauma of living with a disability,” he said suggesting that principals of schools and head of institutions should be from PWDs community to make institutions PWDs-friendly.
The speakers said that though Pakistan signed the UNCRPD on September 25, 2008, and ratified it on July 5, 2011, the state has yet to submit initial and periodic reports specifying actions undertaken to meet the requirements of the convention for its citizens living with disabilities.
It is important that without passing an inclusive, rights-based legislation, the implementation will fail and continue to deny fundamental rights to the most vulnerable segment of the population, which comprises of 15.4 per cent or 33 million population of PWDs in Pakistan.