Faisalabad: Christian and Muslim activists united in the fight for the rights of the disabled
by Shafique Khokhar

People with disabilities, who represent about 15 per cent of Pakistan's population, need legislation to protect their rights. An independent commission to monitor the application of the UN Convention is also needed. Various groups appeal to the government for the establishment of quotas in education and the workplace. In Lahore, police mistreats two blind people.

Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - A number of organisations, with Christian and Muslim participants, held a press conference on Wednesday on the 'state of disability rights in Pakistan' to mark International day of persons with disabilities.

The various groups call on the government to introduce comprehensive legislation to cater to the needs and problems of Pakistan's disabled community, some 15 per cent of the population, as well as make sincere efforts to bring society's most marginalised group into the mainstream by enforcing their rights, providing the protections they need and ending the abuse and deprivations to which they are subjected.

They also want the authorities to set up an independent and autonomous national commission to implement and monitor the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities (CRPD), and implement its optional protocol to provide a better, accessible and barrier-free environment for persons with disabilities.

The organisations that sponsored the meeting include the Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM) and the Community-Based Inclusive Development (CBID) Network in cooperation with the Beacon Foundation, the Society of disabled persons for rights and development (SDPRD) and the Pakistan Gender Coalition (PGC).

AWAM director Nazia Sardar calls for a "positive attitude" towards people with disabilities. The latter should not be evaluated only based on their psychophysical limits and weaknesses, but should instead be guaranteed "minimum standards" that respect their human rights and allow them to lead a life of "dignity".

Shazia George, a leading advocate for the rights of the disabled, criticised Pakistan's existing laws and policies, which have proven "ineffective" and have failed to meet the needs and requirements of the people with disabilities.

In her views, the authorities must adopt "inclusive policies and laws" that turn the UN Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities into "practical acts" protecting the disable from "all forms of deprivation and abuse."

Lastly, Beacon Foundation director Rana Yasir Nadeem wants the government to increase quotas in education and employment for people with disabilities commensurate with their total share of the population.

"The government must create a favourable environment to ensure easy access for people with disabilities to public transportation, buildings and other places," he said. It must also remove "barriers that prevent a person with disability from participating in an activity or receiving services on an equal basis with others". 

Whilst the rights of the disabled were discussed in Faisalabad, on the same day police in Lahore police badly mistreated up two blind people for protesting outside the local Press club.

Assuming the protesters wanted to block the presidential motorcade, police agents stopped the, and then proceeded to rough them up. In reality, the two were staging a protest to demand more rights and protections for people with disabilities as well as job quotas.