Incapacity assist

The Council for the Rights of People with Disabilities (CRPD) has finally decided to take action. At its first meeting on February 18, the council decided to set up a secretariat and formulate rules. It is worrying that the current state of legislation and institutional mechanisms for people with disabilities leaves something to be desired. The majority of people with disabilities in Pakistan continue to yearn for their rights without government or private sector support. It is worth noting that the Law on ICT Rights of People with Disabilities 2020 was passed in September 2020 to promote and protect people with disabilities. All civilized societies tend to effectively ensure the provision of rights to such people, but in Pakistan the process of legislating and implementing it has been disappointingly slow.

Such rights are clearly set out in the Pakistani Constitution, and Pakistan is also committed to international disability laws. The commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) led to its ratification under the PPP government in 2011, but has made poor progress since then. First, the recently convened council needs to focus on the role and functions that the law has defined for it. Then the task is to set up and restore the medical evaluation panels for people with disabilities. These bodies need to include specialized doctors in order for the assessment processes to be professional and credible. The unprofessional way in which such individuals are rated and counted in Pakistan can be seen from the fact that their number ranges from 3.3 million to 27 million, according to Human Rights Watch. In fact, the percentage of people with disabilities has declined over the past 20 years after the last census in 2017. These people face discrimination not only in society as a whole, but especially in the workplace if they all manage to get a job. There is also an urgent need to ensure the political participation of people with disabilities. Equality in education and employment can also hardly be guaranteed without political participation. Easy access and mobility are another area where we need to make a lot of rapid progress.

Our society has gradually become more abusive and discriminatory, and we cannot reverse these tendencies if the country does not have equality before the law. Intolerance in the form of violent behavior towards such persons is worryingly high and we must counteract these attitudes. According to Pakistani law, there must be an employment rate of two percent for people with disabilities at all levels of employment, but hardly any employer – both in government and in the private sector – follows this order. The courts have raised this issue repeatedly, but disregard is still widespread. Most alarming is government oversight as it fails to adhere to the “principle of reasonable accommodation” recognized by the Disability Rights Convention. Accessible infrastructure and assistive technology are not available in most government buildings and departments. We definitely need some fundamental changes in our work environment to support people with disabilities.

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