Raja Taimur Hassan
The Person with disability (PWDs), face immense difficulties at large in the socio, economic and political landscape of Pakistan particularly in the area of Education, Employment, Marriage, Family and Politics hence they remain deprived population.
There are many concerns of special persons and they face all forms of discrimination in the society but the biggest problem they face in Pakistan is that the social environment and the people’s culture are mostly hostile to them. Many people’s disabilities are aggravated by society’s attitude towards them. For example, if a person limps he must be called langra; if a person has lost an eye, he must be summoned as kana. The lives of a large number of people are spoiled and their potential for coming good is lost because of people’s habit of looking down on those with slight impairment and treating such impairment as the mark of their identification and the dominant feature of their personality.
Women with disabilities are the most neglected, isolated and stigmatized among PWDs. Not much intervention has been provided to address issues related to women with disabilities. There is a need for addressing the issues related to such secluded and deprived section of the society.
Pakistan Census Organization (PCO) in its 1998 national population census estimates a figure of 2.49% PWDs of the overall population. However, according to Association of Physically Handicapped Adults (APHA) statistics and an estimate of WHO, the children and adult person with disability are 10 % of the total population of Pakistan.
One of the major reasons for inaccuracy of the figures about prevalence rate of disability is the disagreement on the definition of ‘disability’ and the non-cooperation of the respondents who in many cases do not want to reveal disabilities of their children, specially girl child. However, perception and understanding of disability always remain problem.
Data reveals that 55.7 per cent of disabled people are found in Punjab, followed by 28.4 per cent in Sindh, 11.1 per cent in NWFP, 4.5 per cent in Baluchistan, and 0.3 per cent in Islamabad (PCO 1998). Most disabled children do not attend school. Overall at primary level, 50% of girls and 28% of boys are out of school.
UN adopted “Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 2006” to make legal framework for providing PWDs equal opportunities in every sphere of life. Pakistan is the signatory to this convention and bound to take such measure to meet the universal Millennium development goals.
It is now largely accepted that MDGs will not be achieved however if policies, programmes, monitoring and evaluation do not include persons with disabilities. While persons with disabilities make up ten per cent of the world’s population, disability is associated with twenty per cent of global poverty according to the World Bank’s findings. However, The UN General Assembly has stressed, including in its most recent resolutions 63/150, 64/131 and 65/186, the importance of improving disability data and statistics, in compliance with national legislation.
The government and civil society will need to coordinate their efforts to cure the people of their unhealthy attitude towards the disabled. In this connection, an aggressive and continuous campaign on print and electronic media is the need of the hour.There is need of inclusive policy making which cover all issues relating to disability, and political parties must include concern of disable person in their inclusive policy agenda.
Experts suggest government and civil society should take responsibility to educate the society at grass root level. A disability could be converted into ability, if government provides them technologies and access to the resources on the basis of their right so as this deprived and uncounted population must be recognize and earn respect in the society.
The writer is a public policy analyst and consultant at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute Islamabad.