GILGIT: The visually-impaired people are discriminated against and are told, directly or obliquely, that they are useless. We are allowed job quotas, but only on paper; we are granted rights under the constitution which we are fighting for to this day. We are reminded every day, either by the government, the clergy, the media or even the people, that we have no role in our society. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Irshad Kazmi, the president of the Visually-impaired Persons Rehabilitation Association (VIPRA), stated this in an interview with The Express Tribune on Sunday.
Kazmi, who too is visually-impaired, said, “We are educated, responsible and competent, but the society is forcing us to stay useless, and dependent on their families.” He said that instead of encouraging disabled people to work, people call them names and humiliate them. “Is it our fault that we are blind; did we choose this for ourselves?” he asked.
Accompanied by six other members of VIPRA, an organisation he set up to fight for the rights of the visually-impaired in Gilgit, Kazmi said, “We have a long way to go before we are given respect and our due rights.”
Established two years ago when the government announced a 2% job quota for the disabled, the organisation has held numerous meeting with top bureaucrats, chief minister and cabinet members, but to no avail.
Kazmi said that the G-B police chief met with them but then withdrew his support, while Law Minister Wazir Shakeel suggested them to take to the streets and hold demonstrations to claim their rights. “When we have exhausted our options, and if the need be, we will consider opting for the move,” he said.
Visually-impaired and a graduate working as a teacher in a private school in Khomer, Mohammad Nawaz, said, “Visually-impaired people are far more competent than most of the people who hold lucrative positions in govt departments.” Nawaz used to serve in the Gilgit’s tourism department for six moths before he was let go due to “lack of funds”.
Working in a government department, Sajid Haider, who too is visually-impaired and has completed his bachelors in arts, claims he has not been paid salary for the past six months. The resident of Nagral accused the society of discriminating against the disabled people, adding that even the clerics don’t speak for their rights.
VIPRA has demanded the government to set up a hostel for the disabled people of G-B, besides ensuring them the promised 2% job quota in government departments. It also proposes that if government is unable to provide them jobs, it should provide them monthly home allowance.
When contacted, advisor to G-B chief minister, Sadia Danish, said that the government has held meetings with representatives of VIPRA and has assured them support. “We will be catering to the disabled people in the next budget and that is exactly what we assured them,” said Danish.
She said the prevailing law and order situation has diverted the government’s attention. She appealed to all disabled people to remain patient and to act responsibly.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2012.
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