Pakistan and the Paralympics

Published: August 29, 2012

The writer is the British High Commissioner to Pakistan

Over the course of the following 10 days, more than 4,000 athletes from 150 nations will compete across 471 events for dozens of gold medals. Over two million tickets have already been sold to see records being broken. This massive international event is taking place in London and it is the Paralympics — even more inspiring than the Olympics themselves. Many of the special athletes who will be competing in the Paralympics have extraordinary stories of courage, persistence and achievement.

When the first disability Games were held at Stoke Mandeville, UK, 64 years ago, just 16 ex-servicemen took part. In 2012, when the curtain falls on the Paralympics on September 9, the whole world will have enjoyed a unique international festival of sport.

The Paralympics are not just sport. Britain wants to harness the opportunity that the Games provide to bring about a change in the way people think, feel and behave towards disability across the world. We want to create a more open and inclusive society and look forward to the day when disabled people play a full role at all levels of society in Pakistan and around the world — from government ministers, parliamentarians, officials and media to industry, academia and civil society. At the British High Commission, my political counsellor is disabled. She is just as good at her job as any of her predecessors.

We want the Games to encourage more disabled people to participate in sports in their local communities. Such encouragement will not only help find the next generation of Paralympians but also demonstrate how sports can enrich lives around the globe. Thousands of young people in Pakistan have been inspired to take part in physical education in the past year following the launch of the British Council’s International Inspirations programme. Pakistan is the 17th country in the world to join this programme and has committed to reach over one million Pakistani children, including disabled children, in two years.

To share in the festivities locally, the British High Commission hosted events to promote and encourage sport across the country and celebrate the Pakistani Paralympian team’s participation in the Games. Delegates from Pakistan Paralympics Committee and the media have participated. Inspired by the national Paralympics team of Pakistan, my colleagues at the British High Commission have worked to help them on their journey to London 2012. Through charity events, we raised Rs215,000 that we presented to the National Paralympics Committee of Pakistan just before the Games.

I had the privilege of meeting many of the Pakistani Paralympians at events held at the British High Commission. I was deeply impressed with their professionalism and competitive instinct. Pakistani Paralympian Haider Ali won Pakistan’s first Paralympic medal by breaking the world record for long jump in the Beijing 2008 Paralympics Games. And Naeem Masih, selected to represent Pakistan in 800m, 1,500m and long jump events, has been performing very well at district level. The people of Pakistan will be very proud of them as they represent their country in Britain. I offer my best wishes to all the Pakistani Paralympians. They have been working hard to prepare for the London 2012 Games.

We hope the Paralympics will help to create a more inclusive world where all members of the community are valued equally. Paralympians play an important role as catalysts for changing the negative perceptions about disability. They show that people with disabilities can achieve great things.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Aug 30, 2012 - 1:07AM

    Thank you for such a heart warming article, yes, people with handicaps could do productive work and they do, I have seen it. We appreciate your input and financial help and to do charity events to help National Paralympics Committee of Pakistan. Thank you again for your kind work.

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  • Mehrun Nisa
    Aug 30, 2012 - 2:04AM

    Sports are not taken seriously as it should be. Good highlight..

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  • Aug 30, 2012 - 5:54AM

    What a great article – thanks ET!

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  • Zubair Faisal Abbasi
    Aug 30, 2012 - 10:35AM

    Thank you very much for such a nice article on a subject which needs much more attention. In Pakistan, people with disabilities are thought to be a subject of charity. This approach has actually been changed across the globe. Now responsible states and societies look at people with disabilities with ‘inclusive and diversity’ perspective which is also called social model. With this perspective, these are not people with disabilities who must be changed or taken care of through charity but the environment is enabled to suit the life-styles of such people. This shift is needed in Pakistan as well. Paralympics is an opportunity to prove that once right environment is provided, disability is not disability – it is diversity and it performs.
    Thanks again for such a nice article.

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  • Awans
    Aug 30, 2012 - 2:04PM

    A nice article indeed.Recommend

  • Omar Mohsin Khan
    Aug 30, 2012 - 3:05PM

    Feel sad to see only 2 Paralympic athletes from my country Pakistan in the opening ceremony last night. We should have at least encouraged our young and brave soldiers who have amputated legs and arms to lift there spirits and rest of the nation that we really care. But we don’t care we send our boys in harms way first fighting some one else’s war and then if they get handicapped for life there is no activity for there rehabilitation. Some one should take a notice. Same goes for the labours who work in our industries and fit farmers who work in our farm lands. Just my thoughts to start the day.

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  • KSU
    Aug 30, 2012 - 3:51PM

    Great to see the situation of the disabled in Pakistan highlighted. Pakistan does virtually nothing for the disabled. It is virtually impossible to get around even in hospitals and government buildings. Maybe through sports some of these issues will begin to be raised.

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  • Yahoooooo
    Aug 30, 2012 - 5:51PM

    Nice Article, but apart from helping and encouraging them to be more active in sport, we also need to provide them good working environment, so that the can excel further …..

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  • Envr
    Sep 1, 2012 - 1:47PM

    indeed the whole pakistani nation is realy thankful to mr,Adam Thomson for his real and precticle efforts and contribution to take our paralympions to london.exactly there is no barrier to humanity.thnank u mr thomson u have proved a beautiful heart can change the perceptions.

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