The government, especially Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, is committed to the cause of the disabled people, said Minister for Agriculture Dr Farrukh Javed on Wednesday.
He was addressing a gathering in front of the Punjab Assembly, organised by the Ghazali Education Trust to celebrate the International Day of People with Disabilities.
Despite their political disagreements, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and government representatives attended the event. They agreed over the need to increase awareness about the isolation that disabled people suffer due to a lack of facilities that made things more accessible to them.
Chief Minister’s Adviser on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique also attended the event.
PTI was represented by Dr Nausheen Hamid, Dr Seemi Bokhari, the central secretary of the party and PTI provincial information secretary Andleeb Abbas.
Abbas criticised the government for not implementing its policies about disabled people, especially the two per cent employment quota reserved for them in government jobs. She demanded that the government develop better infrastructure and facilities for the disabled.
Liaqat Baloch, the senior JI leader, discussed the role of the Ghazali Education Trust, saying he was an ardent supporter of their cause.
The trust has dedicated itself to the cause of the disabled people for the past 17 years, and has established a network of 345 schools for disabled children in rural Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. They cater largely to children with disabilities causing slow learning.
While stressing the importance of special facilities and infrastructure for the disabled, the speakers discussed the assimilation of these children into normal schools at the event.They highlighted the isolation caused by separate schools. They said that it took away an important social experience from the disabled children. The speakers said that the government could play an important part in sensitising the larger population to the problems faced by disabled people.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Syed Amir Jafri, public relations officer at Ghazali Education Trust said: “In villages, parents do not know how to deal with these problems. They are confused. Such children do not receive the required attention. A lot of the time, they turn to superstitions to explain the problems facing their child.”
Former MNA Dr Samia Raheel Qazi, a member of the trust’s board of directors, said that the society owed a collective debt to the disabled. “These people have been marginalised by the society. It is our responsibility to ensure that they become capable of walking side by side with the rest of us,” she said.
BA Shakir, the Spirit Foundation president, said that there was discrimination in the society against the disabled. “Systemic biases exist against the disabled,” he said. He said that despite lacking both arms, he was capable of driving and had been doing so since 2004. “Yet, the government has no clear mechanism to ensure that people like me get driving licences,” he said.
On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Lahore Transport Company (LTC) said that it had issued 3,608 free transport cards to disabled persons.
“The LTC has set up an automatic system for disabled (special) persons to get free transport cards,” said Khawaja Ahmad Hassan, the LTC chairman and adviser to the chief minister.“There is a need for application of legal frameworks in accordance with the international conventions and to initiate education campaigns for people with disabilities. Such people can be integrated into society,” he said.
He said that there was a need also to highlight the developments and impediments in implementing disability-sensitive policies to promote public awareness.
LTC CEO Khawaja Haider Latif said that the LTC would continue to provide facilities to the disabled people.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2014.