The physically challenged: Will to live honourably their only hope

Published: December 3, 2010
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A disabled player throws a javelin during a tryout in Islamabad on Thursday for the upcoming Paralympics. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID

A disabled player throws a javelin during a tryout in Islamabad on Thursday for the upcoming Paralympics. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID

ISLAMABAD: In a country where even an able-bodied majority has a hard time making a living, a support system for the physically challenged is not high on the agenda. Yet there are people with physical handicaps in our midst who are managing their lives with dignity and even providing for their dependents.

Ikramul Haque, 26, who lost the use of both his legs and an arm in infancy after a prolonged fever, is one such person. He left his hometown Haripur and came to Rawalpindi when his ailing father became unable to support his family.

“I didn’t know this city but knew one thing, ‘where there is a will there is a way.’ With this resolve, I started my journey,” said Haque talking to The Express Tribune.

For the last eight years, Haque, on crutches, has been selling ballpoint pens at a petrol pump in Jhanda Chichi. Before this he used to teach the Holy Quran to children in the morning and sell key chains and other such trinkets at a traffic signal near Chur Chowk.

He is also the only bread earner of his family and bears the educational expenses of his two younger brothers.

Every year, December 3 is observed as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities across the globe. The objective is to create awareness about disability issues and mobilise support for the dignity, rights and well-being of the physically challenged.

Razia Bibi, 63, is a resident of Khayaban-e-Sir Syed who lost a leg and one hand in a car accident near Gujar Khan sixteen years back. Her sons after getting married left her alone, but she decided to manage a life for herself. She does embroidery work and sells in Raja Bazar from a cart she has built herself by fixing wheels under a stool. She pushes it with the help of her right foot.

Hafiz Haroon Rasheed, 32, is visually impaired since birth and is an employee at Baitul Mal on daily wages. “We are five brothers and all are visually impaired, but this handicap has never discouraged us. We are living a normal life like others with pride,” he added.

Rasheed and his brothers are designing a Braille programme on the computer.

Lozina Shoaib, 31, is the best example of indomitable courage. She is suffering from Multiple Congenital Contractures (MCC), osteoporosis, rheumatic arthritis and cardiac problems. She has undergone 20 major surgeries including Spinal Fusion and has seven more in store involving hip and knee joints replacements. She is on wheel chair, but has overcome all such difficulties and with two post graduate degrees, is doing her PhD in Information Technology from the National University of Science and Technology. Besides this, she is serving as an assistant director in the Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education. She was awarded the National Youth Talent Award in 2008 by the prime minister.

Lozina is the only daughter of her parents. Her father was killed last year in a suicide attack. “The more life became challenging for me, the more it made me strong to face it and make my parents proud,” she said.

Sibghatur Rehman, Director of Ministry of Social Welfare and Special Education acknowledged that little had been done to facilitate people with disabilities. He said a National Plan of Action was formulated in 2005-06 to implement the 2002 National Policy for Persons with Disabilities, but no effective work has been done to-date.

Two bills — Pakistan Persons with Disabilities Act 2008 and Persons With Disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act 2008 — were formulated in 2009 and are yet to be presented in the National Assembly.After 1998 census, no latest government statistics are available on the number of people with disabilities, he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2010.

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