ISLAMABAD: Although, a national level policy for the protection of elderly persons was drafted and finalised by the Ministry of Capital Administration and Development (CADD) in 2012, it has yet to be presented before parliament for final approval.
Meanwhile currently, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is the only province where there is an approved law for protection of rights of older people titled, “Senior Citizen Act KP 2014”. However, it has yet to be effectively implemented.
Talking to The Express Tribune an official who was involved in the drafting of the policy, on the condition of anonymity, said that the reason behind the delay is the lethargic and non-serious attitude of concerned officials. In Pakistan, due to the absence of legislation safeguarding the rights of the elderly, many are living a miserable life, he said.
“Mostly elderly people who are completely financially and physically dependent on families are being considered equal to persons with disabilities and face a harsh attitude from society,” he said.
“There are very few people who are government servants and qualified for pensions after their retirement but, what about those people who do not hold government posts and suffer immense financial problems?” he added.
People who cross the age of 60 are not eligible to get loans from banks or any reputable jobs; they do not fall under any security net; lack health insurance and proper transport facilities, among other deserved amenities, he said.
“Therefore the last option they are left with is either to beg on roads or become hawkers, security guards, drivers, waiters among others, he said.
According to a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and HelpAge International, Pakistan is sixth most populous country in the world. There are only fifteen countries in the world where population of people of 60 years and above is more than 10 million and Pakistan is one of those fifteen countries. It is estimated that 7% of the total population of Pakistan is over 60 with a figure of 11.6 million and this figure will rise to 43.3 million by 2050, which will be around 16% of the total population.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Waqas Qureshi, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at HelpAge International said, “Various countries are developing laws for the protection of rights of older people however in Pakistan there is no policy or law designed for older people at national level.”
On the other hand, the positive aspect is that provincial governments have started the legislation process for their provinces, he said.
“Older people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are fortunate enough, as the first ever legislation for protection of rights of older people in the country was passed by the KP Assembly in November last year,” he said.
The provincial assemblies of Punjab and Sindh too have drafted bills for the welfare of elderly people, but they have yet to be enacted as law.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2015.