The Supreme Court sought from the federal and provincial governments on Wednesday replies to questions raised in a joint petition moved to highlight denial of constitutional rights to people with disabilities.
A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, directed Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt and advocate generals of the four provinces to explain the reasons pointed out in the petition filed by members of the Inclusive Development Network Pakistan (IDNP), a community-based organisation in Karachi. Petitioners Ghulam Nabi Nizamani, Zahida Hameed Qureshi, Asim Zafar, Mohammad Shafiqur Rehman and Javed Rais named 20 government departments as respondents.
The court will take up the matter in the second week of April.
The issues highlighted in the petition moved by Barrister Raheel Kamran Sheikh include non-availability of reliable statistics about the people with disabilities and lack of education facilities, employment opportunities, public transport and voting rights.
“Pakistan has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which provides a comprehensive framework for the enforcement and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and imposes specific obligations on all ratifying states, but these people are one of the most neglected, marginalised and unrepresented portions of society. They face multitude barriers which hamper their mainstreaming in society,” the petition regretted.
Similarly, it said, a national policy for persons with disabilities was drafted in 2002 and a national plan of action evolved in 2006, but lack of interest and ownership on part of the relevant ministries and organisations of both federal and provincial governments made the two instruments redundant and ineffective.
In order to provide for policy-making, policy implementation, employment and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities, the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance was promulgated in 1981, but it was only a first step because it did not provide an exhaustive framework for the enforcement of rights and equality, the petition said.
It pleaded that the respondents be asked to implement all provisions of the 1981 ordinance, including establishment of bodies/institutions/funds and ensuring employment against the disability quota in all government departments.
Likewise, local development authorities and public transport organisations operating under the respondents should also ensure that all public places like buildings, roads, educational institutions, police stations, airports, railway stations, bus stops, etc., are accessible to the people with disabilities.
Their participation in the democratic process and voting rights by providing the facility of sign language interpretation and Braille ballot papers should also be ensured, the petition said.