Beenish Saleem |
Unemployment has been a serious social issue in Pakistan for decades and when it comes to persons with disabilities, it is far more difficult for them to find a job than a normal person because there are certain stigmas associated with disabled people. People with disabilities face a lot of barriers in their way to find employment. One of the most prominent barriers is the attitude. The so-called normal people around them feel sympathy towards them but do not want to understand or admire their capabilities.
However, persons with disabilities can sometimes be more hardworking, dedicated and at a higher intellectual level, than others but social stigmas attached to them become hurdles in their way to success. One of such example is Bilal Khan Afridi, who is polio affected person, He is physically disabled and needs two supports to walk but he is doing his job honestly and efficiently as an office assistant in the FATA secretariat since 2013. However, the tragedy is that he is still working on a contract which is about to finish this year and after that, he will be left unemployed. He has been working for fifteen years in the public sector but couldn’t get a permanent job there. Now Bilal has filed a plea in the apex court to take notice of his situation and help him to save his job. The plea he has filed in the Supreme Court is as follows;
An Appeal to Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar for Sympathetic Consideration:
“Being a person with the disability, I performed duties punctually and honestly in the Khyber Area Development Project, the Planning and Development Department and the FATA Secretariat as an Office Assistant since 2003 in the hazardous areas of Khyber Agency. Yet, I am on the same project contract post and the project will be closed on 30.06.2018. I am appealing to the Chief Justice of Pakistan (Mian Saqib Nisar), to direct Chief Secretary KPK and Additional Chief Secretary FATA Secretariat to kindly regularize my job on humanitarian grounds for the sake of my family comprising of 5 sisters and a widowed mother being soul earner.”
We shouldn’t show sympathy towards them as this would attack their self-respect rather we should treat them like a normal human being.
This is not just a story of a single person, there are many others who cannot get employment just because they have a physical disability. According to the 1998 census, there were an estimated 3.28 million people with disabilities in Pakistan, which counts as 2.49% of its population. No one notices their intellectual ability, their wisdom and hence, deprive them of their basic rights. Persons with disabilities are frequently not considered potential members of the workforce. Perception, fear, myth and prejudice continue to limit the understanding and acceptance of disability in workplaces everywhere. Myths abound-, including that persons with disabilities are unable to work and that accommodating a person with a disability in the workplace is expensive.
Contrary to these notions, many companies have found that persons with disabilities are more than capable. In order to improve adjustment about life individuals have to consider their disability as a challenge that they have to overcome. Moreover, in Pakistan people with disabilities are subjected to such negative attitudes – words like “mentally retarded” are used to describe intellectual disorders and “crippled” to describe persons with mobility issues. This underlines the grave stigma in society. Barriers for persons with disability exist not just in Pakistan, but in every single developed and developing the country. The overarching impediment to any form of mainstreaming disability is attitudes, says Michael Stein, a visiting professor of law at Harvard University.
Moreover, the Executive Director of the Harvard Law School Project stated, on Disability, “If we have the attitude of inclusive of everyone, whether it is people with disabilities, different nationalities and religions, we can have laws that say everyone is equal and that will be enough but the reality is that we don’t’
Unfortunately, the Pakistan Statistics Bureau has failed to collect the accurate data of people with disabilities in Pakistan due to the unreliable and inconsistent of the collection of official data. Different international and national Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have carried out surveys and according to the World Bank and WHO, persons with disabilities constitute 10% of Pakistan’s population and they reserve 2% quota for jobs in public and private sector establishments in accordance with the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance 1981.
I am appealing to the Chief Justice of Pakistan (Mian Saqib Nisar), to direct Chief Secretary KPK and Additional Chief Secretary FATA Secretariat to kindly regularize my job on humanitarian grounds for the sake of my family comprising of 5 sisters and a widowed mother being soul earner.
However, this quota was raised to 3% merely for Punjab province in 2015. Reserving the quou=ta wasn’t meant to put any kind of limitations on persons with disabilities, it was just to ensure the incorporation of disabled people in the workforce so, public and private sector establishments hire disabled workers more than 2%. Hence we can say that laws are present related to PWDs but we need to improve the implementation of these laws.
There are a plethora of laws relating to PWDs in the constitution but we don’t see any practical implementation of these laws. According to law, PWDs can enjoy exemptions in educational fees, airline tickets and there is a discount of 30% for PWDs in utility stores along with relief on imports of automobiles. Usually, legislation is needed to implement laws through administration but in Pakistan, the judiciary takes over the law of the legislation, which leads to a loophole in our administration. Thus, this creates a flaw in the system of the state. The inefficiency of administration provoked Bilal Khan Afridi to seek help from the Supreme Court.
Further to this, Bilal was not the only one as an eminent author, campaigner and motivational speaker Muniba Mizari, who was left bound to a wheelchair due to a spinal cord injury following a car accident, also went to the Supreme Court to crave the indulgence of the Supreme Court, for the direction of the responsible authority to collect consensus data of PWDs keeping in mind the form of disability they have. The question arises here is that why is someone always knocking the doors of the judiciary in regard to a miserable situation? Does that not indicate a complete administrative failure to provide basic rights to its citizens? There is an immense need to pay special attention towards this issue. The Ministry of Social Welfare should try to remove the hurdles which are hindering persons with disabilities to seek jobs.
The government should also make policies favourable to PWDs. There should be re-consensus of PWDs so as to know the accurate number of the disabled person within each province and the form of disabilities they have and to tackle their needs. We shouldn’t show sympathy towards them as this would attack their self-respect rather we should treat them like a normal human being. Don’t give them alms and instead provide them with jobs so they could earn their own livelihood. The harsh reality is that persons with disabilities are the most abandoned, marginalised and unrepresented group in Pakistan. They are facing a multitude of social, economic, physical and political barriers which profoundly hinder their sense of belonging to the society.
A PWD, like every human being, has an inherent right to life and its effective fulfilment at par with others. These rights can only be realised if the State and its institutions facilitate and ensure that a disabled person can enjoy life with honour and dignity like others. This way they can be mainstreamed and made useful, hence becoming productive members of the society. However, persons with disabilities are frequently not considered to be effective members of the workforce. Perception, fear, myth and prejudice continue to limit our understanding and acceptance of disability in workplaces everywhere.
Beenish Saleem is an educationalist and an activist for education. The views expressed in this article are authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.