Islamabad: On Sept 16, the Senate of Pakistan has approved long awaited ICT Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2020. The act covers improving the condition of Persons with Disability (PWDs) in social, economic and political spheres. The act envisages a council entrusted with multiple functions that include implementation of the act, taking possible steps to protect PWDs from discrimination, exploitation and inhuman treatment and monitoring of government and private organization and issue them performance score cards periodically for the efforts they would make in implementation of the act.
The council consists of fourteen members, but its membership is heavily tilted in favour of government. No representation to civil society organization, media and lawyers’ bodies is given. The council contain three PWDs as members, but their selection criteria and qualification has not been defined in the law and has been left on the discretion of the council. The council also lacks the power of any civil or criminal court which implies that council would not be able to proceed or take punitive measures against any person or organization for non-compliance. This will make the functions of council more as the recommendation body rather than and implementor.
Civic Path has demanded a more powerful and representative council with the powers to penalize the organizations failing to comply the law. Although, the council has been empowered to co-opt any person as member, but this should not be left to the discretion of the council and composition of the council should be clearly and decisively defined in the law. The civil society organizations working on the rights of PWDs are important stakeholders and should have been granted seats in the council. With their diverse experience, they will bring the fresh and practical ideas on the table. It will encourage them and will serve as a mean to mainstream disability organizations. This will also repose trust on the government efforts to uplift the status of the PWDs.