LAHORE: Disability rights activists in Pakistan have launched a social media campaign “Humein shumar karein” (Count us) in order to press the government to enumerate persons with disabilities (PWDs) across the country during the upcoming census starting from March 15.
Many of the young activists, who are ‘differently abled’, have posted video messages on Facebook and YouTube demanding the government to count PWDs in the census observing data about disabled people was crucial for disabled persons related decision and policy making.
Started by Shafiq-ur-Rehman, a wheelchair user who suffered from post-polio syndrome, the campaign has attracted huge response from persons having different disabilities from across Pakistan. His video posted on Feb. 10 on Facebook has generated over 3k views so far while dozens of more videos can now been seen shared on his wall. It is pertinent to mention here that the main census form developed by the government does not carry a disability column making it impossible to count the PWDs during the census.
On February 7, Parliamentary Secretary for Finance and Statistics Rana Muhammad Afzal Khan had informed the National Assembly that the government had developed two separate forms—Form 2 and a Form 2A. He informed the house unlike Form 2 the second form (Form 2A) included a column/section for PWDs however the second form would be administered through sampling methods after the main census.
An alumnus of Duskin Leadership Training in Japan, Shafiq-ur-Rehman has been involved in promoting the idea of independent living among the disabled persons for quite some time now. He said according to the last census held in 1998 the disabled people in the country were 2.4 percent of the entire population.
“However there is strong concern over this figure among the disability rights advocates and organizations working in the field,” he says and adds “Now is the time to get a clear picture.” Shafiq-ur-Rehman, who lives and works in Lahore, went on to say that a credible data on disabled population to address issues which hindered their inclusion in the mainstream.
“Don’t pity us and don’t consider us disable. We are differently abled who use wheelchairs like you use cars and other vehicles to move,” he says in his powerful video message. Nadir Khan, another disability rights advocate from Multan, also posted a video on YouTube. Sitting on his wheelchair, Nadir is seen appealing to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to take notice of the issue so that like transgender people, who would be counted in the census for the first time, people with disabilities were also counted.
Talking to The News, Nadir termed sampling method not suitable saying sampling was basically to estimate the disabled people among the population by distributing sample surveys in selected areas only unlike proper headcount as done in the census.
Considered as a pioneer of disability rights movement in South Punjab, Nadir says according to an estimate there are some 2.6 million disabled people only in South Punjab. “But this is just an estimate. We need accurate data so that the government introduces policies for them accordingly”, he added.
Everyone talks about the loss of life in the war on terror in Pakistan. “Have we realized how many have become disabled for their lives during all these years? We should not miss this opportunity to at least count them all,” Nadir concludes emotionally.