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September 1, 2017

Moot calls for ensuring rights of older people in Pakistan, implementing Sindh’s Senior Citizens Act


September 1, 2017

While increasing longevity is a triumph of the human development and one of the greatest achievements, ageing – which has become a global issue – also presents social, economic and cultural challenges to individuals, families, societies and the global community. It is how we choose to address the challenges and maximise the opportunities of a growing older population as the Pakistani government had ratified the ‘Madrid Plan of Action for Older People’ back in 1992, but its implementation remained very slow and sporadic.

Speakers expressed these views a media sensitisation workshop organised by the HelpAge International to raise awareness on needs, issues and rights of older people in the country. Journalists from print and electronic media of different organisations participated in the workshop.

Senior journalist Aajiz Jamali said, “Our culture has rich values and we should keep those values high and respect our elders. There is a practice that a number of bills get passed in our parliament but the most important thing is implementation.”

He said the media should play its role to highlight the importance of speedy implementation of the Sindh Senior Citizens Act. Zeenat Jahan Siddique, director information of the Sindh government, emphasised that older people should have healthy, secure and dignified life with their families, and the trend of increasing old age homes should be discouraged. 

Shahzado Khaskheli, HelpAge International programme manager, said the older people’s contribution should be acknowledged. “They have been putting their efforts for the development of this society. Social protection for older people is the dire need of our society.” 

Waqas A Qureshi, HelpAge International manager advocacy & communications, said two people celebrated their 60th birthday around the globe every second, and one in nine persons in the world was aged 60 years or above. “This will be increased to one in five by 2050. There will be older people more than children under the age of 15 years by 2050.”

Those who spoke on the occasion included Jamil Ahmed Sommro, Mansoor Mugheri, Muhammad Shafa khan, Khalil Jibran, Nazeer Sial, Waheed Memon, Majid Rajput and Syed Irfan Ali Shah.

Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world and it is amongst those 15 countries where population of people over the age of sixty is more than 10 million. It is estimated that seven percent of the country’s total population is over 60 with a figure of 11.6 million, while this figure will rise to 43.3 million by 2050. Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan, according to an estimate the population of the province is around 15 million. It is estimated that around one million older men and women are living in Balochistan.    Population ageing is happening faster in Asia and especially in South Asia. Different countries around the world are developing legislations for protection of rights of older people.

The KP government approved the Senior Citizen’s Act in 2014, while the Sindh government approved the Senior Citizen’s Welfare Act, 2014, in 2016. The Balochistan government approved the Senior Citizen Act in 2017.

At the federal level, a national policy and bill has been finalised and in the final stages of approval. Similarly, the Punjab government has also finalised the bill that will be presented in the assembly soon.

The SDGs vision is of a world that by 2030 has achieved zero poverty, where all people can live in dignity throughout their lives, free from poverty, exclusion, violence and discrimination. The issue of ageing is directly related to 11 out of 17 SGDs and also reflected clearly in the same. 

‘Leave no one behind’ -- a key theme of the SDGs – aims to make all development policies and actions, inclusive of all people. Under SDG 1, Target 1.3 states: “Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable.”

The majority of the people in Pakistan had informal employments and approximately 10 percent of the total employed people are working with the government. Hence people who are not working with the government sector are not entitled to any pension and free health coverage.

Different studies and consultations revealed that older people in Pakistan live precarious and vulnerable lives due to their exclusion from social protection programs and policies. The Pakistan government in line with its commitments to SGDs is also in the process of finagling a social protection framework. Therefore, it is high time the draft framework was reviewed to ensure that it is inclusive of older people.