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October 2, 2019

International Day of Older Persons observed


October 2, 2019

Islamabad : As world commemorated International Day of Older Persons on Tuesday, it is predicted that Pakistan’s older population, which has reached already 12.5 million, will double by 2030 and will reach close to 40 million by 2050.

The estimate was shared in a research report titled ‘Moving from the Margins; Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Older Persons in Pakistan’ by British Council and HelpAge International. The research report, in its recommendations, terms it imperative that the country responds urgently to the most critical needs of its older people and at the same time promotes more profound societal changes, which create age-friendly and enabling environments.

The world commemorates International Day of Older Persons on October 1 to highlight the important contributions that older people make to society and raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges of ageing in today’s world. The theme for 2019 International Day is "The Journey to Age Equality."

On this occasion, Federal Minister for the Human Rights Dr. Shireen M. Mizari, in an official statement, said that the government would take all possible measures to ensure rights of older people and senior citizens. “Three provincial governments including Balochistan, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have already enacted legislations for the senior citizens whereas ICT Rights of Senior Citizens Bill, 2019, has been approved by the cabinet for further legislative process.

The Federal Minister said that although in Pakistan, a large segment of population consists of young people but with a population of an estimated 12 million older people, Pakistan is one of the 15 countries in the world that has a population of over 10 million older people.

“Pakistan is fortunate to have energy and ambitions of young people combined with the wisdom of a large number of senior citizens who, as advisors, mentors, and guardians, can help guide these energies in the right direction.”

The Federal Minister said that Pakistan is celebrating the achievement that ‘we are living longer’. “Our average life expectancy has increased from over 61 years for women and 60 years for men in 1986 to over 68 years for women and 65.8 for men now.”

Shireen Mazari said the Government is committed to protect the socio-economic rights of all its citizens and giving an equal opportunity to all segments of the population to develop and prosper. “As signatory of Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, 2002, the government is in the process of formulating relevant legislation to protect the fundamental rights to life with dignity in old age.”

In her message on this special day, Secretary Ministry of Human Rights Rabia Javeri Agha reiterated the Government pledges to ‘Leave No One Behind’ in development process. “The government is also aware that a lot need to be done to protect citizen’s dignity in old age, especially older women and those retiring from informal jobs who have contributed to this country all their adult lives. We need to streamline our policies on social pensions, old age allowances, skills development, employment generation, access to financial services and healthcare to ensure that these do not discriminate against the old age and benefit us all, the young and the old, equally.”

The Ministry of Human Rights has drafted a Senior Citizens Bill, 2019 to ensure the protection of the rights of senior citizens at the federal level. The Bill has already been vetted by the Ministry of Law and Justice with their comments incorporated in the Bill and approval of the Cabinet, in principle, for further legislative process.

The Draft Bill is based on right based approach focusing in adequate living standards, social protection, health, social care, dignity and participation. It mainly proposes establishing a Senior Citizen’s Council, providing maintenance to ensure adequate standard of living and giving priority to senior citizens in hospitals and medical facilities. Once passed, a Senior Citizen’s Fund for protection of the rights of senior citizens will also be established under this law.

The research report on the other hand admits that Pakistan has taken some very positive steps in the form of legislation for protection of the rights of older people in three of its provinces (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Baluchistan) but also points out a significant implementation gap between policy and practice.

The report identifies lack of access to basic amenities and social protection, barriers in employment and work opportunities, access to health facilities, and limited participation as basic challenges faced by the senior citizens in Pakistan. It recommends establishing a leadership for ageing at ministerial level to ensure existing legislations at national and provincial levels implemented; strengthening the implementation capacity at the provincial and local level; expanding coverage and simplify pension provisions and improving access to economic opportunities for older people including older women. It also calls for improving access to quality health care, clarifying the responsibility of the public sector and social services for the care of older people and providing adequate support for families and communities providing care for older people.

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