Well done ECP: Voting rights to Persons with Disabilities
With general elections believed to be just around the corner, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is believed to have made elaborate arrangements to facilitate Persons with Disabilities (PWD) for casting their votes.
Information gathered by a team of Pakistan Special (PS) revealed that authorities will accord top priority to PWDs as compared to general population on the day of polling to make sure that not a single one of them faces any difficulty when exercising his or her constitutional right.
Sharing details of the plan, officials in ECP informed that special ramps will be placed at all polling stations throughout the country to give PWDs easy access to booths. PWDs will not be required to wait in queues like general public to cast votes.
This facility will also be extended to all pregnant women coming to cast votes. If the polling station is on second or third floor instead of ground floor, PWDs will not be required to go upstairs and will still be able to cast vote on the ground floor through a special arrangement.
The officials informed that if a voter is visually impaired, the person will be allowed to be accompanied by a helper or an attendant who will read out instructions for PWDs and help them cast their votes.
ECP is also likely to issue a booklet containing step by step guidelines for PWDs relative to casting votes. In addition, staff present at polling stations have been instructed to provide PWDs all necessary guidance on spot to make sure no disabled person is left out from taking part in the democratic transition.
According to WHO, Pakistan’s PWDs constitute about 15% of our total population, whereas official figures put the percentage at 2.9. Critics say the reason for such high variation in figures is because acknowledgement of the higher percentage would bound the state to allocate higher resources and funds which might not be desirable
It is indeed a welcome step by ECP to come up with such an elaborate program. These steps are most likely to encourage PWDs to come to the polling stations on election day.
But most importantly such an arrangement will help boost the self-esteem of PWDs, convincing them over the fact that they are just as useful and valuable a segment of the society as the general public.
Motivating PWDs towards casting vote, which is both their democratic right as well as constitution obligation, will go a long way towards encouraging them to play a productive role in their respective fields. This is exactly the kind of approach that state needs to adopt in all spheres of life for PWD so this important segment of society does not feel alienated in any way. Well done ECP !
By Hassan Gillani