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Pakistani Teenager Umer Javaid Fights Disability with His Feet

The last census in Pakistan was done in 1998. Since then, no new data has been collected on the number of disabled.

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Umer Javaid. Image Source-VOA
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Pakistani Teenager Overcomes Disability with His Feet

He could have gone through life feeling sorry for himself. He had the perfect excuse, after all — he was born without hands. But his father would have none of it.

Umer Javaid’s father taught him to use his feet for everything usually done with hands: eating with a fork, drinking out of a glass, typing, painting, throwing a ball and playing video games.

Today, he is so used to it, he hardly thinks about his missing limbs.

And even though he is only in the ninth grade, he is already on the road to financial independence.

“I once made a painting that was sold for 5,000 rupees ($50),” he said. “I have already sold 155 of my paintings.”

Javaid’s story, however, is hardly representative of life for the disabled in Pakistan.

Related Article: Learning Disability: Things we need to know

Activists lament that the country lacks the most basic understanding of disabilities, or how best to use resources to deal with them.

Asim Zafar, president of a local NGO for the disabled called Saaya, recalls that his parents and grandparents spent all their savings trying to cure his polio before finding out that the disease had no cure.

On a larger scale, a lack of reliable data reflects the society’s lack of interest in its disabled population.

No recent numbers

The last census in Pakistan was done in 1998. Since then, no new data has been collected on the number of disabled. People rely on a World Health Organization report from 2010 that says that about 15 percent of the world population is somewhat disabled, and 2 to 4 percent severely disabled.

Wheel chair distribution at Saaya, a NGO in Pakistan. Image source: Saaya association.com
Wheel chair distribution Ceremony at Saaya, a NGO in Pakistan. Image source: Saaya association.com

It does point out that the numbers are not evenly distributed around the world, and that vulnerable populations are more at risk.

Given the number of suicide attacks in Pakistan during the last decade, in which more than 50,000 people have died; a devastating earthquake in 2005 that injured more than 100,000; the presence of chronic diseases; and a lackluster health care system to deal with them, many activists fear the disability rate in Pakistan may be much higher than the WHO figures.

No accommodations

Facilities to accommodate all those people, however, remain a dream.

Public spaces, transport and toilets are often not handicapped accessible. Regular schools are not designed to accommodate disabled children.

The government provides special schools for the disabled, but they are limited to relatively bigger cities and have limited capacity. Even that facility ends at 10th grade.

“When they go to a regular institution after 10th grade, they encounter a completely different environment,” Zafar explained.

Getting to the institution alone was a challenge for those who could not afford a private car or a cab every day. Once there, they had to contend with a lack of toilets for the handicapped, or classes that were up a flight of stairs with no elevator access.

The odds were stacked so high against them, he said, that those who started college were more likely than not to drop out after a few days.

The problems continued into the workplace, where a similar lack of facilities and transportation options kept most disabled people out.

Wheelchairs that could provide freedom and mobility to a person with disabilities were a rarity in Pakistan, according to Zafar. His NGO imported used wheelchairs from Japan and repaired them to hand them out for free to those in need.

Javaid said he is a good example of how the disabled can become productive members of society. All they need is a training in how to take things into their own hands — or in his case, feet. (VOA)

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Pakistan Exploits Situation In Jammu & Kashmir: India

India has accused Pakistan of cynically exploiting the situation in Jammu and Kashmir at the General Assembly

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Pakistan Exploits Situation In Jammu & Kashmir: India
Pakistan Exploits Situation In Jammu & Kashmir: India. flickr

India has accused Pakistan of cynically exploiting the situation in Jammu and Kashmir at the General Assembly while it was discussing an important issue.

“Such cynical attempts have failed in the past and do not find any resonance in this body,” Sandeep Kumar Bayyapu, a First Secretary in India’s UN Mission, said on Monday.

He was replying to a reference to Kashmir made by Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi during a debate on the Right to Protect People against crimes against humanity.

“While we are having this serious debate for the first time in a decade on an issue that is of importance to all of us, we have witnessed that one delegation has, yet again, misused this platform to make an unwarranted reference to the situation in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir,” Bayyapu said.

“I would like to place on record and reiterate that the state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral and inalienable part of India. No amount of empty rhetoric from Pakistan will change this reality,” he added.

Lodhi had said that many of the victims of killings and “mass-blinding” are “in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir” and that they “have the further indignity of living under an illegal and alien occupation”.

Pakistan's Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi
Pakistan’s Permanent Representative Maleeha Lodhi. flickr

“Against this backdrop, calls for accountability would invariably smack of double standards and selectivity, especially when egregious crimes including killings and mass-blinding are being committed in full view of the international community,” she said.

However, Lodhi also said: “At its core, the responsibility to protect, is not a license to intervene in external situations, but, is instead, a universal principle of ‘non-indifference’, in keeping with historical context and cultural norms of respective settings.”

Also read: Women-Driven Rickshaw Program Creating Sensation in Pakistan

“We should also be mindful that the notion of ‘Responsibility to Protect’ does not become a mere re-enactment of the discredited ‘humanitarian interventions’ of the past,” she added. (IANS)