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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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American Friends of Balochistan welcomes Trump’s Tough stand on Pak

The American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) issued a statement Monday welcoming Donald Trump's stand on US-Pakistan relations, calling it a vindication of its own stand.

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American Friends of Balochistan welcomes Trump's Tough stand on Pak
American Friends of Balochistan welcomes Trump's Tough stand on Pak. wikimedia commons

Washington, D.C.– The American Friends of Balochistan (AFB) Executive Committee issued a statement Monday welcoming the President’s stand on US-Pakistan relations, calling it a vindication of its own stand.

The AFB said President Donald J. Trump has called out Pakistan’s constant bluffs with the US and pointed out a big chunk of American assistance was used against people of Balochistan in a secret, dirty war instead of the Taliban.

Khwaja Wali Kirani in Balochistan. Wikimedia Commons

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!,” President Trump first tweet of 2018 reads.

The tweet was loved by nearly quarter-million Americans and retweeted 83,000 times in less than 24 hours.

The AFB executive committee said the US remains Pakistan’s top foreign aid donor, in addition to the money paid in expectation of cooperation in the Global War on Terror. Yet, for many years now, serving officers in the US Armed Forces have repeatedly spoken out about Pakistan’s perfidy in Afghanistan, which has cost the US lives, money and strategic credibility in the world’s eyes. Pakistan also remains a training ground for terrorism and a prime proliferator of nuclear weapons technology.

No country’s development and democracy have suffered more from Pakistan’s interference via state-sponsored terrorism than Afghanistan. US efforts to help the Afghans rebuild their nation are constantly sabotaged by reeling instability. India is another well-known target.

The AFB said Balochistan is a region rich in natural gas. It that has seen several bloody cycles of insurgency ever since Pakistan forcibly annexed the autonomous Baloch state of Kalat in 1948 in violation of a Standstill Agreement. A portion of historical Balochistan also sits on the other side of Pakistan’s border with Iran. Further, it borders Afghanistan to the north-west. Pakistan’s brutal record in this strategically located province that forms the northern lip of the key Straits of Hormuz has spiked in recent years.

“People of Balochistan tried their very best to work with Pakistan’s false promises of integration after forceful accession, but instead gave genocide to Balochs,” said the statement.

The AFB monitors the situation in Balochistan closely and is in touch with freedom and democracy activists on the ground. The AFB reiterated their call to the Pakistani government to cease violating the physical security of Baloch people, their freedom of expression, and end the policy of economic exploitation and genocidal violence.

A slow-motion genocide in Balochistan has claimed the lives of 35,000 Baloch people, 6,000 of whom were buried in mass graves while 21,000 are Victims of Enforced Disappearances, according to the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons. “The enforced disappearances situation in Balochistan is no different than what it used to be in Chile and Argentine in the 1970s and 1980s,” the AFB executive committee noted.

The AFB executive committee chimed in with similar sentiments expressed by policy experts in academe, veteran politicians, diplomats, intelligence chiefs, and human rights activists. Among them were former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, leading South Asia expert and former Pakistani ambassador Hussain Haqqani, several Baloch freedom and human rights activists cutting across party lines, former head of Afghanistan’s Directorate of Security Amrullah Saleh, and even normally fierce critics of President Trump’s administration such as Prof. Christine Fair, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service.

The AFB executive committee consists of Jane Eastwood Weisner, Najeeb Khan, Krishna Gudipati, Soumya Chowdhury and Habiba Ashna. The organization was founded by veteran Baloch journalist Ahmar Mustikhan, who is the president.

Hope and doubt have been expressed on whether the US president’s tweet and words will translate into actionable legislation. Mustikhan published a survey of some of these thoughts in an article titled “Wave of joy sweeps across Afghanistan, Balochistan & India over Trump’s first tweet of 2018”.