Persons with disabilities can join any of the Central Superior Services (CSS) occupational groups now. Earlier, CSS Rule 9 (ii) limited their choice to only four designated CSS groups. In a 30-page detailed judgment, Lahore High Court Chief Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, on Friday, struck down this rule for being unconstitutional.

Though the development can be appreciated, the differently-abled in Pakistan have had to fight a long battle to have their constitutional and legal rights recognised and implemented. In 2014 Faisal Majeed and Muhammad Yousaf, undeterred by the bilateral blindness inflicting them, secured 12th and 22nd positions respectively in CSS exams. Muhammad Yousaf wanted to be posted with the Foreign Service while Faisal Majeed opted for Pakistan Administrative Service. They had merit yet they were asked to opt out of these groups due to their disability.

By law, there are legal quotas reserved for disabled people in government departments, and these often remain unfilled. When Omair Ahmad, Director Network of Organisations for Peoples with Disabilities, was asked if this new CSS rule made the situation better or if government institutions usually perform better to help the disabled than private institutions, his answer was a resounding ‘No’.

The general perception from those who are disabled or are working to promote their rights is that organisations in the private sector have the benefit of empathetic awareness and the appreciation for tangible sustainable mindset change - given their exposure or institutional mandates, which are more inclusive. However these organisations are few and far between, and do not have the capacity for national outreach that the government has. The government perceives disability as a medically rehabilitative welfare service only, when these citizens need jobs, education and vocational training to live productive lives. The plan is further exacerbated by the government’s ineptitude, in part due to unqualified individuals at the helm.

Across the board there is a desire for people who are disabled, mentally or physically, to be able to work. They are willing to put in the effort and compete for jobs, if only the economy and government would stop ignoring merit as well as law.