PESHAWAR: More than 400 sports persons and children with disabilities got together at the Hayatabad Sports Complex for a sports meet organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Friends of Paraplegics, Peshawar Zalmi Foundation and other organisations on Wednesday. The mega event, dubbed as Ability Sports Festival was organised in connection with the International Day of People with Disabilities, marked all over the world on December 3. It attracted disabled sportsmen, sportswomen and children from 13 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Bajaur and Khyber agencies of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The sportspeople took part in T-10 wheelchair cricket, wheelchair table tennis, standing table tennis and badminton. Paraplegic sportsman Khalid Afridi, who also headed the FATA wheelchair cricket team praised the efforts of the organisers for arranging the first of its kind mega event for persons with disabilities. “Occasions like these reaffirm our conviction and determination to focus on our abilities, and not our disabilities,” he said. Friends of Paraplegics, an organisation working for the empowerment, rights and opportunities of living near normal lives for persons with disabilities was the main driving factor behind the mega event. Engineer Irfanullah, representative of the organisation opined that persons with disabilities were provided minimal opportunities in Pakistan. “Persons with disabilities in general and female disabled persons in particular have no opportunities and little means of mobilisation. We have only a handful of disabled sportswomen in KP and many of them could not make it to this event due to mobility issues,” Irfanullah said. At least four females did participate in table tennis event while a number of children enjoyed playing football and tug of war in the colourful events on a bright sunny day. Engineer Irfanullah informed that Friends of Paraplegics had also been advocating for the 2 per cent quota reserved for disabled persons in all government departments. “Recently we moved the court against the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) service for provision of accessibility for persons with disabilities. As a result, the busses used in BRT will have availability of lowering floors for wheelchair users and other disabled persons,” Engineer Irfanullah said. Peshawar Zalmi Foundation was one of the main supporters of the event. Muhammad Akram, head coach of the Zalmi team expressed his pleasure and honour in supporting and participating in the event. “Seeing the spirit and passion of people with disabilities is an inspirational experience for me. This is a province of champions and every individual is a champion here. I assure you all that we will continue bringing more reasons of pride for the people of KP and FATA,” the former Pakistan fast bowler said. Paraplegic Centre Hayatabad Chairman and Friends of Paraplegics founder Ilyas Syed opined that after getting treatment at paraplegic centres, the disabled persons face different challenges in routines lives and it was important to support them in all situations. “Care is not just restricted to treatment, these people need moral, physical, technical and financial support in order to overcome countless challenges,” he said. The ICRC has been providing physical rehabilitation services in Pakistan since 1982. Currently, the ICRC supports 22 physical rehabilitation centres run by its partners across the country. By the end of 2017, more than 40,000 people will have received rehab services from these centres. The ICRC also strives to provide social and economic inclusion opportunities to the disabled people by supporting sports events, educational and vocational training sessions. Other partners in organising the event included Institute of Management Sciences, Pakistan Red Crescent Society, Akbar Kare Institute, Al-Khidmat Foundation, Association of Rehabilitation for People with Disabilities and Directorate of Special Education, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Published in Daily Times, December 7th 2017.