A moment of great pride for the faculty and students of Government College University Lahore as the research carried out by their Vice Chancellor Prof. Dr. Asghar Zaidi has led to a very crucial legislation on the welfare of senior citizens in Pakistan.
The research project titled “Moving from the Margins: Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Older Persons in Pakistan”, led by Prof. Zaidi, provided the essential data that fed into the drafting of the Islamabad Capital Territory Senior Citizens Bill passed by the National Assembly Pakistan this week on Monday.
The treasury and opposition members of the National Assembly joined hands to pass the Bill moved by Federal Minister for Human Rights Dr. Shireen Mazari. After approval from the National Assembly and Senate, the bill would sent to the President for signing into law.
The human rights related bill proposes the establishment of a senior citizens council and an old-age home. According to the bill, the division concerned shall establish and maintain an old age-home to be known as Darul Shafqat at an accessible place to accommodate indigent senior citizens of Islamabad.
“The bill aims to socially and economically protect the senior citizens of Islamabad. In this respect, it aims to establish a fund for these senior citizens. It also creates a council, including members from all relevant departments of the government that shall ensure that all possible steps and acts are taken to provide for the wellbeing, comfort and dignity of these senior citizens,” read the bill.
After the approval from the National Assembly, Rabiya Javeri Agha, the former federal secretary for human rights, tweeted a congratulation message, saying that “a special credit to Prof. Dr. Asghar Zaidi and British Council Pakistan for their research on old age in Pakistan.” “This report provided essential data that fed into the drafting of this legislation,” Rabiya Javeri revealed.
In 2019, the British Council in Pakistan identified that the problems faced by older persons are a matter of urgency in Pakistan. It therefore commissioned the research project titled Moving from the Margins: Promoting and Protecting the Rights of Older Persons in Pakistan. The project is carried out by HelpAge International Pakistan led by Prof. Dr. Asghar Zaidi. The findings and recommendations of the research project provided essential data that fed into the drafting of this human rights bill.
Vice Chancellor Prof. Asghar Zaidi said “I feel very proud that my research on Pakistan’s older population has led to a Legislative Law on senior citizens. I am proud of the ‘societal impact’ created by this research I wish to see this aspect gaining momentum in the work of our researchers at Government College University Lahore ”. The academic staff of GCU congratulated Prof. Zaidi, saying that he’s leading them right from the front.
The Vice Chancellor went on to say “the real challenge of the Government is the implementation. KPK, Sindh and Balochistan Assemblies passed similar Acts five years back but implementation is falling short.
The Vice Chancellor quoted his research report, saying Pakistan’s older population, which reached 12.5 million in 2019, would double by 2030 and would reach close to 40 million by 2050. “It is therefore imperative that the country responds urgently to the most critical needs of its older people and at the same time promotes more profound societal changes which creates age-friendly and enabling environments in which people of all ages can flourish,” he said.
Prof. Zaidi believed that supporting older people and particularly older women to have a secure income through universal social pensions should be a priority in Pakistan. “Ensuring that health services are aligned to the health needs of the older population especially at the primary health care level is essential to assist older people to remain active in their communities,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor also mentioned that eliminating all forms of age discrimination and providing an environment in which older people are protected from violence and abuse will help them exercise their choices and contribute to society.
Prof Zaidi, who holds a PhD in Economics from University of Oxford, is a world expert in the field of population ageing. He is a member of Oxford University’s Institute of Population Ageing, and also a member of the Steering Group of the UN Titchfield City group on Ageing since its formation by UN Statistical Commission in 2017.
Prof Zaidi took forward the work of Dr Mahbub-Ul-Haq in developing three Indexes of social welfare of older population. He developed ‘Active Ageing Index’ working with the UN Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva and European Commission in Brussels. He was the lead academic consultant in developing ‘Global AgeWatch Index’ for HelpAge International, covering 90+ countries including Pakistan. More recently, he has developed a third index, namely ‘The Asian Active Ageing Index’, working alongside UN Economic and Social Commission (ESCAP) in Bangkok.
Prof Zaidi has written hundreds of scholarly articles on ageing published in the top ranked journals. He has also contributed to more than fifty official reports for the world’s most reputable organizations and governments including UN, European Union, and the UK. In recognition of his services for education, Government of Pakistan has recently awarded him one of the highest civil awards of the country, Tamgha-i-Imtiaz.