KARACHI – The Disability Movement of Pakistan has decided to distance themselves from television host and United Nations goodwill ambassador Muniba Mazari, days after the wheel-chair bound activist was accused of plagiarising another person’s artwork.
Mazari, who has been at the centre of controversy after her ex-husband recently filed a defamatory suit for “blaming and bashing him for all her afflictions”, was ranked as the first Pakistani in Forbes’ 30 under 30 list last year.
“Muniba is presenting a model of sympathy as an ambassador. We don’t want to quote names or hinder her efforts but she isn’t doing anything for the disability movement and is merely cashing in on her disability,” said Muhammad Atif Sheikh, president Special Talent Exchange Program (STEP) – a DPO (Disabled People Organisation) which advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities.
He continued, “She is trying to get attention using the charity model of disability, which is entirely wrong and isn’t what a representative should do.”
According to Express Tribune, Sheikh further stated Mazari was also demonising the name of the country by showing that men don’t respect women in Pakistan, which wasn’t the truth. “She shouldn’t be an ambassador of disability for any organisation because a representative/ambassador always advocates the right-based approach and equality, not try to gain sympathy. Disability is a diversified way of living, not a brave struggle.”
According to several disability activists, Mazari has shifted the concept of disability to fit her agenda, and wants to cash in on the sympathy.
They also state that Mazari has had no input or contribution in putting together the Pakistan Disability Act, on which the entire movement is working and thus, isn’t part of it.
The Pakistani daily also cited Shafiqur Rehman, president at Milestone (another DPO), as saying that Mazari had nothing to do with the movement. “She is merely a celebrity. It’s utterly wrong to associate the movement with her. The disability movement doesn’t start with makeup and everything. It’s not a fashion show. It starts with quality people working on grassroot levels.”
“A person with disability doesn’t need courage but understanding. Courage won’t let you walk one step if your body is unable to support you. Understanding results in ramps beside stairs so that a person with disability can move without any dependence.
“Muniba is preaching idealism where it won’t work. She is creating these fantasies in people’s head where we rather need understanding,” he added.
“Muniba can be a motivational speaker but not a representative of the movement. The disability movement is about self-management and making persons with disabilities self-reliant because it’s not them who are disabled, rather it’s the environment, infrastructure and our mindsets. It starts at a very basic level,” he continued.
Muniba Mazari, who has been in a wheelchair for the last seven years after a car accident at the age of 21 that left her with an irreversible spinal cord injury, has represented the voice of women, men, girls and boys across Pakistan on important issues of gender inequality and discrimination in the past.