By Atiya Riffat
Pakistan’s judicial system is all set to make history by appointing Yousaf Saleem, a visually impaired lawyer as Pakistan’s first sightless judge.
On April 24, the chief justice had taken notice of aspiring justice Yousaf Saleem’s non-selection for the vacant post after the issue was picked up by the print and electronic media.
In a statement, the Supreme Court had observed that Saleem — a gold medalist from the University of Punjab in LLB (Honors) who had also topped 6,500 candidates in a written examination of civil judges conducted by the LHC in 2017 — was not shortlisted for the position due to his visual impairment.
In the same statement, Justice Nisar had remarked that a person can hold the post of a judge even if he/she is blind, provided he/she meets all the other qualifications.
“It appears that in this case his [Saleem’s] fundamental rights under Articles 9, 14 and 25 of the Constitution, the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), ratified by Pakistan in year 2011, the 3 per cent quota under the Disabled Persons (Employment and Rehabilitation) Ordinance, 1981, and the jurisprudence developed by the Lahore High Court in PLD 2017 Lahore 406 and PLD 2017 Lahore 1 were not considered by the Lahore High Court,” the statement had pointed out.
The CJP had referred the matter to the LHC chief justice and a committee of the high court for reconsideration.
Saleem on Monday confirmed that following the chief justice’s intervention, he has received an offer letter from the LHC informing him that he has been recommended for the civil judge’s position and instructing him to get his degrees verified, with his appointment now a mere formality.
Saleem who is the son of a charted accountant is blind by birth, has four sisters and two of them are also blind.
One of his sisters, Saima Saleem, is the first blind person to pass her civil service exam in 2007 and currently works in the Prime Minister Secretariat as a deputy secretary while his other sister is a lecturer in a university in Lahore.