Young Pakistani to become first blind judge

Islamabad: Yousuf Salim — a gold medallist and visually challenged young man — who was once stopped from becoming a judge, is now set to be appointed as Pakistan’s first ever blind judge.

The dream of 25-year-old visually impaired man to become a judge is about to be fulfilled as he has proved that disability does not mean inability.

Salim was thrilled when he received a letter of recommendation by Lahore High Court (LHC) on Saturday which read: “Honourable Examination Committee for Recruitment of District Judiciary and Lahore High Court Establishment has recommended you for appointment as Civil Judge-cum-Magistrate.”

Recommendation is the first step towards the realisation of his dream to become a judge, Saleem told Gulf News. “There would be some legal formalities in coming weeks before the official appointment” he informed.

Salim is a gold medallist of the Punjab University in LLB (Honors) and had topped the written judiciary exam among 6,500 candidates in 2014. But his impressive academic record only took him to the interview stage for the position of civil judge. He was among 21 successful candidates but was not selected as he was blind.

Fortunately, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took notice of the case after media reports and directed the chief justice of the Lahore High Court (LHC) to review the case saying that a person could be a judge even if he is blind, provided he meets all other qualifications. Following the order, LHC chief justice and its relevant committee reconsidered him as a candidate and recommended him for the position of the civil judge.

Yousuf Salim expressed gratitude to CJP for taking notice of the situation and the chief justice of LHC and selection committee for reconsidering his case and recommending him as he is confident that he is fully eligible for the position.

Salim who hails from Lahore is the son of a charted accountant. He has four sisters and two of them are also visually impaired.

One of his sisters, Saima Salim, is the first blind civil services officer who has served in Pakistan’s UN missions in Geneva and New York. Saima is also known as Helen Keller of Pakistan and is seen as a true beacon of hope for many disabled. Another of his blind sister Ayesha teaches at a university in Lahore and is also doing her PhD. Yousaf is the youngest among siblings.

When asked what motivated the talented visually impaired siblings to achieve their goals, Salim explained that “it is critical to establish a strong foundation for all children, especially differently abled, on which they can build fulfilling lives.” He shared that his biggest motivation comes from his parents and his teachers. “My school was the first place that gave me confidence to dream big.”

In an interview with Gulf News, he said that he is inspired by Pakistan’s founding father Mohammad Ali Jinnah who was also a barrister. Salim’s dream is to become a Supreme Court judge and eventually serve as the Chief Justice of Pakistan.

He believes that Pakistan’s differently abled community should trust their abilities and work hard to achieve their goals. “If you don’t believe in your dreams no one will” he said.

Yousuf Salim’s appointment could be a major moment for differently-abled Pakistanis who are struggling for their due rights. “It’s a historic moment for blind people of Pakistan as someone from our community will represent us in the court of law. This shows that that people are now being selected on the basis of their abilities and not their disabilities,” said Zulqarnain Asghar, a visually impaired clinical psychologist in Islamabad.