Tabassum Yousaf, the female lawyer at the High Court of Sindh Province, in which the Pakistani capital Karachi is situated, is representing the parents of the young Catholic girl, Huma Younus, now aged 15, who was abducted in October 2019 and forced to ‘convert’ to Islam. Speaking to the international Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation ACN International, the lawyer has provided a dramatic update on the personal and legal situation of this adolescent girl.
“Huma has telephoned her parents, telling them that she has now become pregnant as a result of the sexual violence she has been subjected to. Asked by her father if she could leave her abductor’s house and return to her parents home, she told him that she is not allowed to leave the house and that her life has become still more difficult, since she is now imprisoned within the walls of one room”, the lawyer, Mrs Yousaf explained.
The girl’s Muslim abductor, Abdul Jabbar, has a brother by the name of Mukhtiar who is a member of the Rangers, a branch of the security forces. “This man has contacted Huma’s parents via video telephone calls and threatened them directly, showing them his weapons and telling them he would kill them if ever they should come looking for their daughter. This same man, Mukhtiar, has added in audio messages that even if all the Christians should band together to bring Huma back, he would kill both her parents and anyone who tried to help them.”
Third Judicial Magistrate for Karachi East, had closed the case on the grounds of lack of proof. An appeal has been launched to the same judge to re-examine the documentary proof, and the magistrate thereupon contacted the official public records authority, NADRA, in order to obtain the girl’s birth certificate. The next hearing has been fixed for 13 July 2020. However, the lawyer for the girls family had already presented two official documents in the course of one of the earlier hearings which prove that she is under age – a sworn statement by her school and her baptismal certificate from her Catholic parish of Saint James in Karachi. Both documents clearly state Huma’s date of birth as 22 May 2005.
As for the High Court of Sindh, this is still closed on account of the coronavirus pandemic and will probably not open again until August. Only after this will be possible to set a date for a hearing before this court.
The lawyer representing Huma’s abductor Jabbar is trying every legal trick in order to gain time, the family’s lawyer explained, because in three years time the girl will be 18 and it is highly likely that the case will then be shelved indefinitely. In theory, the Pakistani Supreme Court, which earlier acquitted Asia Bibi, could examine and rule on this case very rapidly, but the radical Islamic society in Pakistan does not allow the judicial system full autonomy. Moreover, when it is a matter of the rights of the religious minorities, there is a tendency to long delays, since these are considered neither a priority, nor urgent. The case of Asia Bibi, mentioned above, is eloquent testimony to this reality.
With regard to the prevalence of the kind of phenomenon to which Huma Younus has fallen victim, the family’s lawyer Tabassum Yousaf told ACN that estimates have been made by many NGOs, based on the number of cases of abduction reported and made public, adding that not all cases are even reported. She concludes: “as a result, according to my reading, and based on experience, there are around 2000 such cases per year, whether reported or not.”
Mrs Yousaf continues, “Justice delayed is justice denied, hence every delay in reaching judgement on the defence of the rights of religious minorities represents a denial of these rights. The court has delayed and continues to delay justice on behalf of Huma, solely because she is an underage Christian girl. If a similar case were to happen in regard to an underage Muslim girl, all the authorities would act immediately. As a lawyer I am certain that the president of the Pakistani Supreme Court could grant justice to the parents of the girl and to Huma herself. However, at every other lower level of the judicial system justice for the minorities will not be possible”, she concludes bitterly.