TABASSUM YOUSAF is the lawyer 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 with Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), she gave a dramatic update on the personal and legal situation of this adolescent girl, who was also forced to marry her captor.

Ms. Yousaf reported: “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.”

Human Younas (Facebook)

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,” said Ms. Yousaf,  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.”

On the legal front, Huma’s family lawyer explained that the court of first instance, the 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 set for July 13, 2020.

The lawyer 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 clearly state Huma’s date of birth as May 22, 2005. Thus she is 15 and below the marriageable age of 18. This fact renders her marriage to her abductor invalid.

As for the High Court of Sindh province, it is still closed on account of the coronavirus pandemic and will probably not open again until August. Only after this will it be possible to set a date for a hearing before this court.

The lawyer representing Huma’s abductor is doing what he can to gain time, Ms. Yousaf reported, 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. However, Islamic radicals in Pakistan prevent the judicial system from having full autonomy, the lawer explained. She added that, moreover, when it is a matter of the rights of the religious minorities, there are often long delays, since these cases are considered neither urgent, nor a priority.

The ordeal of Huma Younus is all too common; Ms. Yousaf, citing research, stated that, “according to my reading, and based on experience, there are around 2000 such cases per year, whether reported or not.”

She continued: “Justice delayed is justice denied, hence every delay in reaching judgment on 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 involving an underage Muslim girl, 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 minorities will not be possible.”

—Massimiliano Tubani