Saima Saleema: Pakistan’s first visually impaired diplomat gives befitting response to India


ISLAMABAD: Saima Saleem, Pakistan’s first visually-impaired UN delegate has become a celebrity overnight. Millions of Pakistanis living in Pakistan and and abroad are all found praising her for her fiery speech at the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on last Saturday in which she stated that it is India that endorses terrorism in the occupied territory of Kashmir in a response to an Indian diplomat’s allegations against Pakistan.

Saima Saleem, is serving in Pakistan’s permanent mission to United Nations in Geneva.

Saima lost her eyesight during her teens. Undeterred by this limitation, she remained the most outstanding student of her school. Due to her academic excellence, she was given a gold medal in Bachelors and Masters by Kinnaird College University for Women. For the first time in Pakistan, all her exams were conducted in Braille because she fought for her rights and refused to appear in exams with the help of a writer who could mar her future due to negligence and lack of capacity. After her Masters, she decided to appear in the CSS exams with the resolve to become the first blind Civil Servant of Pakistan.

At first, FPSC refused to conduct her exam because she requested for a computer-based exam which had never been conducted in Pakistan. However, eventually her wish was granted and President of Pakistan ordered FPSC to conduct a computer-based exam. She uses Screen-Reader software (JAWS) for working independently on the computer and software for scanning the books and other material for reading.

She got sixth position in the country and first among female candidates. Through an ordinance, FPSC had only allowed disabled candidates to choose only four occupational groups-Accounts, Commerce, Information and Postal.

Once again, Saima refused to accept this discriminatory treatment and chose Foreign Service for she had always wanted to become a diplomat and represent Pakistan. Rules had to face a defeat in front of her indomitable resolve and the Prime Minister of Pakistan allowed her to join Foreign Service on merit. In 2008, she became the first blind diplomat of Pakistan. After joining Foreign Service, she topped all trainings and exams and was given another Gold Medal by Foreign Service Academy.

In addition, she won a Fulbright Scholarship and went to study at the prestigious School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University USA. Upon joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, due to her passion to improve human rights in the country, she developed expertise in human rights and has been working on human rights issues from the last five years.

Saima is currently serving in Pakistan’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva (Switzerland) and is working on human rights issues.

Thank you Saima – you make me us proud Pakistani.

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