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> Demilitarization of Politics and Economy Urged; PILDAT International Conference on Justice, Accountability and International Experience Concludes
   Roundtable on Justice, Accountability and International Experience

May 2-3, 2007
Hotel Serena, Islamabad


Prominent legal minds of the country, at an International Conference on Justice Accountability and International Experience, organised by PILDAT, urged demilitarisation of politics and economy as a way forward towards establishing rule of law and supremacy of the constitution in the country. They believed that the struggle for independence of judiciary in Pakistan has still a long way to go, but it is heartening that this struggle is gaining momentum through the courage shown by Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and the national movement of lawyers in his support which has the potential to bring about a change for the better.


The International Conference brought together respected legal experts such as Justice (Retd.) Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui, Mr. Hamid Khan, Mr. Shahid Hamid, Dr. Parvez Hassan, Mr. Ahmer Bilal Soofi, Senator Babar Awan, Justice Nasira Iqbal and Barrister Zafarullah Khan. The conference also brought together international legal experts from UK, Italy, Belgium and Fiji including Ms. Alison smith, Mr. Niccolo Figa-Talamanca, Mr. Graham Everett Leung and Mr. Abdul Rahim Kamara. Prominent participants at the roundtable conference included politicians and MPs, lawyers’ community, youth representatives, the media and civil society organisations.


Initiating the conference, Mr. Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, PILDAT Executive Director said that the objective of the international conference was to review and analyse the judicial and quasi-judicial system in Pakistan and how it fared with the international scenario.


Senator S. M. Zafar, chaired the session on International Perspective of Justice and Accountability with special reference to International Criminal Court (ICC). Ms. Alison Smith introduced the ICC and Rome Statuettes. Speaking on the topic Mr. Ahmer Bilal Soofi said that Pakistan has not ratified the ICC as yet and believed that it should do so as. He said that the Rome statuette codified the Geneva Convention, which Pakistan has ratified, and added more content to it. The Rome statuette has provided a suo-moto mechanism which has reduced the impunity gap to those violators who would have otherwise escaped. He said that the Pakistani foreign office has not been correctly identifying the legal scenario in the occupied Kashmir. The foreign office frames the Kashmir issue as a violation of human rights but in effect, it is a violation of international human rights law. Defining it in this perspective gives Pakistan additional leverages to present a strong international case. Dr. Soofi said that the state did not give enough importance to international law on many fronts and highlighted that each time the US fires missiles in Iraq, there was a legal international humanitarian law expert on board who cleared the targets from the perspective of international human rights law. On the conflict in tribal areas, a view can be applied that given the threshold of armed conflict, international human rights laws can be applied there but the government does not take that view. He said that the government is hesitant in ratifying the ICC especially relating to the its suo-moto jurisdiction and maintains that the referral of cases should be through the Security Council instead. Responding to a query that even if Pakistan has not ratifies the ICC, what happens if the parties involved in a conflict in an area of the country want to complain about the alleged excesses of the military or the state to the ICC, Mr. Soofi said that it was possible that parties could complain to the ICC and in that scenario, Pakistan will have a problem on its hands.


Justice Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui chaired the session titled Dispensing Justice and Establishing Accountability through the Judicial System of Pakistan. Presenting an overview of the Judicial System of Pakistan and how far has it succeeded in providing and establishing the rule of law, Mr. Hamid Khan, Former President; Supreme Court Bar Association, said that the judiciary in Pakistan is burdened with the image of being weak and pliable particularly towards the military regimes. It has been bending backwards to justify violation and subversion of the Constitution at the hands of the military rulers. It has been legitimizing the military regimes and in the process enjoying the fruits of power. Therefore, the judicial organ of the State has been politicised with irreparable damage to its reputation and credibility. A few good judgments here and there are exception rather than the rule. There are certain instances of public interest litigation which is not seen with favour by the undemocratic regimes and impeachment process against the Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is retaliation of Musharraf regime to his judicial activism.


Presenting his views at the PILDAT International Conference, Mr. Shahid Hamid, Adovocate Supreme Court and former Governor of Punjab said that the courts and judges in Pakistan are extremely over-worked. Sharing numbers from a research, he said that the courts of civil and session judges, on the average 1000 cases are pending per judge in Punjab and 600 cases pending per judge in Sindh and NWFP. Balochistan has a better position where, on the average, 45 cases per judge are pending at one time as a significant section of the population in the province relies on sardari and jirga systems for seeking justice. Mr. Shahid Hamid said that corruption is prevalent in the judiciary, especially the subordinate judiciary. He, through his research, showed that the government spends less than 1 % of its total expenses on the judiciary which is very low. He believed that the judicial system needed extensive reforms.


Speaking on the topic of Jirga System in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, Barrister Zafarullah Khan said that the Frontier Crimes Regulation is a strange and unjust system, however, compared to traditional criminal justice system prevalent in the country, which is considered so bad that people still go to the jirga system to find justice. Presenting the FCR regulations clause by clause, Barrister Zafarullah Khan said that the system still enjoys widespread favour due to its less expensive nature and simple implementation. Although corruption has begun to enter the system and the poor and more vulnerable segments of society cannot afford to convene a jirga.
Dilating on the topic of Panchayats in Rural Areas and what makes them stay, Justice Nasira Iqbal said that the tribal courts flourish with the blessing of the local police, civil administration, feudal lords and politicians. She believed the outmoded tribal Jirga/Panchayat system still continues because the courts are burdened with a huge backlog of cases and physical access to the courts is extremely limited for those who live in the urban slums, semi-urban, rural and remote areas. The basic structure of the dual formal legal system is biased in favour of the affluent and politically powerful and the law enforcement agencies suffer from lack of credibility.
Concluding the international conference and giving recommendations on establishing an effective rule of law in Pakistan, Dr. Parvez Hassan said that the military, with its uncontrolled access to the power and resource bases of the nation, with the accompanying patronage and opportunities that it commands, is a serious threat to any effective or genuine Rule of Law in the years head. He said that no objective of the country can be more important, and more pressing, than to restore civilian supremacy, the supremacy of the Constitution, the laws and the Parliament He emphasised that the demilitarization of politics and economy was needed through capturing the potential of Article 6 of the Constitution. A minimalist approach, however, in the direction of the national accountability of the military would be to require the consideration and approval of the defence budget in the National Assembly. Improving and upholding the constitutional governance was another important goal and requires each organ and authority of the state and each person performing functions on behalf of an organ or authority of the State to act in accordance with the principles of policy laid down in Chapter 2 of Part II of the Constitution. The facilitation and strengthening the rule of law bounds the government to periodic holding of free, fair elections, not excluding any person or political party and held under an impartial and effective Election Commission. Dr. Parvez Hassan emphasised that the legal infrastructure development was required especially with a stronger emphasis on legal ethics. The Codes of Conduct of the Bar Associations especially needed to strengthen ethics and professional responsibility. Presenting vision for the way forward, Dr. Hassan suggested that the country and its people should consider the establishing of Truth and Reconciliation model so well pioneered by Chile and adopted to great national advantage and healing by Nelson Mandela in South Africa. He also said that meeting the challenges of talibanisation of our society was another crucial step towards reform. In the final analysis, whether Pakistan will succeed, in the times ahead, to found and sustain a genuine culture of freedom and rule of law will depend, to a large extent, on how it handles the looming threat to Talibanise our society. Article 2 of the Constitution declares that Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan and, in fairness to its historical roots, this is the way it should be. However, there is a fundamental difference in Islamizing and Talibanising our polity.