In a conference held at the Federal Judicial Academy, it was decided that effective mechanisms will be established for effective resolution of disputes, predominantly rising under the purview of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). It was also suggested that effective transport and infrastructure laws need to be incorporated which will help Pakistan solidify its position as a transit state between the Middle East and African Markets and the Central Asian Republics. Emphasis was given on making agreements in CPEC projects public for the people to see.
The recommendations of thematic groups were presented by the chairperson of each thematic group in the concluding session and the same was approved by the house as the Islamabad Declaration 2018.
The first group on regional, economic integration and effective dispute resolution mechanism in the context of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) asked for an introduction of multimodal transport law and infrastructure in the region to increase the significance of Pakistan’s position as a transit state in the trade between Central Asian Republics.
This was recommended along with the creation of a Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency at a regional level akin to the one established under World Bank, besides appointment of dispute resolution advisers and making a dispute adjudication board.
Furthermore, the amendment to Article 8 of the agreement between Pakistan and China for the avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to tax on income, to make the distribution of tax revenues between both countries more equitable and to explicitly allocate the fiscal rights of both signatories to the agreement was also recommended.
It was also recommended that the Ministry of Planning and Development should make their documents and agreements, made under CPEC, more accessible to the public at large.
The second group deliberated on alternative dispute resolution methodologies and the deterring factors. The group recommended that in order to tackle with commercial disputes especially involving local or foreign investment, time-honoured international models can be easily adopted and adapted, but with emphasis on mediation rather than arbitration which may then be translated into court decrees through appropriate proceedings and legislation if necessary.
The third group deliberated on the strategy for delay reduction and expeditious disposal of the backlog of cases. It was recommended that instead of having a four-tier system, a three-tier system should be introduced having trial, appeal and constitutional stages where purely legal issues would be adjudicated.
Questions of facts will be finalised at the second tier while an effective ADR mechanism would be instituted. Similarly, the ADR should be made a compulsory part of the dispute resolution process and should be enforced through effective legislation.
Another recommendation was a reduction of adjournments.
The communication between the bar councils and bar associations will be enhanced so that neither unnecessary adjournments are sought nor granted by the courts. Besides that, improvement in the case-flow management system, use of information technology and forensic sciences was also recommended.
Furthermore, training to lawyers and judges and Federal Judicial Academy be converted into a centre of excellence was also suggested.
Legal education and uniform selection criteria for Judicial Officers in Pakistan was also deliberated.
About legal education in Pakistan, a need for greater scrutiny and governance by law schools based on international standards was suggested along with endorsing that the criteria for admission of students and recruitment of teachers should be stringent and meritorious and should be clearly defined.
Need for a centralised entrance examination that is uniform for all provinces was stressed, besides pondering upon the need for a system that would enable a mechanism to determine which universities are regulated and which are unregulated and consequently, what do with unregulated universities.
Another group deliberated on the relationship of political and economic stability with the revamping of the criminal justice system. It was also agreed that political instability undermines economic stability and therefore should be avoided.
An unstable political environment reduces investment and the pace of economic development, therefore, a broad-based political consensus should develop the economic agenda to foster investment and economic growth.