Attaining peace through the supremacy of law

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Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan (SCBAP) hosted a conference entitled “Peace through Law” at Avari Hotel, Lahore on October 19 and 20. Hundreds of leading lawyers from both Pakistan and India attended the conference.
SCBAP Secretary Aslam Zar and President Yaseen Azad delivered the welcome addresses and Justice Tassadaq Hussain Jillani delivered the keynote address. He stressed upon the importance of civic duty in a democracy by noting that the most important office in a democracy is that of a citizen. The president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of India, Pravin H Parekh, followed with a speech on behalf of the Indian delegation. Parekh, thanking the Pakistani legal community for their hospitality, expressed the need for continuing peace between Pakistan and India and conveyed an eager anticipation for the successful completion of the conference. The speeches were punctuated by a heart-warming rendition of Supreme Court Anthem ‘Justice for All’ by thirty choir members from Lahore American School and Lahore Grammar School. The opening session was followed by a dinner and musical event hosted by Punjab Governor Latif Khosa at the Governor House.
The Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Chaudhry, delivered his opening keynote address on Saturday, the main day of the conference. He stressed the importance of independent and responsible judiciaries in two countries and encouraged their legal communities to facilitate peace and stability in South Asia. The discussion titled ‘Peace through Law’ was divided into six modules: Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights, Regional Peace, Rule of Law and Economic Development; Role of Media in Promoting Peace; Role of Bar in Promoting Culture of Tolerance; Leadership and Good Governance; and Cyber Crime and Legislation. Each session took place over the course of two hours with an hour and a half devoted to the principal speakers, experts in these topics and half hour devoted to audience questions and discussions.
The first session, Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Rights, was chaired by Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, a judge from the Supreme Court of Pakistan, and co-chaired by Akhtar
Hussain, Pakistan Bar Council vice chairman and a member of the Indian delegation. At the end of the session, participants agreed on certain recommendations for improving peaceful relations, including developing mutual legal framework between the two countries. They also agreed that in conflict areas anywhere in Pakistan including Balochistan and KP, the laws of conflict were applicable. Furthermore, it was highlighted that since judiciary was an organ of the state, its decisions and pronouncements had international repercussions and were treated as official state positions. In this context, Pakistan’s judiciary ought to be mindful of the international impact of its judicial decisions and pronouncements. For instance, the 1956 decision of Pakistan’s superior judiciary regarding Durand Line had come to be accepted and recognised as Pakistan’s official position on the matter. The participants also agreed that Pakistan needed to upgrade its criminal justice system to meet challenges posed by insurgents and non-state actors.
The second session, Regional Peace, Rule of Law and Economic Development, was chaired by Shahid Hafiz Kardar, former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan and co-chaired by Attorney Ali Zafar, Competition Commission Chairperson Rahat Kunain Hassan and an Indian delegate, Manjit Singh Khaira. At the end of the session, participants agreed on certain recommendations including the importance of regional peace and stability to economic progress in two countries. It was also agreed that well-established tradition of rule of law attracted investment by providing stringent and effective legal safety net for contractual breaches. It was also resolved that trade between India and Pakistan would reap economic rewards for both countries and also act as a potent confidence-building measure.
The third session, the Role of Media in Promoting Peace, was chaired by Justice Sh Azmat Saeed, a Supreme Court of Pakistan judge. At the end of the session, participants agreed on certain recommendations including the need for a more responsible and fact-based media coverage in India and Pakistan. It was also agreed that although media was a commercial enterprise, it still owed a public duty to refrain from whipping up war hysteria as witnessed in the aftermath of Mumbai attacks.
The fourth session, the Role of the Bar in Promoting a Culture of Tolerance, was chaired by Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan, another Supreme Court of Pakistan judge and co-chaired by Anwar Mansoor Khan, president of the Sindh High Court Bar Association along with a visiting member of the Indian delegation. At the end of the session, participants agreed on certain recommendations including the continued interaction between members of legal communities of the two countries to promote peace, harmony and tolerance. In this regard, the positive interaction between members of legal communities of two countries in the past year was also lauded.
The fifth session, Leadership and Good Governance, was chaired by Justice
Jawad S Khawaja, a Supreme Court of Pakistan judge, and co-chaired by Abid Hassan Minto, former president of the SCBAP as well as a visiting member of the Indian delegation.
At the end of the session, participants agreed on certain recommendations including the need for creative and effective leadership in two countries to find fresh solutions to longstanding disputes between the two countries. It was also agreed that good governance in a trilateral separation of powers system requires the executive, legislative and judicial branch to operate within their independent domains and not interfere in one another’s constitutional zone of independence.
It was stressed that judiciary ought to exercise restraint in ‘political questions’ that were capable of being resolved by the political branches of government.
The final session, Cyber Crime and Legislation, was chaired by Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman, chief justice of the Islamabad High Court and co-chaired by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, a Lahore High Court judge, as well as a visiting member of the Indian delegation. At the end of the session, participants agreed on certain recommendations including the dire need for updating and framing cyber crime laws in Pakistan. It was stressed that whereas legal systems of advanced jurisdictions in the world have developed robust legal mechanisms to counter cyber crime, Pakistan relied on obsolete Telegraph Act 1885 and Wireless Act 1933 to tackle this fast expanding area of crime.
The first three sessions were conducted simultaneously from 11am to 1pm and the remaining three sessions were conducted simultaneously at 3pm to 5pm. Participants freely chose sessions according to their interests and shifted between sessions to experience as much as possible. Young lawyers acting as rapporteurs also attended these six sessions and were responsible for documenting the topics discussed in each session and preparing session recommendations. Ahmer Bilal Soofi, Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan, then delivered these recommendations during the closing session.
Yaseen Azad, in his concluding remarks, thanked the lawyers from two countries for making the conference a success. Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Lahore High Court chief justice, also delivered a closing address and thanked the attendees from both Pakistan and India for their participation and dedication to peace building. The closing session was followed by a grand dinner at Avari Hotel hosted by Punjab Chief Minsiter Shahbaz Sharif.