ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Friday highlighted the need for a serious dialogue to assess the impact of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

There must be a consensus among all stakeholders in going forward and evaluating the legal, social, cultural and economic aspects of the multi-billion-dollar Chinese investment, he said.

The chief justice stressed the importance of developing capabilities that would address the several legal and administrative complexities — as well as grey areas — which could prove to be stumbling blocks in realising the full potential of CPEC investments.

Says bar and judiciary equally responsible for inefficiency plaguing legal system

The chief justice was speaking at the opening ceremony of the 8th Judicial Conference organised by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan at the Supreme Court building in Islamabad.

CPEC, the chief justice said, brought with it a tremendous amount of foreign direct investment (FDI). Considering all the money coming in, experts in the country — and those present at the conference — must deliberate on how to best maximise the potential benefits.

He said that the participants of the conference must also consider other areas that CPEC will impact — such as the environment and ecology. “Such footprints are often overlooked, but we must not let that happen,” he said.

The conference, he said, would also provide a chance for the participants to identify problem areas and suggest improvements to address them, making FDI investments more fruitful and efficient.

One such problem area, he continued, was in laying the foundations for a mechanism of resolving disputes. He said that it was imperative to discuss methods of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), and the conference provided an opportunity to delve deeper into the matter to highlight an effective method — through commercial arbitration — to resolve conflict. Such arbitration would pave the way for developing a sustainable mechanism for investment-treaty arbitration in inter-state disputes, he said.

The chief justice was confident that small businesses would get a substantial boost from new economic opportunities through the CPEC. Therefore, he said, it was necessary to develop effective ADR mechanisms — extending its benefits to all levels of the market. ADR mechanisms are especially attractive to small- and medium-sized enterprises, as they gain from avoiding prolonged litigation, saving money in the process.

Speaking about the huge backlog of pending cases, the chief justice said that both the bar and the judiciary were equally responsible for the inefficiency plaguing the legal system. He argued that the only way out of the mess was for both to work together.

Being the head of the judiciary, the chief justice acknowledged, he was committed to revamping the system through several judicial reforms. However, he said that the problems could only be solved by adopting a holistic approach.

The chief justice also spoke about giving more attention to intellectual property rights. In today’s world, he said, there were a wide variety of rights which needed to be protected through special courts and tribunals. He said that robust intellectual property rights led to investor confidence and a speedy transfer of technology — both essential for a developing economy like Pakistan’s.

China has one of the five largest patent registration offices in the world. Pakistan is in the process of streamlining its legal system to deal with patents and copyrights.

The chief justice said that Pakistan must ensure that adequate legal information was available to citizens and business entities alike. Such information was critical when new business ventures were being considered with citizens of other countries and international corporations, he added.

The local business community, as well as foreign entities and individuals — who have chosen Pakistan to invest in — are entitled to security of investment. Dispute resolution mechanisms that not only included protection for financial investment but also intellectual property were key elements of a conducive business landscape, said the chief justice.

Published in Dawn, May 5th, 2018



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