Pakistan rejects US report criticising country’s judicial system

Published July 28, 2021
“We take strong exception to the gratuitous and unwarranted comments made in the report on Pakistan’s judicial system,” said Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri. — APP/File
“We take strong exception to the gratuitous and unwarranted comments made in the report on Pakistan’s judicial system,” said Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the comments made against its judicial system in a latest US report, Pakistan on Tuesday made it clear that its courts were independently performing their functions in accordance with the Constitution.

“We take strong exception to the gratuitous and unwarranted comments made in the report on Pakistan’s judicial system,” Foreign Office Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhry said while responding to media queries regarding the Investment Climate Statements for 2021 released by the US Department of State,

He said the judiciary in Pakistan was independent and the courts were functioning in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the country.

“The allegations to the contrary are firmly denied as factually incorrect and misleading,” he remarked.

Mr Chaudhri said Pakistan being a vibrant democracy, the government firmly believed in the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of the state.

FO says courts perform their functions in accordance with Constitution

“There is no question of any coercion or pressure on Pakistan’s judiciary. The baseless assertions made in the report are contradicted by innumerable decisions by Pakistani courts at all levels that meet the highest standards of judicial independence,” he stressed.

He said while the statement acknowledged the progress made and reforms undertaken by Pakistan in improving its business and investment climate, despite extremely difficult circumstances due to the pandemic, it speculated on alleged shortcomings in Pakistan’s regulatory framework and bases its conclusions on unverifiable sources.

“Mutually beneficial cooperation in the areas of economy, trade and investment with the international community, including the US, is one of the key priorities of the government of Pakistan. We will continue to take steps to optimally realise Pakistan’s geo-economic potential,” he said. In slanderous comments in its report the US state department claimed that theoretically the country’s judicial system operated independently of the executive branch but the reality was quite different.

“Pakistan’s judiciary is influenced by the government and other stakeholders. The lower judiciary is influenced by the executive branch and seen as lacking competence and fairness. It currently faces a significant backlog of unresolved cases,” the report says.

The report says there are doubts concerning the competence, fairness, and reliability of Pakistan’s judicial system.

“Theoretically, Pakistan’s judicial system operates independently of the executive branch. However, the reality is different, as the establishment wields significant influence over the judicial branch. As a result, there are doubts concerning the competence, fairness, and reliability of Pakistan’s judicial system. However, fear of contempt of court proceedings inhibit businesses and the public generally from reporting on perceived weaknesses of the judicial process.”

The report adds that Pakistan’s Contract Act of 1872 is the main law that regulates contracts with Pakistan. British legal decisions, under some circumstances, have also been cited in court rulings. “While Pakistan’s legal code and economic policy do not discriminate against foreign investments, enforcement of contracts remains problematic due to a weak and inefficient judiciary,” reads the report.

Pakistan ranked 124 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index, the report notes, adding corruption persists due to lack of accountability and enforcement of penalties, followed by the lack of merit-based promotions and relatively low salaries.

According to the report, bribes are classified as criminal acts under the Pakistani legal code and are punishable by law but are widely believed to be given across all levels of government. “Although the higher courts are widely viewed as more credible, lower courts are often considered corrupt, inefficient, and subject to pressure from prominent wealthy, religious, political figures and the establishment.

Political involvement in judicial appointments increases the government’s influence over the court system,” it says.

Published in Dawn, July 28th , 2021

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