ISLAMABAD: The Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan (LJCP), headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, on Saturday described the World Justice Project’s (WJP) report on Rule of Law Index-2021 as based on data collected on a “presumptive scenario” and “perception” without actual statistics being consulted during evaluation.

The WJP report had ranked Pakistan at 130th out of 139 countries in adherence to the rule of law.

The LJCP report, signed by its Deputy Secretary Raja Mohammad Faisal Iftikhar, pointed out that the methodology employed by the WJP to arrive at the results had raised a number of questions. It mentioned that General Population Poll was not carried out afresh when the WJP report on Rule of Law Index-2021 was published in October 2021.

In Pakistan, Gallup Pakistan conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,000 respondents in 2019 from unidentified cities and this data was used for the Index-2020 and the current year’s index ranking too, the LJCP said.

The respondents selected were ‘regionally limited’ and no information was provided if they had any direct exposure or experience of interaction with any legal or justice sector related department in Pakistan, the LJCP elaborated, adding that the survey based on such a small sample, limited areas and unrepresentative selection did not accurately reflect the opinion of 230 million population.

Law & Justice Commission says data collected for Rule of Law Index-2021 based on presumptions and perception, not rooted in actual statistics

While evaluating performance relating to administration of justice in Pakistan, neither the LJCP nor the correlated data on its website or such institutions was considered, the commission stated.

The WJP defines the Rule of Law on four principles: accountability, just law, open government, and accessible and impartial justice. The Rule of Law Index measured the rule of law in countries across the world depending upon the experience and perception of public on the basis of nine factors monitored under “constraint on government power, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, security and order, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice and informal justice”.

Prima facie, the LJCP said, WJP’s theoretical framework of evaluation (four principles, nine factors and 44 sub-factors) appears robust, but LJCP’s assessment of their application in general and on Pakistan in particular finds certain ‘avoidable gaps’.

Only two out of nine factors, deployed for determination of the Rule of Law Index across countries, relate to judicial system like the civil justice and criminal justice, while remaining seven relate to the governance system, executive efficiency and behaviour of society.

In civil justice, Pakistan is globally ranked at 124 out of 139 jurisdictions, while in criminal justice it was placed at 108 amongst the 139 countries, the LJCP said. It pointed out that the two factors besides the judiciary also involved other state departments such as police, prosecution, prisons and the legal fraternity as well as general public.

In a traditional and heterogeneous society, the casual behaviour of the general public towards litigation hampers its expeditious disposal, but the underlying factors are not in the control of judiciary anywhere in the country and have been overlooked in the WJP report, the LJCP said.

The report’s title, “Rule of Law Index”, also creates an impression that it is focused on the performance of the judicial organ of the state. The inherent problem of the expression ‘rule of law’ is that it is a frequently used term but rarely defined. There is a need to distinguish between the judicial system and the rule of law. It appears the report fails to appreciate relationship between the two, the LJCP said.

The judiciary in Pakistan has always upheld the rule of law and ensured the expeditious disposal of cases. The national judicial policymaking committee resolved that Pakistan’s judicial system would not disappoint the people and courts worked dedicatedly and steadfastly even during the Covid-19 pandemic.

During the year 2021-22, courts decided 5.62 million cases against institution of 5.47 million, thereby, reducing the backlog. It reflects judiciary’s commitment to ensure expeditious disposal of cases as envisaged in the national judicial policy against all odds as well as reflecting the trust of the people of Pakistan in courts as indicated in WJP, Rule of Law Report 2017 too, the LJCP recalled, adding that its secretariat also expressed these concerns in its letter to the WJP executive director on June 23, 2022.

The WJP has been asked that prior to conducting its evaluation in future, the issues raised should be taken into consideration so that a true and accurate picture, especially relating to Pakistan’s judiciary was presented, the LJCP stated, adding that the WJP did not respond with any details and there was no confirmation of the receipt of the letter.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2022

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