Ask the Pakistani Lawyer

I am as many people would know, a lawyer and am practicing for nearly three years now in Pakistan (Islamabad). I am was also called to the Bar of England and Wales by the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn and my undergraduate degree and early practice was there.

A bit unusual, so in the interests of making my self seem interesting, fire away.
Advocate High Courts

Do you defend or prosecute?

I do mostly civil work. Criminal work is mostly restricted to Fraud cases and there I usually but no always prosecute.

Please do not take this the wrong way, but have you experienced any corruption in the legal system? (I have heard stories from colleagues originally from Pakistan, but I am not sure how much to believe them.)

What sort of legal system does Pakistan use? Is it based on English common law, or something else?

Is there a division between law and equity?

Pakistan’s law is based upon the law of British India and ultimaly on the common law of England and Wales.

Yes there is a division between law and equity although the courts are unified.

What do Pakistani judges & lawyers wear in court?

Lower Courts: Lawyers wear a black suit with a white shirt and tie as do Judges.

High Court: Judges wear a black gown with red trim and the provincial seal on each upper arm, sleeve, lawyers wear a black gown with a stiff collar and bands, although recently premission has been given to wear a black tie in lieu of bands, as its annoying to have to keep changing the bands for a tie especially if you are in court for only 10 minutes one day.

Supreme Court: Judges wear a black gown with gold stripes on the sleeves, the Chief Justice wears a much heavier gold and green gown. When the full court sits, the Judges wear wigs, but thats happened more rarely recently.

Supreme Court lawyers may wear any business suit, but they almost always choose to wear the black suit with white shirt and tie.

How accessible are your courts to people that can’t afford to hire attorneys? Are there non-proft/charitable organizations that provide representation? Are you required/encouraged to perform some amount of pro bono work?

Thank’s AK84. What about the women? Do they dress the same as the men? Are they expected to hear anykind of head covering? Also does Pakistan still use juries? If not is every trial presided over by a single judge, or do more serious matters (like murder or rape) get tried before a panel of judges?

Criminal Cases get an Advocate (not “attorney”, means something different in Pakistan, though I understand what you mean) “at State Expense” if the person cannot afford to instruct an Advocate on their own.

The Bar Council encourages pro bono work. the current reccomendation is “one case a quater”. Plus there are many NGO’s who have legal panels providing representation, but they are more limited in scope.
Bottom line, litagation costs a lot of money, not something Pakistan is alone in, bit if you have a lawyer, you have a good chance of getting the relief asked.

Women yes the same as the men. A head covering is permitted if its in the same colour; a niqab, veil or any face covering will get you kicked out of court and reported to the Bar Council probably.

Juries were highly distrusted and disliked by the Bench, Bar and the general public and were abolished in the 1970’s.

All criminal trials are before a single judge. Most criminal cases are in the Magistrates Court, more serious ones are before the Court of Session. A Judge in case of conviction must give detailed reasons of law and fact as to why s/he has given that verdict.

What part does Islam - specifically Islamic or Sharia law - play in the legal sytem in Pakistan?

The constitution says specifically that no law can be against (“repugnant”) to the Quran and Sunnah. A provision of Islamic Law can only enter the statute books if it is properly incorporated into the legal system.

Sorry for the late reply, missed your question. Yes Corruption is something known, but then I have seen it in other systems as well. Not major and endemic as claimed by some, but definatly there.

The biggest problems that exist are not corruption, but costs, complexity and delay. Litagation costs A LOT of money and the procedures are at times archaic and annoying. The biggest issue IMO is delay. That has improved recently with the Courts clamping down on the biggest cause, Lawyers asking for adjournments, harshly.

Another issue is the paucity of Judges, as was pointed out in a Supreme Court Judgement 10 years ago, the total number of Judge, from the humblest Magistrate to the Chief Justice of Pakistan are 1754!

has improved now, but definatly a work in progress.

Observing events in Pakistan these last four or five years, the legal profession in Pakistan appears to be much more politically active than lawyers in the U.S. (e.g. street protests, etc.). Specifically, I vividly recall the lawyer protests of 2007. I can’t recall any widespread lawyer protests ever happening in the US. What do you think explains the difference? What kind of esteem are lawyers held in by society at large?

Do I understand correctly that Pakistan permits the finding of statutes or other government conduct to be unconstitutional and therefore void? Do you know when this form of judicial review was created?

The legal profession has always been politically active, since the days of the Raj. Gandhi, Jinnah, Nehru etc were all Barristers.

Yes its true. And it dates from the adoption of the 1973 Constitutions, The right is vested in the High Courts of the provinces as well as the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Lawyers generally high esteem, I hope (!), although lawyer jokes are as common as anywhere else.

Do you have a tribal identity (ie Pashtun, Balochi etc.)?

Have you ever heard of Greg Mortensen and the work his Central Asian Institute is doing in some of the most remote areas of Pakistan? What do you think? Do you think education is a way to temper the extremist element? What do you think of those Wahhabi schools set up by the Saudis?

Lawyer jokes are welcome!