Some weeks ago, a little bit of history was made by two groundbreaking events in Lahore. The first was a conference at the Lahore High Court (LHC) on the importance of capacity building of Pakistani lawyers in international arbitration and the second was a training workshop on international arbitration.
The main objective of the LHC conference in which renowned international arbitration lawyers from the UK and Singapore participated was to raise awareness about the importance of international arbitration and how Pakistani lawyers could benefit from building capacity in international arbitration. It was organised by the Centre for International Investment and Commercial Arbitration (CIICA). One of its objectives is raising awareness about the critical issues in international arbitration. The idea of CIICA came about partly because I got the sense that there was a glaring lack of even elementary knowledge of international arbitration in Pakistan, especially in connection with certain international commercial and investment disputes in which Pakistan was involved.
CIICA’s objectives also include legislative reform and capacity building of lawyers, judges, members of the business community and relevant government officials. It was reassuring to see an overwhelming response of the members of the LHC bar at the conference. The great turnout was a testament to the fact that the conference had successfully set in motion the process of capacity building of Pakistani lawyers in international arbitration.
If we can raise awareness and acquaint lawyers with relevant knowledge of international arbitration, it can help Pakistani individuals, businesses, relevant government entities and even the government of Pakistan to be represented in international arbitration proceedings more effectively. A sound and effective legal strategy for the Pakistani entities involved in international arbitration can also avoid the damage to Pakistan’s image in the international community with regard to how disputes involving foreign investment in Pakistan are handled. More importantly, capacity building could prevent such international commercial and investment disputes from arising in the first place.
The second groundbreaking event was the first-ever training workshop in Pakistan organised by the Young International Council of Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) in collaboration with and the support of CIICA, LUMS and Clyde & Co, an international law firm. The topic of the workshop was written advocacy in international arbitration and the speakers shared their invaluable insights on preparation of persuasive written pleadings, witness statements and expert witness reports. It was a unique and invaluable opportunity for all participants, including law students and young lawyers, to learn from highly regarded international arbitration lawyers from around the world. The focus of such workshops is practical training of lawyers which bodes well for Pakistan as it would enable lawyers to learn the craft of international arbitration.
Pakistani lawyers, regardless of their background, can benefit tremendously from such workshops and leverage the skills that they acquire and hone during these workshops to become successful international arbitration lawyers. One clear advantage is that Pakistani entities would not have to rely solely on foreign lawyers to advise and represent them in international arbitration matters. It will essentially offer Pakistani individuals and entities a pool of well-trained local lawyers. From the standpoint of lawyers’ fees, these lawyers would be considered more cost efficient. More importantly, over time, these lawyers will be able to build an ever-expanding arbitration ecosystem in Pakistan that will help develop a deeper understanding of international arbitration and effective resolution of commercial and investment disputes.
Pakistan has an image problem in the global community of investors because of the manner in which some commercial and investment disputes involving Pakistan have been handled. Ironically, this is partly because international arbitration seems to have a bit of an image problem in Pakistan as certain lawyers and judges take a dim view of it primarily due to a lack of knowledge of how it works.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 10th, 2017.