Justice delayed – 18 Jul 2022

DESPITE earnest efforts by their lordships to bring down the number of cases pending decision across all tiers of the justice system in Pakistan, the backlog remains considerable. As reported in this paper, over 2m cases are pending decision across the country. It is not that cases are not being heard and decided; the problem appears to be the large number of new cases filed that result in a ballooning backlog. While over 12,800 cases were decided by the Supreme Court last year, over 18,000 new cases were filed before the apex court. And while the provincial and Islamabad high courts also have to deal with a significant caseload, it is at the level of the lower judiciary where the backlog is greatest, particularly in Punjab. While 2.9m cases were decided in Pakistan`s largest province, 2.8m fresh litigations were filed.

Several attempts have been made to address this persistent problem affecting the quality of justice delivered to litigants. These include the National Judicial Policy of 2009, which emphasised the need to reduce the pendency of cases before the nation`s courts.

However, these efforts don`t seem to have had the desired effect on reducing the caseload. Legal experts have cited the need to increase the number of judges to hear cases. There is also a need to improve infrastructure, such as building more courtrooms that can accommodate a higher number of judges. Other attempts to streamline the justice system have included setting up `model courts`, while anti-terrorism courts established 25 years ago were supposed to decide cases in seven days; in fact, many highprofile terrorism cases have lasted for years. Perhaps along with increasing the number of judicial staffers, alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, such as arbitration and mediation, can also be employed, especially when dealing with civil cases at the lower judiciary`s level. Moreover, the trend of filing frivolous cases by habitual litigants, and the granting of endless adjournments, must be discouraged, with courts penalising those who waste the judiciary`s time, and delay cases without cause. Of course, the matter of clearing the backlog must be pursued at the highest level; each holder of the position of chief justice of Pakistan should consider it a priority in their tenure to reduce the caseload. Having to wait years, or even decades, for a decision is against natural justice, as litigants have a right to a speedy and fair trial.

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Labour litigation – 18 Jul 2022

OVER the last decade and more, there has been a marked reduction in the number of cases filed in labour forums by individual workers for job reinstatement.

Besides the delay in labour courts or the National Industrial Relations Commission (NIRC), which is the platform for seeking legal remedy in matters covered by the Act of 2012, the choice of wrong forums by litigants` lawyers has led to problems of legal redress.

To explain the situation, we must describe the purpose behind a piece of legislation enacted by the federal government in 2012 to facilitate the management of industrial relations in trans-provincial companies.

Following the devolution of labour laws to the provinces via the 18th Amendment in 2010, a new class of trans-provincial companies emerged. To cater to their requirements, the federal government had appropriately promulgated the federal Industrial Relations Act, 2012, which defined such companies as `any establishment, group of establishments, industry, having its branches in more than one province`. Apart from this law, all provinces have their own industrialrelationslaw. ThefederalActrecognised the status of trans-provincial establishments as separate entities from those which exist only in one province.

Like the provincial laws, the federal Act aims to regulate the formation of trade unions, provide for trade union activities, improve relations between employers and workmen and settle industrial disputes.

The registration of new unions belonging to trans-provincial establishments across Pakistan takes place at one location Islamabad. The registration of unions of other establishments is done in their respective provinces.

Coming back to the ordeal of labour litigants, Section 33 of the 2012 Act, prescribes a detailed procedure for redressing individual grievances. This provision is so evident that it should not leave any doubt in the mind of lawyers representing the workers whether to file a petition in the labour court or the NIRC.

According to Section 33, a worker dismissed from service by his employer should first bring it to the latter`s notice. If the worker is not satisfied with the response, he may take his grievance to the NIRC, which is expected to decide his case within seven days. In the case of provincial establishments, aggrieved workers may take their cases to the labour court and not the NIRC.

Even though there is no ambiguity, in most cases,lawyers of workers dismissed by trans-provincial establishments, file their cases in the labour court instead of the NIRC. Taking undue advantage, the oppos-ing lawyers get the case delayed by the court on flimsy grounds, usually for over a year. Being disgruntled, the worker either does not proceed with the case or is financially drained by the time his case is transferred to the NIRC.

Such situations are quite common although during the last decade, the superior courts have pronounced several judgements holding that only the NIRC has got the jurisdiction to entertain all types of labour matters pertaining to trans-provincial establishments.

A recent judgement of June 2022 by the L ahore High Court has gone in f avour of the Bank of Punjab, which is a trans-provincial establishment. Some employees of the bank had filed a claim for payment of overtime dues before the authority under the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, which decided the case in their favour. The court set aside the authority`s order, holding that the claim should have been filed before the NIRC.

In`PakistanTelecommunicationCompanyLtdvsMemberNIRC and others`, it was held by the Supreme Court in 2014 that `once it is established through any means that the employer or group of employers has an establishment, group of establishments,industry, having its branches in more than one province, then the jurisdiction of the NIRC would be exclusive in nature and of overriding and super imposing effects over the provincial labour court for resolving industrial dispute… .

Further, in `Sui Southern Gas Company Ltd and others vs Federation of Pakistan and others`, the apex court stated in 2018 that `the NIRC had jurisdiction to decide labour disputes relating to employees of companies, corporations or establishments functioning in more than one province`.

In the presence of such overwhelming case law, the lawyers representing the aggrieved workers, should not be confused as to where they should file the petition. The forum to seek legal remedy in matters covered by the 2012 Act is only the NIRC and not the labour court. For establishments that are operating at the provincial level only, it is the provincial industrial relations law that should apply.

It is ironic that the workers` cases, which NIRCis supposed to dispose of within seven days, take years to decide.• The writer is a consultant in human resources at the Aga Khan University Hospital.

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The gender gap – 18 Jul 2022

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report for this year places Pakistan second last out of 146 countries in terms of gender parity.

According to the report, based on the progress made to close the gender gap in South Asia, it will take another 197 years to reach gender parity. Pakistan is consistently ranked at the bottom among other countries in the region across various indicators.

The country’s depressing performance should be an eye-opening moment for the government as well as society as a whole. As a nation we are under the gross misconception, propagated from time to time by politicians and other privileged people, that women enjoy a unique status in Pakistan borne out of respect and honour. But the fact is that women are ‘respected’ as long as they are confined within the four walls of their homes. And even then, they are subjected to horrific physical, sexual and financial abuse by the men in their families. Every year, international reports pertaining to gender equality shatter our national misconceptions by placing Pakistan amongst the worst countries for women.

While we are quick to point out measures taken to increase women’s participation in the workforce, such as women’s quota in the civil service, very little effort is made to ensure that workplaces are female friendly.

According to the report, Pakistan still ranks at the bottom in terms of women’s participation in senior management and legislative roles. The state may have increased women’s selection in civil service through a quota, but very few women manage to secure prize postings and even fewer make it to the top. Besides some government offices lacking the most basic facilities for women, the work culture is designed to facilitate men who can stay at the office as late as they want without worrying about household responsibilities. Married women, especially those who have children, are not even in the running for competitive positions and lose out to their male colleagues who may even be less qualified.

In terms of economic participation and opportunity, Pakistan ranks second from the bottom and 135th in the educational attainment category. Pakistan is among the lowest scoring countries globally for health and survival. The Global Gender Gap report reflects the country’s dismal statistics related to women across all walks of life. According to the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey 2017-2018, 3.3 per cent of girls were married before the age of 15 and 18.3 per cent before the age of 18. The fact that child marriage is still accepted in the country is alarming. Child marriages have a severely adverse impact on girls’ education, their health, reproductive choices and economic opportunities. Girls who are married off as children are more vulnerable to domestic violence as well. It should not be surprising then that the country is ranked so low in the Global Gender Gap Index.

While Pakistani women are struggling for economic, education and healthcare equality, they are also being let down by the judicial system. Not only are crimes against women underreported, criminals often get away with assaulting or even murdering women. According to some estimates the conviction rate in rape cases is as low as three per cent. For a country that believes its society and culture honours women as mothers, sisters, and daughters, the extent of abuse that the average Pakistani woman faces on a daily basis at home and in public is astounding. Lawmakers place emphasis on women-friendly legislation from time to time but the enforcement of these laws presents a different set of challenges altogether.

Women’s rights activists in Pakistan are often subjected to ridicule for not raising their voices about the ‘real’ issues that women face in the country. They are dismissed for being too angry, or too selective in their outrage. For example, Aurat March has been called foreign-funded, anti-Pakistan, anti-Islam, and anti-women by lawmakers, social media influencers and powerful media personalities. The manifesto published by Aurat March demands policymaking in all those areas where Pakistan has consistently lagged behind other countries in the region as reflected in the Global Gender Gap report.

When women’s rights activists demanded reproductive rights and body autonomy, their slogans resulted in an uproar and invited rape and death threats on social media. These basic rights were considered against Pakistani culture and religion. However, no one bats an eye when gender gap reports place Pakistan at the very bottom globally in terms of health and security.

The same people who dismiss women’s rights activism will remain apathetic to how their country, it’s culture and society treat women. The family structure that is so religiously defended and upheld is built upon the exploitation and abuse of women for generations and this is reflected in multiple national and international gender related statistics. Pakistan’s respect for women is unfortunately a figment of imagination of those who do not want to see radical cultural and institutional change in the way women are treated in the country.

The writer is a former civil servant.

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Lahore’s climate crisis – 18 Jul 2022

High-rise buildings, overhead bridges, underpasses, billboards, and the air engulfed in smoke and dust – welcome to the city of Lahore!

Home to around 11 million people, with Pakistan’s fertility rate at present – at 3.6 per cent and with continued in-migration towards the city, Lahore’s population is only going to increase further in the coming future.

With the worsening air quality and the hazardous smog levels experienced in the beginning of the year coupled with the unbearable and scorching heat of the summer season and the ongoing spell of monsoon rains posing threats of urban flooding, one only wonders where we are headed.

As someone born and raised in Lahore, it is most disheartening for me to see how the city is losing its magic little by little with each passing year. A little too preoccupied in enjoying our city life, taking pride in the fact that Lahore is the most vibrant city to live in, we have perhaps ignored our environment a little too much. As a result, today’s Lahore is a concrete jungle with skyscrapers, shopping complexes and housing societies being built around every corner of the city.

It is even ironic at times when one comes across the advertisements of these housing societies, flaunting claims of a ‘new living experience’ offering a cleaner, fresher environment when their very execution and planning is hinged upon cutting of trees and clearing green land areas. While the Lahore Development Authority (LDA) has somewhat kept tabs on issuing notices to illegal housing societies, I wonder if the criteria for legality has anything to do with the protection and planting of trees?

The outskirts of the city – once full of trees and green lands – are now another show of ring roads, bridges and high-rise apartment buildings from these various housing schemes. The authorities too have shown a lack of commitment towards safeguarding and protecting the environment and perhaps our elite is a little too lost in their investment prospects and profit-making schemes to worry about the environment we live in.

While the smog crisis in the beginning of the year was enough to serve as an eye-opener to understand the environmental crisis that we face today, the destruction caused by urban flooding in Karachi should definitely serve as one before its too late. It is rather unfortunate to see that even some of the most posh and developed localities in Lahore like Gulberg and DHA are badly affected by a few hours of rain, with main roads full of stagnant rainwater hours after rain has even stopped. It may be a hard pill to swallow for all the concerned stakeholders – be it proprietors and/or politicians – that the onus of this destruction befalls their shoulders, but it is definitely one issue which cannot escape the public eye anymore.

It is time we realize the damage being incurred on our environment – and ultimately on our lives – and break out of this bubble of neglect before it’s too late. Here’s a quick recap of how the different seasons have gone by for a resident of Lahore so far: the much-awaited winter season this year brought along its own sets of difficulties with unprecedented smog levels making it difficult to breathe. Experiencing the spring season seems to be another distant dream now, as the onset of March this year brought with it the alarm bells of an early summer skipping spring altogether. Similarly, the unbearable heat of summer season saw temperatures rising to as high as 48 degrees in Lahore and with the looming threats of urban flooding we face currently, one can only wonder what the future has in store for us.

Let us only hope that those who have won yesterday’s by-elections will uphold their vows of serving the public and do serve the public this time; here’s an idea, for starters, how about the winning electoral candidates cater to the drainage systems of their localities and help us combat the current threat of flooding looming upon us? Addressing the issue of deforestation and stripping of green lands in the name of building housing societies in Lahore to accommodate the growing population should be another urgent concern of the authorities.

More importantly, a concerted effort is required to bring down the fertility rate of the country itself and discourage internal migration towards Lahore by creating employment opportunities in other cities.

The writer is a research assistant at the Lahore School of Economics, and can be reached at: qazimemona94@gmail.com

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Another way is possible – 18 Jul 2022

The constitution of Pakistan guarantees every citizen the right to a speedy trial but for the past many decades that right is only being recognized in the breach. There have been half-hearted attempts to solve the problem, such as making judges work longer hours, but there has not yet been the kind of institutional reform that is needed for the efficient functioning of the judicial system. One of the solutions that has been proposed includes increasing the number of judges – an idea which needs to be taken up since the number of cases being filed is overwhelming right now given the number of judges we have. Justices should also be more proactive in quickly dismissing frivolous suits and imposing punitive punishments on those who waste the courts’ time. A better and more timely intervention would be encouraging quicker alternatives to the cumbersome court system. In 2017, parliament passed the Alternate Dispute Resolution Bill. Although there was some controversy over the bill because of fears it would further empower jirgas and panchayats, the judicious use of alternative dispute resolution could reduce the burden on regular courts. At a time when the courts are becoming more expansive than ever – having involved themselves in matters of policy and governance – now is the time to take a step back and ensure that those who have been waiting for years finally get the justice they have been promised.

This has been articulately echoed by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah speaking at the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn on ‘The role of judiciary in promoting investor confidence through ADR in Pakistan’. Justice Shah has rightly suggested that Pakistan badly needs an alternative dispute resolution system (ADR) for the future, in order to sort out the tens of thousands of commercial, investment, and other small time disputes often regarding business pending in the courts. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah has also pointed out that persuading and training lawyers to arbitrate and discuss matters rather than to engage in arguments could bring quick settlements and build confidence in Pakistan’s business system. Arbitration is already in place in Pakistan but the legal system will need to change, perhaps through a new law, in order to make it more effective and to encourage arbitration as widely as possible.

In theory, ADRs are meant to arbitrate disputes in a speedier and less expensive manner than regular courts. They have the added benefit, especially applicable in Pakistan, of unclogging an overburdened judicial system. The most important function may also be to bring a semblance of order to the unregulated jirga and panchayat systems. Right now, such alternatives to regular courts are widely used but they often hand out verdicts that contravene the constitution and the criminal code. The question is especially important in an environment where lawyers and judges frequently allow cases to linger for years at the expense of litigants because they do not turn up for hearings or do not hear the evidence at the right time. Certainly, in a country where thousands of cases remain to be heard, this could be one solution to the legal problems we face.

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Man `tortured to death` by in-laws – 18 Jul 2022

NAROWAL: A man, along with his sons, allegedly tortured his estranged son-in-law to death after inviting him to his house on the pretext of reconciliation with him in Chitti Sheikhan, Sialkot, on Sunday.

Complainant ljaz told police that his brother Ayaz Ahsan (35), a resident of Shahzad village of Pasrur tehsil, got married to Humaira Shaheen, of Chitti Sheikhan area of Sialkot, 10 years ago.

He said that some three months ago, Humaira quarreled with her husband and went to her parents` house. However, elders of both families intervened and got the husband and wife reconciled, after which Humaira returned to her in-laws` house.

He said that a few days ago, the couple quarreled again and Humaira went to her parents` house.

He said on Sunday Humaira`s father Ghulam Mustafa invited his son-in-law to his house in Chitti Sheikhan on the pretext of reconciliation with his daughter.

When Ayaz arrived their, Mustafa and his sons allegedly attacked him and tortured him to death. The suspects fled the scene after the murder. On the complaint of ljaz, Moradpur police registered a FIR against Ghulam Mustafa, Huamira and her brothers Abrar, Shahbaz and Abdullah. Correspondent

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Harasser held after video shared on IGP`s Twitter handle – 18 Jul 2022

BAHAWALNAGAR: A motorcyclist who had harassed a woman travelling in a rickshaw on a city road on Saturday, was arrested by A-Division police on Sunday af ter the victim shared a video clip of the incident on the Twitter handle of Punjab inspector general of police (IGP).

The woman, Batool Ali, while sharing the video clip of the harassment incident, wrote on Twitter that she was travelling in a rickshaw near the local City Girl`s High School when a masked man riding a motorcycle started harassing her and making obscene gestures.

following the post by the woman, the district police swung into action, arrested the suspect and registered a case under section3540f thePakistan Penal Code (PPC).According to the FIR registered by the A-Division police on the complaint of Assistant Su b-In spe ctor Muhammad Arif, Shahid Mehmood of Pakpattan, presently residing in Fatehkut locality of Bahawalnagar, harassed a woman travelling in a rickshaw by making obscene gestures. The complainant said the suspect should be punished because he had violated the honour of the woman by such a shameful act.

District police spokesperson Shehzad Ishfaq said the victim recorded the video of the act on her mobile phone and shared it on IGPs Twitter handle.

He said the suspect, who had fled the scene af ter the incident, went in hiding in the border area.

He said a police team, on the orders of the DPO, tracedthesuspectthrough his mobile phone location and arrested him.

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Minor girl found dead in Peshawar – 18 Jul 2022

PESHAWAR: Body of an eight-year-old girl was found dumped near a mosque in Kalibari area of Peshawar Saddar on Sunday.

An official at the West Cantonment police station said that they had taken the body to Khyber Medical College for autopsy.

He said after the autopsy report they could confirm whether the child was assaulted before being killed.

The girl’s father told the police that his daughter had gone to give lunch to her grandfather at his shop, but did not return home.

He said they started search for her at residences of their relatives and in the market but could not trace her. Later, he said they received information that her body was dumped in front of Kalibari Temple near a mosque.

The girl’s father said the child was strangulated and also carried marks of violence on her body.

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Three teenagers among four raped in Khurrianwala – 18 Jul 2022

Suspects entered a house in Razaabad and kidnapped a teenage girl

Three teenagers and a woman were raped in Khurrianwala. The accused who allegedly raped the 14-year-old boy had also made a video of their immoral activities.

Rakhal Bibi filed a case with the police in which she stated that accused Nadeem Masih, an acquaintance of hers, allegedly raped her fourteen-year-old daughter by taking her to a fish farm when he had found her alone in the house.

Police said three accused, including Hanan, entered a house in Razaabad, kidnapped a teenage girl at gunpoint, took her to their hideout where Hanan allegedly raped the teenager while his two companions kept watch. According to police, accused Asim and others kidnapped a woman in 58 GB when the latter had gone out of home to buy some foodstuff.

The accused took the victim to an unknown place where Asim allegedly raped her. In yet another incident, police said that a fourteen-year-old boy was kidnapped from 253 RB, Samandari Road, by three people who took him to an unknown place where they gang-raped him and blackmailed him by making a video.

Police registered cases against the accused and started searching for them. Sexual violence unfortunately remains a common occurrence within Punjab. Earlier this month, a female bus passenger was allegedly raped by the conductor at a rest stop in Rajanpur. The bus was headed from Bhakkar to Karachi.

The 30-year-old victim, who was travelling alone, disembarked the bus when it stops at the Sada Aihar Hotel in Rajanpur. The bus conductor forced the woman into the back seat of the bus, where he allegedly raped her. A case was registered upon the complaint of the victim, with a medical examination confirming that she had been assaulted. The accused was arrested and confessed to the crime.

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