Pakistan is a party to hundreds of multilateral and bilateral treaties. If one accounts for the numerous resolutions of multilateral organizations, Pakistan’s international obligations and commitments under treaties are exponentially greater in effect. Pakistan has over 10,000 treaty-based commitments. Pakistan has around 8000 Federal Statutes and over 1,50,000 legal practitioners dealing with these set of legislations. On the other hand, there are a handful of lawyers dealing with the load of over 10,000 treaty-based commitments in Pakistan. In contrast to two lawyers working in the legal wing of the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, much smaller Gulf States have between 20 – 40 lawyers working in the related ministries on international law.
Considering the fact that for the last 60 years, all major disputes of Pakistan are primarily legal in nature, this is a dismal state of affairs. Disputes over Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and the Durand line are a subject of a number of international and bilateral treaties. The population and the government of Pakistan have frequently taken rhetorical positions on these issues but have hardly ever evaluated them from a legalistic standpoint.
It was in this context that I felt convinced during my studies at Cambridge University, while specializing in international law, that Pakistan needs a think tank on international law, where all relevant issues of international law impacting Pakistan had to be holistically considered and extensively researched. I, therefore, upon my return set up RSIL.
Little did I know that in the years to come, particularly after 9/11, the work of RSIL would become more significant for a country under international scrutiny. RSIL thus actively assisted and guided several stakeholders in the formulation of policies in order for Pakistan to fulfill its international legal obligations.Under intense political pressure, the Parliament in Pakistan faces yet another challenge of implementing international obligations through domestic law that is ordinarily termed as “implementing” legislation. At least 3000 Pakistani Federal Statutes are in one way or another linked to international treaties. Pakistan needs the capacity to develop specialization in drafting implementing legislation.
Therefore, RSIL is advocating for the creation of a system of support which would be available to the Parliamentarians who can utilize this system by engaging a specialized group of RSIL trained experts for the purpose of promulgating legislations linked to international treaties. RSIL is also advocating systematic capacity building of international law in Pakistan amongst government officials, political parties and religious scholars.
At this juncture, I would also like to extend my gratitude to the young, bright and motivated lawyers who helped me create RSIL. Some have moved on while other are still here, but even those who have moved on continue to retain their interest and connectivity with RSIL. I trust that this motivated team shall continue to take the vision of RSIL forward.
Ahmer Bilal Soofi