Ahmer Bilal Soofi
Pakistan is a party to hundreds of bilateral and multilateral treaties. If one accounts for the numerous resolutions of inter-governmental organizations, Pakistan’s international obligations and commitments under treaties are exponentially greater in effect. This translates to well over 10,000 commitments emanating from the entire corpus of International Law. Yet only a handful of lawyers are available to the State to deal with these commitments. Contrasting this with the domestic legal regime, there are some 150,000 legal practitioners in Pakistan dealing with roughly 8,000 Federal Statutes and a similar number of Provincial ones.Considering that for the last 60 years, all the major international disputes of Pakistan have been primarily legal in nature, this is indeed a dismal state of affairs. Disputes over Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and the Durand Line are all subject to a number of bilateral and international treaties. Pakistan’s state and citizenry have frequently adopted rhetorical positions on these issues but have hardly ever evaluated or effectively articulated them from a legalistic standpoint. This becomes particularly concerning when we realize that, today, International Law serves as the language of International Relations. An equalizing factor in an otherwise unequal global dispensation. Without the requisite capacity in this field, Pakistan’s participation in the international arena will remain ‘bound in the shallows’ – one of a spectator being affected by the decisions of others.
It was this context that convinced me during my studies in International Law at the University of Cambridge that Pakistan urgently needed a think tank dedicated to International Law where all relevant issues of international law impacting Pakistan were holistically considered and extensively researched. I, therefore, established RSIL upon my return to Pakistan in 1993.
I, however, had slender idea that in the years to come, particularly after 9/11, RSIL’s work would acquire even greater significance for a country under constant international scrutiny. I am proud to say that in this context, RSIL played a vital role in assisting and guiding a variety of domestic stakeholders in the formulation of laws and policies to better enable Pakistan to fulfill its international legal obligations.
Our continued efforts to improve the domestic capacity of governmental and non-governmental bodies in International Law is beginning to bear fruit. We now witness discussions in all forms of the media on matters of International Law and what legal solutions can be found therein. With the ever-increasing reach of globalization impacting all spheres of life in Pakistan, the regional focus on CPEC related development, and the internal and external security situation, this trend will certainly gain even more significance. RSIL will undoubtedly continue to play its role in this regard by providing impartial legal analysis, and viable, sustainable solutions to the challenges we face.
At this juncture, I would also like to extend my gratitude to the young, bright and motivated lawyers who helped me create RSIL. Their selfless efforts have led to the organizations immense success. Some have moved on in their careers while others still remain with us, but even those who have moved on continue to retain their interest and connectivity with RSIL. I trust that this exceptional team shall continue to take RSIL’s vision forward with the same vigor and sense of duty.