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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Bar Councils of Punjab and Islamabad: Dens of corruption!

Asad Hussain, who studied law in the UK recounts how obtaining a legal license is riddled with corruption and useless paper work. He thinks that whole legal system is dysfunctional due to incompetency and rampant corruption and system is heading towards a failed state -unless we realize and take steps to fix it.

Enrolment as an Attorney – at – Law is considered a moment of true prestige. It is when an individual now has the “passport” to his own earnings and freedom to work. But in Pakistan, it’s not that simple -especially for foreign graduates!

Many surpass the gruesome delays and participation in minuscule formalities via their foreign training, if they have taken up a master’s degree or if they have attained certification for professional training. A bachelor’s in law (LLB) is nothing in the larger context of the legal profession. It is merely a stepping stone into what lies ahead.

The Islamabad Bar Council (IBC) has its own checks and balances in comparison to the Punjab Bar Council (PBC), in relation to the issuance of legal licenses. The IBC looks after a single district/territory whereas PBC looks after over more than 34 districts. The IBC can delay up to an unseeable amount.

Legal licences: Corruption is cheap

I was showcased a file whereby an individual had been waiting for a year and a half, as his qualifications were under scrutiny for a lower court license. Ironically it takes 2 years of lower court practice to reach the high court.

The PBC experience is as follows: It is cheaper to go underhand than the proper channels. I was approached by an individual who demanded Rs. 45,000 for both lower and high court licenses and forging of documentation thus making the job easier for me. My response was simple, and it was based on the idealism that I have a future in this profession and wish to be morally and ethically clean of any vices that will obstruct my progress.

Read more: Morality doldrums: the galling truth of Pakistan

Ever since then, I have paid much more than this amount, only for the processing of documents. This leads many to opt for a channel whereby it is cheaper and quicker. Many advocates do not come from a high socio-economic background – for them, this is the best route. If one facilitates such vices, then the problem is still with the council, as it has a responsibility to assure such lust for corruption is eradicated rather than sought.

Endless harassment for foreign law graduates in Pakistan

Foreign graduates are already bullied in this profession. The judges and other advocates wish to make a mockery of an “Englishman” in court and are hell-bent on assuring that progress for them is limited. Local graduates are upset with foreign graduates, due to the difference of 2-years in education, whereby the former takes 5 years to obtain his degree and the latter only 3.

Foreign graduates have outclassed local graduates, even with impressive grades in their overall performance in higher education. Again, the problem, thus, does not lie with the individual solely. There must be some lacking. Foreign graduates however suffer due to the fact that some of the procedures and methodology they studied are unavailable in Pakistan due to the absence of infrastructure of that very law or method.

The bar council wishes that you submit a first intimation form. This is to address that an individual is under the guidance of a senior advocate with 10 or more years of legal practice at the High Court, who shall sufficiently provide for your understanding and training of procedural technicalities and basic work ethic for dealing with clientele. This process is of 6-months, during which one has to sit the Law GAT exam, foreign graduates sit with it a Special Equivalency Exam.

Read more: The choked filters of the State of Pakistan

The verification of documents for local graduates costs anywhere from Rs. 2000 – 5000, however, foreign graduates have to pay Rs. 20,000 on top of the already Rs. 25,000 paid, as that is the cost one bears for sending an email or fax. This can be taken as a penalty or punishment for paying for fine education – the choice is yours how you wish to perceive it.

Bar Councils and HEC: incompetent and lethargic 

Along with sins foreign graduates have committed – including their parents’ income burnt to ashes due to unfavorable exchange rates – the IBCC and HEC have to issue equivalency documents for qualifications from O Levels till university. If you are lucky, they will reach you within a year.

The IBCC and HEC, again, have a set of SOP’s that they rely on and any issue that is remotely outside of the box, as was mine, they fail to approach it or create a precedent for it. A true stretch of the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach to matters, failing to understand that all is broke and all needs fixing.

Some students have entered university via interviews, entrance exams, foundation programs, etc. Some individuals don’t attend university and opt for Apprenticeships, Mohammed Ali Jinnah being the prime example of it.

Read more: Jinnah, the role model for young lawyers 

Jinnah attained no tertiary education but became the apprentice of a barrister whose chambers were in the locality of Lincoln Inn. However, all these institutes, filled with incompetent buffoons whose job description is equivalent to that of a cashier at any store, are there to assure your work is delayed, filled with fatigue, and spirit breaking.

Overall, I speak of a procedure that is still ongoing, waiting for an individual’s signature, failing to meet some random requirement or any other excuse the system can come up with.

Pakistan is a set of institutes operating on incompetent labor, with little to no chance of advancement, with requirements so trivial at times that it demoralizes, injures the spirit, and literally makes a mockery of one’s credentials. Yet, we are all taught one thing; bow your heads, like the medieval Chinese kowtow, learn to be two-faced, get your work done, and don’t make noise.

Read more: Declining performance of bureaucracy in Pakistan

Many already think that Pakistan is a failed state. Maybe we still have time to avert the D-Day. But the sooner we grasp the nature of our challenge the quicker we can work towards a remedy. Even emotions under the carpet tend to burst. Imagine a nation’s problems.

The author is a practicing lawyer in Islamabad, with his higher education successfully completed in London, UK. He tweets at @AsadAHussain1. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.