Legal education reform

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar’s plan to enhance the quality of legal education imparted by law colleges and affiliating universities is a laudable step. Especially promising sounds his announcement to emphasise human-rights issues, an area that is paid minimal attention and is responsible for millions of children out of school and millions more people without access to quality healthcare. If these newly revealed plans for 2018 are executed and universities refrain from granting affiliation to substandard law colleges, some massive change could be under way in the legal landscape of Pakistan.

Too few lawyers earnestly handle human-rights issues. Several recent high-profile cases have demonstrated that the moral compass of the current existing law body is broken. The controversial case of Mumtaz Qadri, a policeman who murdered human-rights supporter and governor Salmaan Taseer, comes quickly to the fore. Despite penetrating the former governor with 28 bullets and confessing to killing him, it took four years for his death sentence appeal to be denied. Legal education needs a massive transformation with grave emphasis on ethics and social justice. It is also time for the NTS to be scrutinised for its faulty systems.

Given the history of lawyers frequently leaning towards the side opposite to human rights, law programmes must review their admission criteria and ascertain that the students they admit will become beacons for social justice. Although two men of different socioeconomic statuses may pray and perform pilgrimage beside each other on equal footing with only levels of faith separating them, the classist system is woven into the permanent social fabric of our culture. It requires educated men with power and will to change this damning reality. With legal education reform in the pipeline, more weight needs to be thrown behind the CJP’s directives with support mustered from other relevant quarters, including the HEC and provincial education departments.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 21st, 2018.

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