UPDATE: Alternative Dispute Resolution in Pakistan

Updated by Farah Khan

Farah Khan graduated with a law degree from Hamdard School of Law and started her practice as a criminal lawyer in Pakistan. She then obtained a master’s degree in criminology, and she is currently completing her MPhil in Criminology at the University of Karachi. She is an enrolled advocate, with a license to practice in the High Court throughout Pakistan. She has remained Special Prosecutor for National Accountability Bureau of Pakistan; she also teaches law at Hamdard School of law and Ziauddin University of Law, Politics and Governance. She is Associate Partner at Akbar, Sarki, Ali & Co and handles a wide range of litigation including both Criminal and Constitutional Law.

Published March/April 2023

(Previously updated by Salman Ravala in August/September 2010)

See the Archive Version!

1. Purpose and Scope of this Article

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a vast field. In Pakistan, it is not a new concept. In fact, dispute resolution in Pakistan is, in one form or another, as old as the country itself. Parties have presented disputes to panchayat or jirgas—committees of honorable elders of the community—to resolve them for years. This type of dispute resolution has been most often associated with marital and other family matters. However, the position of the customary panchayat or jirgas has become controversial in recent years as members of the panchayat or jirgas have announced controversial judgments pertaining to rape and murder offences. Peers of the panchayat and jirgas have misused their powers and pressured rape victims to marry the accused, and in some cases, they have allowed minor girls from the family of the accused of murder to be married into the family of deceased.

The focus of this article is on ADR related to commercial activities in Pakistan. Even within commercial dispute resolution, this article focuses primarily on international investment and trade disputes, with a focus on arbitration.

This article is intended as a basic research tool for individuals and organizations wishing to gather information on the topic within the parameters. You will find that this article takes you through various sources that provide a wide perspective on the topic. Many of the sources laid out may lead you to additional avenues of information, allowing you to access detailed information specific to your needs.

As indicated in the table of contents, the article incorporates government documents and websites, legal journals and articles, commercial and specific search engines, news sources books, databases, as well as other research articles. The length of explanation under each research tool should not be an indicator of its relevance. Depending on how specific you may want to be, each source has its advantages and drawbacks. Moreover, this is only a beginning - a snapshot - of the tools that are available for your use.

Most ADR takes place through established organizations and centers; therefore, a good proportion of information presented in this article was obtained via sources found on the Internet. Information gathered via the Internet may not always be reliable and authoritative. In this article, all information gathered through commercial search engines like Yahoo and Google was verified for accuracy. If you will be using commercial search engines, you are encouraged to verify the information you obtain by other means as well.

ADR refers to the different ways to resolve disputes without a trial. Common ADR processes include mediation, arbitration, and neutral evaluation. These processes are confidential, less formal, and less stressful. ADR is saving money and speeds settlements. In mediation, parties plan a significant role in resolving their own disputes, which results in creative solutions, longer-lasting outcomes, greater satisfaction, and improved relationships. See the description of the processes below.

Arbitration: An arbitrator is a neutral person, who hears argument from both sides and makes the decision. It is less formal, and the rules of evidence are lenient. In a binding process there is no right to appeal, however in a non-binding, if the final decision is not accepted the case is taken to trial.

Collaborative Law: This is a problem-solving process. It’s a way to end marriage and restructure families in a less stressful way and without the expense for litigation. These are founded on three principles: 1) pledge not to litigate in disputes in court; 2) Honest and prompt exchange od relevant information without formal discovery; 3) Find solutions with ease for both parties and their children.

Mediation: Mediator must be a neutral person that helps the parties reach a mutual resolution to the dispute. They help communicate the arguments to solve the dispute themselves.

Neutral evaluation: Indifferent person, who has knowledge of the matter to hear the abbreviated arguments, acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of each party and promotes settlement.

Parenting coordination: This is a child focused process by which trained mental health professional called PCs assist high-conflict parents to carry out their parenting plan. This person helps parents resolve conflicts regarding their children, to promote healthy and meaningful parent-child relationships.

Restorative Justice: A process to address an incident of harm, in which stakeholders identifies the impact and obligations, to create an action plan to move forward.

Settlement conferencing: This conference is where a judge or their representative meets with parties and attorneys to try to settle the dispute without trial. The Parties and not inclusive in this process to narrow the disputes.

Special Master: A person to carry out action on the court’s behalf, including overseeing discovery issues, conferencing cases, overseeing post-judgement activity.

Summary of Jury Trials: A shortened version of the dispute is presented to the jury. The jury makes an advisory decision unless told a binding decision is requested. This group gives a potential verdict of the case were to go to trial.

More information on the process and procedure of ADR can be found on the NY Courts website. In any event, this beginner’s article is one of the very few, if not the only one, on the subject of ADR in Pakistan. I hope you find it useful. Good luck in your research endeavors!

2. The Setting: Pakistan

With close to 60 years of independence, the legal structure of Pakistan is based on an adaptation of the British legal system. Researching the Laws of Pakistan article sheds light on the changes in the legal landscape of Pakistan in different times. The concept of ADR, however, has always existed in Pakistan and was exercised in the tribal and rural areas under the name of panchayats or council of elders or jirgas. The traditional setup of ADR, i.e., panchayats or jirgas, has existed in different parts of Pakistan under different ethnicities. These forums were used more often for resolving family disputes and were competent to deal with punishments of minor offences. An article on ADR in LEAP explains in detail how traditional setup of ADR has been used in Pakistan as low cost and informal legal system for resolving disputes between parties.

However, ADR can also pose challenges, according to the Asia Foundation These traditional methods can be captured by power elites against the vulnerable, and lack quality control mechanisms, such as ethical rules to ensure neutrality and promote the core values of mediation, including a code of conduct. To ensure that this valuable platform of law is not misused by the powerful individuals, the Government of Punjab took an initiative and the Governor promulgated The Punjab Commercial Courts Ordinance, 2021, wherein ADR process and procedure is made mandatory under Section 17. More on this is available from Courting the Law. Readers can also seek assistance from this research article authored by Supreme Court Justice Mr. Tassaduq Hussain Jillani on role of ADR in Pakistan. The research article discusses different types of ADRs, and different statutes where ADR is considered mandatory for resolution of dispute between the parties.

Secondary research sources often explain basic principles thoroughly and hence are a useful place to start your research. Sources such as the Constitution of Pakistan or various United Nations (UN) documents that follow in this paper set the stage to provide a solid foundation on the topic of this article. They will be essential to completing your research.

3.1. The Constitution of Pakistan

The text of the Constitution of Pakistan can be found on the Pakistani legislature’s website. An Urdu version of the Constitution is also available; however, it was last updated in 2015, and the latest amendments are still not available. The law firm of Zain Sheikh & Associates, a private, non-governmental entity, also hosts the Constitution. This website includes links to the text of the Constitution of Pakistan, various Presidential Orders, and amendments. This website is very useful because it lists various updates, as Pakistan’s Constitution has been amended many times, including, most recently in September 2018. In-print copies of the Constitution can be found in either Constitutions of the Countries of the World, A Series of Updated Tests, Constitutional Chronologies, and Annotated Bibliographies, Edited by Albert P. Blaustein and Gisbert Flanz and Published by Oceana Publications, Inc. or Constitutions of Nations, edited by Amos Peasless and Revised by Dorothy Xydis by Martinus Nijhoff. A Legal Guide to Pakistan can be a useful research article to know more about the legal landscape of Pakistan.

Although no explicit mention of ADR is mentioned in the Constitution of Pakistan, a reference to commercial and financial activities can be pinpointed in the Constitution, which may, however, lead implicitly, to a view that Pakistan practices certain methods of ADR. A quick review of the Constitution reveals that Articles 153-154 deal with the Council of Common Interest, Article 156 deals with the National Economic Council, Article 160 deals with the National Finance Commission, and Article 184 of the Constitution gives rise to original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court of Pakistan in “any dispute between any two or more Governments.” (The term “Governments” in Article 184 is defined as both federal and provincial governments.)

Note to researcher: Given that the Constitution of Pakistan has been amended numerous times, including as recently as September 2018, it is best to use commercial search engines to find the current, most up-to-date Constitution, with all the amendments. You may consult the Constitute Project (open access), the government website of Pakistan (i.e., The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, as modified up to February 28, 2012), or a subscription database HeinOnline – World Constitutions, which includes the current and former versions of a jurisdiction’s constitutions.

3.2. International Treaties and Conventions

The website for the Pakistani Mission to the UN outlines trade organizations and treaties that Pakistan is a member of. These include, the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), and World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

Specifically, with regards to ADR, a researcher can use these international trade organizations that Pakistan is a member of to find detailed information on ADR in Pakistan. This is because most trade organizations have arbitration and other ADR rules. The website for Mughal Barristers, a Pakistani law firm, lists trade agreements, relative to ADR, that Pakistan has signed. As per the website, Pakistan has signed and ratified the Convention establishing the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). It has also signed the 1958 New York Convention for the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. The Pakistan Bussiness Counsel has the document of Pakistan US Bilateral Trade Agreement. Another reputed law firm in Pakistan has published an insightful article on the subject of Arbitration laws in Pakistan.

International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID): Pakistan is a member of ICSID. ICSID is also an institution of the World Bank that “provides facilities for conciliation and arbitration of international investment disputes.” Once again, given that this is the official website for ICSID, you may find this website with a large volume of information, some of which may be unnecessary and hard to filter through. Thus, a general overview of ICSID may be necessary. For this, you can use Wikipedia. Simply type in “ICSID” in the search box at the Wikipedia website.

One can find general information on ICSID by clicking on the “About ICSID” link on the ICSID website. ICSID was formed via the ICSID Convention, also known as the Washington Convention. ICSID is a “multilateral treaty formulated by the Executive Directors of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank). It was opened for signature on March 18, 1965 and entered into force on October 14, 1966.” Today, ICSID is a leading international arbitration institution. Comprehensive information regarding ADR, including, most specifically about arbitration, is available on the ICSID website as ICSID is an institution, whose primary purpose is to resolve international investment disputes by using ADR methods.

As stated above, foreign direct investment in Pakistan is large. Given that Pakistan has signed and ratified the Washington Convention establishing ICSID, it has agreed to all its terms. To research detailed information pertaining to Pakistan and ICSID, click on the “Member States” link on the left-hand side pane visible on the ICSID homepage. Then click on “List of Contracting States” and the webpage opens a link that houses a portable data file (PDF) version list of contracting states, detailing the date of signature and ratification. Pakistan was one of the first countries to sign the Washington Convention on July 6, 1965. It deposited its ratification of the Convention on September 15, 1966, and the Convention went into force one month after, in October 1996. Alternatively, use this direct link to the ICSID Pakistan webpage.

United Nation’s Conventions: Pakistan has also signed and ratified the New York Convention. The New York Convention is also known as the New York Convention of 1958 and the Convention for the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. The official website for the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) houses the full text of the New York Convention. To find out more about UNCITRAL, you can search the UNCITRAL website for general information about the organization. The website has a large volume of information; nonetheless, it is organized very well.

UNCITRAL is a Commission of the UN established by the General Assembly on 17 December 1966 by Resolution 2205 (XXI). Thus, although the New York Convention was adopted in 1958, the Commission’s essential mandate is to promote the Convention further. Furthermore, UNCITRAL serves as the International Trade Law Branch of the Office of Legal Affairs of the UN. Hence, UNCITRAL, under the umbrella of the UN, is the biggest organizational body to prepare rules relating to ADR, namely arbitration and conciliation. To find this information, you can visit the UN website and then click on link titled “International Law” on the top of the website. Once on the international law webpage, you can either click directly on the “Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)” link or click on the link titled, “Office of Legal Affairs.” Once on the Office of Legal Affairs webpage, you can click on the link titled “ITLD – International Trade Law Division”, which leads you to verify that UNCITRAL is generally the International Trade Law Division of the United Nations. Clicking on the “Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)” link, will of course, take you to the UNCITRAL homepage.

To confirm the involvement of the General Assembly in establishing UNCITRAL, you can quickly search for either Resolution 2205 on the Internet or visit the UN website. Once on the UN website, you can click on the preferred language. Then you can click on the “Documents, Maps” link on the top pane of the website. This link will direct you to the document center of the United Nations. Once at the document center, you can click on “Resolutions” as you will be confirming the source for UNCITRAL per Resolution 2205, as indicated on the UNCITRAL website. After you have arrived on the resolutions link, you can then simply click on the year “21st-1966” link. You will know to click on that specific link because Resolution 2205 came into effect in 1966, as indicated on the UNICTRAL website. After clicking on the link, “21st-1966” you can simply look for Resolution 2205. This will confirm the facts on the UNCITRAL website as accurate.

Pakistan has signed and ratified the New York Convention. The specific dates are available on the UNCITRAL website. Once on the UNCITRAL website, you can click on “UNCITRAL Texts & Status” link and then on the “International Commercial Arbitration & Conciliation” link. The International Commercial Arbitration & Conciliation link brings forth various documents including the New York Convention. You can click on the link for the New York Convention, titled, “1958 - Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards - the "New York" Convention” and then click on the “Status” link. As the document indicates, Pakistan was once again, one of the earliest signatory members to an ADR related document, here the New York Convention. It signed the Convention on December 30, 1958, and ratified it on July 14, 2005, bringing it into force three months later in October 2005.

Although the New York Convention is, just one treaty related to ADR that Pakistan has signed and ratified, there are various other ADR related Conventions by the UN that Pakistan has overlooked in implementing. These include, but are not limited to, 1) Convention on the Limited Period in International Sales of Goods; 2) UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG); 3) UN Convention on Independent Guarantee and Stand-by-Letters of Credit; 4) UN Convention on International Bills of Exchange and International Promissory Notes; 5) UN Convention on Assignment of Receivables in International Trade; 6) UN Convention on Carriage of Goods by Sea. You can access the color-coded database maintained by LegaCarta, the International Trade Centre’s database to gather this information. A link to the database is available on the UNCITRAL website under the New York Convention Page. You can access the New York Convention page from the directions given above under the New York Convention Section. Once inside the color-coded database, you can pick Pakistan, or any other country being researched, and the database will show which UN Convention related to ADR the specific country has signed and ratified.

Searching for treaties or Conventions at an international organization level can prove to be tedious and lengthy. Given that most of the treaties or Conventions at an international level will be popular, a simple search on a commercial search engine or Wikipedia with the generic name of the document would give you good background information. However, as a note of caution, you are urged to double check information by verifying it with official websites of organizations promoting a certain treaty or Convention. With regards to the UN, fortunately, it has developed a special research engine that can assist with this task. Information regarding ADR can be found on various sections of the research engine, the World Bank Portal is useful for ADR related information applicable internationally, International ADR Guide is another helpful portal for researching on ADR related topics and lastly for examining ADR in the international business domain. but most precisely on the International Law section.

Domestic (Pakistani) Laws and Rules: In Pakistan that are following laws, that have provisions about the Alternative Dispute Resolutions: constitution of Pakistan, 1973 (153-155), ADR provisions of the code of the Criminal Procedure, 1098, 89-A of the civil Procedure Code, 1908.

The Provisions on ADR in Pakistan:

The civil procedure code of 1908 contains rules relating to dispute resolution and makes mediation a contemporary subject:

Other Acts that encourage the use of ADR in Pakistan

The National Assembly of Pakistan provides all these acts/laws/statutes. Other than this Printing Corporation of Pakistan is the official portal for all the official Gazettes and notification. The search engine on the website is user friendly.

Print Sources provide the most comprehensive information on a subject matter. Treatises provide the most comprehensive A – Z kind of information and books usually discuss all relevant matters pertaining to the subject in one collection. Articles are also a good source because they are published and therefore provide both current and well-researched information. Below are some treatises, books, and articles. You may also find useful in searching for print sources, an online catalog, WorldCat, which houses over 49 million records representing books, journals, dissertations, audio-visual materials, and manuscripts in repositories worldwide.

4.1. Treatises and Books on ADR in Pakistan

Titles for treatises on ADR can be found using the Internet or a local library. If you use a local library, give preference to a law library. Commercial ADR is new in Pakistan. Consequentially, there exist only a limited number of treatises and books on the topic. The following is a selective list of treatises and books that can help you get started.

4.2. Scholarly Articles on ADR in Pakistan

Although the number of treatises and books on ADR in Pakistan is limited, there is no shortage of articles written about ADR in Pakistan. Scholarly articles can be best found as “Law Review” or “Journal” articles. Scholarly articles are a good secondary source, which you must always consult. They are often well researched and provide citations to other important sources in the field. Research for articles can be done either at a local law library, in the “Law Review” or “Journal” section, or on computerized legal research databases like WestLaw and LexisNexis. The following is a selective list of articles that can help you get started.

5. ADR Websites

Research on a foreign country and its domestic procedures and laws is always difficult. However, given the rapid growth of information technology, much of the information is now available on the Internet at various websites. Of course, because there is a large volume of information available on the Internet, you must be attentive in gathering the most current and accurate information. Old or inaccurate information is vastly available, especially when it comes to subjects or countries that are less frequently researched. With regards to ADR, countless number of websites exists. Below is a selective list of websites that provide information on ADR generally, and ADR in Pakistan, specifically.

Government of Pakistan: The Government of Pakistan website, like the website of any national government, will host volumes of information. General information on how domestic legislation is enacted and what ministry is responsible for ADR in the country can also be found here.

Parliament of Pakistan: The legislative bodies in Pakistan make all the laws relating to ADR. Therefore, you might find it useful to consult Parliament’s websites.

Article 50 of the Constitution of Pakistan stipulates a Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) of Pakistan consisting of the President and two Houses to be known respectively as the National Assembly and the Senate. The Constitution provides for a Parliamentary form of Government with a bicameral legislature.

Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan: The Law & Justice Commission of Pakistan is an organization of the federal government with the primary function of reform of statues and law, including their modernization, unification, and codification. The organization sponsored an event, the National Judicial Conference, which addressed issues relating to ADR. The Commission website has information on the conference as well.

American Arbitration Association (AAA): The AAA is an association that provides administrative services related to ADR. AAA provides its services internationally via its ADR division. The website’s international section has information on both all forms of international ADR methods. This website hosts various articles, research data, rules, and other relevant information.

American Bar Association (ABA): The ABA is an association of members either already licensed to practice law in the United States or individuals at law schools pursuing a career in law. The AAA has a section for dispute resolution. The website has a wealth of information related to ADR including ADR related publications, resources, and a list of upcoming events.

International Arbitration is a useful portal to find international arbitrators; the data base contains many arbitrators expert in their field. The portal also consists of some of the laws pertaining to arbitration.

International Bar Association (IBA): The IBA is an association of law societies, bar associations and individual lawyers engaged in international practice. It has a section for dispute resolution. The website has many resources including articles, rules, calendar of events, and other relevant items related to ADR.

International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA): ICCA is an organization that promotes international arbitration and other forms of ADR. This is an excellent source on arbitration as it provides you with a directory of arbitration websites and other information related to arbitration available on the Internet. This website also has a separate section for specific countries. Thus, information on arbitration laws and arbitration centres in Pakistan can easily be accessed through this website as well. Once on the website, you can click on “Directory of Arbitration Websites” from the menu.

Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services (JAMS): JAMS provides ADR services at an international level. The website includes ADR tips, articles, and other relevant resources.

The ADR Pakistan Alliance: ADR Pakistan Alliance is a newly formed web-based association of ADR professionals in Pakistan. It provides ADR experts to businesses, law firms, international organizations, NGOs, and others for training and dispute resolution purposes. As of the date of this research article, this website looks new, as some of the links on the website are non-functional. However, a researcher interested in ADR in Pakistan can contact this organization for more information.

World Directory of ADR Blogs: This global collection categorizes ADR blogs alphabetically, either by country, or by category, as well as offering resources about blogging and ADR.

International Chamber of Commerce – Pakistan (ICC Pakistan): ICC Pakistan is a consultative body to senior policy makers and provides guidelines and information, which help to facilitate legislation allowing for the development of a conducive and enabling environment for direct investments and international trade within Pakistan.

6. Law Firms in Pakistan Practicing ADR

A list of law firms in Pakistan practicing ADR is quickly availably by searching for the term, “law firms practicing ADR in Pakistan” on a commercial search engine such as Yahoo.com or Google.com. It is recommended that you conduct your own search as law firms may change names or locations. Websites, which allow you to find law firms, include Legal 500, HG-Org Firms, and Iba-net. Another good source to locate such firms would be the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory.

7. Research Guides on ADR & International Research Generally

Given that commercial ADR is a newly developing field in Pakistan, this research article is the first, most comprehensive article on the topic. However, if you can find other guides on the topic, it will be useful to consult them for cross-referencing to look for additional sources not included in this article. Below is a small list of research articles that you may find helpful.

8. News

There are various ways to acquire current and archived news about the development of ADR in Pakistan. By performing a search on commercial search engines like Yahoo.com or Google.com, you will find hundreds of results. However, for credible news, it is always better to consult specific news agencies that have gained a reputation for accurate reporting. Below is a list of news sources around the world that you may find useful. If you have access to WestLaw, LexisNexis, or other computerized legal research databases, you can also use the News feature on them. In addition, Google.com has an excellent feature called News-Alert where you can type the subject matter, here, “ADR in Pakistan”, and Google.com will automatically send you any news on the specified topic to your email address.

News Sources

* Indicates that the news source is based in Pakistan.

Related Articles to ADR in Pakistan

Many other articles are available by searching Pakistani newspaper websites. To see results, log on to a Pakistani newspaper website and search using the term, “ADR in Pakistan” or “Alternative Dispute Resolution.” Dawn News is an example of Pakistani news.

9. Term Searches

When researching, you may encounter terms or acronyms that you are not familiar with or need basic knowledge of to understand a document. For a brief explanation of such terms, you may consult the sources below.