The Constitution of Pakistan contains implied references to ADR, but few municipal laws of Pakistan bear explicit mention of ADR methods and mechanisms. For instance, the Criminal Procedure Code, dating back to 1898, makes stipulations for summary trials. Similarly, the Arbitration Act of 1940 has supported resolution of disputes through arbitration. The Recognition and Enforcement (arbitration agreement and foreign arbitral awards) Ordinance, 2006 recognizes and provides support to international and domestic arbitration agreements. Furthermore, ADR has been recognized expressly by the Small Claims and Minor Offences Courts Ordinance of 2002 and Sections 102-106 of the Sind/Baluchistan/North-West Frontier/Punjab (SBNP) Local Government Ordinance of 2001.
In 2017, Pakistan legislated the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act, which requires certain civil matters to be referred to mediation, if the parties agree. This law has been implemented in Punjab and is awaiting full implementation in the Federation. The statutes extend to multiple ADR mechanisms, including: arbitration mediation, conciliation and neutral evaluation. Under these laws, a matter may not be submitted to mediation, if it involves an intricate question of law or fact. In addition, the statute stipulates a resolution through mediation within 30 days and arbitration within 60 days of the submission of the dispute. ADR services are to be provided at a rate agreed upon by the parties. An extensive list of civil matters amenable to ADR mechanisms has been appended to these statutes.
The State has established thirty-six ADR centers in Punjab, Pakistan. These centers dealt with 6,812 cases within 191 days of their inception. As a result, there is a strong commitment toward integrating meditation into the legal system of Pakistan.
In the last decade, various ADR centers have been created at the national level, by private individuals, to promote ADR in Pakistan.
By Nudrat Piracha, Senior Fellow – Pakistan, Weinstein International Foundation.