Introducing ADR Mechanisms in Pakistan

Written by: Barrister Afnan Saiduzzaman Siddiqui 

In 2007, the foundation stone was laid to institutionalize Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods in Pakistan, which would be a step ahead and different to the conventional arbitration. Arbitration in Pakistan is carried out under the Arbitration Act 1940. Mediation and other new techniques were not practiced in Pakistan formerly, until the introduction of the National Centre for Dispute Resolution (NCDR) (formerly known as the Karachi  Centre for Dispute Resolution – KCDR).

The Supreme Court of Pakistan and the High Court of Sindh had given the mandate to the former Chief Justice of Pakistan, (Late) Mr. Saiduzzaman Siddiqui, to establish a centre which could impart the training of mediation and conduct cases which were referred to NCDR.

NCDR was established in Karachi with the initial financial assistance of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), in 2009, while commencing autonomous operations, making it the first ever institutionalized ADR service provider in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

The organization has executed numerous Memorandums of Understanding  (MOUs) with private and government sector organizations like Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan, Trade Dispute Resolution Organization, ICAP, FPCCI, KCCI and iTOTAM.

NCDR provides primarily mediation and arbitration services to disputing parties, including parties which are entangled in commercial and civil disputes either pending adjudication in Courts, or to address disputes emerging at the onset of a business relation amongst themselves.

NCDR is working as a non-profit organization supervised by a Board of Governors. The Board comprises of eminent personalities  representing the entrepreneurial, banking, financial / accounting and legal professions in Pakistan.

It is a reality that individuals / businesses / entities are regularly faced with disputes with their counter parties, where such disputes end up getting caught in prolonged, tedious and expensive litigation procedures for Court driven resolution of disputes. Due to this reason, parties are currently faced with immense difficulties with a huge backlog of cases in Courts resulting in an unwarranted delay in resolution of disputes. It takes several years before a verdict is passed and this period is further extended when the decisions are challenged in the superior Courts. Thus valuable time, assets, and resources are wasted in pursuing a case in Court.

Should the parties decide to settle a dispute out of Court, negotiations without a qualified mediator (which is another form of ADR) sets back the progress, which can be avoided if a qualified mediator is involved in the dispute resolution process.

Having a qualified mediator involved in the dispute resolution process ensures the saving of time and effort, and achieves a win-win situation with confidentiality as the corner-stone for the disputing parties. Disputes can arise at any step and can be of any sort, miniscual in nature or collosal, to the extent of running a company bankrupt.

Nowadays, in the developed world, progress is marked by a calculated step towards moving away from conventional Court driven resolution of disputes and adopting ADR mechanisms as a means of going forward; which saves both time and cost. NCDR is, thus, contributing to the social fabric of the Pakistani society by providing people with a speedy and cost-effective resolution of their disputes through a time-tested method of mediation, which is also strongly backed in the Islamic religious teachings known as “Saalisy”, with the help of a “saalis” (mediator).

We, at the NCDR, offer mediation, conciliation and arbitration; as institutionalized ADR mechanisms for out-of-Court settlement of disputes, as provided under Section 89-A and Order X Rule 1A of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. The recent introduction of the ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) Act 2017, which was passed by the National Assembly, was originally authored by the team at NCDR, under the supervision of Justice Siddiqui, as proof of constant efforts that NCDR had been working on since 2014.

The Mediation Bill was introduced as a “Private Member Bill” in 2014; through the lobbying conducted by Justice Siddiqui, which finally got enacted in 2017. Pursuant to the current Bill, NCDR provides the facility to parties to effectively mediate their cases and settle commercial, corporate, family, civil or recovery cases / disputes, which either are pending in Courts, or which are likely to arise failing initial negotiations between concerned parties.

The organization has, on its rolls, services of internationally accredited mediators who have been trained by foreign experts, which they have refined in accordance with the requirements of Pakistan. These mediators facilitate dialogue through their expertise and as neutral third party individuals, encourage the disputants to reach a settlement which is agreeable to all concerned. Professionalism, efficacy and confidentiality in the process are significant advantages of mediation. Participation in the process is without prejudice to the legal rights of the parties involved. Any settlement reached would get legal sanctity from the Court(s) concerned.

NCDR’s journey has been tremendous, over a period of seventeen (17) years. Since its inception, the organization has resolved disputes worth US Dollars 37.81 Million.

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