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SDGs, reforms & citizens’ rights

Dr. Ikramul Haq & Abdul Rauf Shakoori

The global community appears optimistic and determined to transform the world by implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.  These goals are aimed at ending poverty in all its forms, eliminate hunger, ensure food security, healthy lives, equitable and quality educations, provision of modern energy, creation of employment opportunities for all, combat climate change, and offer access to justice, political rights, personal security and fundamental freedom.

The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022 has ranked the countries with reference to their overall performance in implementation of the 17 SDGs. Finland is placed at number one with overall score of 86.51, followed by Denmark and Norway with 85.63 and 82.35 respectively. The United States is at number 41 with overall score of 74.55 and Pakistan at number 125 obtaining total score of 59.34.

The world community is quite serious in implementing these goals, especially in the corporate world. Thus before establishing business relationship with any firm or vendor, they ask for their contribution related to environmental, social and governance issues. The companies are also asked about their policies for human rights, human trafficking, labour laws, business ethics, especially related to corruption and money laundering, personal data privacy and implementation strategy of all these initiatives and their progress in the form of a report. Those companies that do not maintain these standards cannot secure business from large firms. This practice is now being followed in all major destinations around the world except the Third World countries. 

Pakistan is far behind in implementing these SDGs and its performance on all these fronts is extremely pathetic. Pakistan’s justice system is continuously being ranked quite low by the World Justice Project (WJP) where backlog of cases were at their highest by end of June 2022. The number was close to 51,581 as reported on the website of Supreme Court of Pakistan. Despite having 17 judges, more than double than that of United States Supreme Court, the perpetual pendency of cases lingering in the range of over fifty thousand, is alarming.

A local English daily has reported that around 2.144 million cases are pending in the courts of Pakistan, out of which around 337,522 cases pertain to the High Courts and 156 cases in the Federal Shariat Court. The quality of justice provided is also below international standards. Even some of the decisions of the higher courts are criticised by legal experts and public at large purportedly lacking legal substance and/or based on doctrine of necessity. In our out-dated judicial system, the poor cannot get justice, languishing in jail for unspecified time, many do not even get bail in bailable offences.

Rimmel Mohydin in an article for The Amnesty International states that a justice system that causes the problem of overcrowding in the first place also stands in the way of resolving it. Similarly, Continuous interference of judiciary in Executive’s authority has badly impacted its performance as well as overall governance. Moreover, rather than interpreting laws in case of an ambiguity, judges prefer rewriting it. Judicial overreach is not only bringing bad name for the institution, but also undermining democracy which is leading to economic instability.

The objectives/targets of SDGs include providing political and civil rights. Chapter one of the 1973 Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan [“the Constitution”] guarantees inalienable fundamental rights to the citizens of Pakistan. Article 9 of the Constitution ensures security of the person and specifically states, “No person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law”. However, fulfillment of fundamental rights has become a challenge in our country. There are thousands of cases of forced disappearance reported by the various domestic and international organizations. Different media outlets reported that Commission for Inquiry of Enforced Disappearance said that it had taken up around 8,100 missing person cases. However, people believe that this figure is grossly understated as the number of unreported cases is much higher. Moreover, people have also raised concerns about the Commission’s head, Justice (retired) Javed Iqbal. He is accused of sexual harassment of the wife of a missing person during hearings of the case. According to media reports a resolution was moved against him in the Senate that the work of Commission is highly sensitive, and a person accused of sexual harassment should not be heading it.

The goal of providing education to all in Pakistan is still a far cry even after insertion of Article 25A in the Constitution. The UNICEF report states that around 22.8 million children which is close to 44% of the age group between ages 5-16 are out of school in Pakistan, Similarly, around 5 million children between ages 5-9 are not enrolled in schools, this figure doubles around 11.4 million representing adolescents out of school between ages 10-14. The report also highlights that gender disparities due to socio-economic status and geography is visible. The province of Sindh represents 52% of the poorest children, 58% girls remain out of school whereas this ratio is higher in the province of Baluchistan as 78% children remain out of school.

International community is trying to reform the world to make it a place worth living, ending hunger and poverty and adopting environment friendly measures. The community is also working to ensure transparency in dealings to end corruption and money laundering and curtailing illicit flow of funds. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in the last few years has played a very active role in introducing various steps to check movement of illicit funds. The watchdog has introduced comprehensive guidelines for beneficial ownership and has asked the member jurisdictions to implement them by 2024. This would help to unveil real ownership of offshore establishments. Similarly, regulators in developed countries are ensuring accountability within their corporate set-ups so that they adhere to SDGs and provide required facilities to their people as well as contribute to their communities.

At this time when transformation of the world is the main aim of the global community, the conventional and outmoded approach of our rulers to run the country will not bring the masses any good. We must understand that in the future our bilateral and multilateral relationships would be based on our respect towards human rights. Therefore, we must introduce structural reforms in our judicial system to ensure fundamental rights to every citizen. We should also reform our governance system ensuring accountability for violation of fundamental rights. The most important are fiscal reforms to end wastage of revenues and put the country back on the road to prosperity. These steps will not only strengthen democracy but will also revive economic stability and respect amongst world community improving our global performance indices.


Dr. Ikramul Haq, Advocate Supreme Court, specializes in constitutional, corporate, media, intellectual property, arbitration, international taxation, IT and ML/CFT related laws. He is author of many books on law, economic and political history of Pakistan, drugs, arms, terrorism and related matters. He has been studying phenomena of arms-for-drugs, narco-terrorism and global heroin economy since 1979 and authored Pakistan: From Hash to Heroin and its sequel Pakistan: From Drug-trap to Debt-trap. He studied journalism, English literature and law. He is Chief Editor of Taxation He is country editor and correspondent of International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (IBFD) and member of International Fiscal Association (IFA). He isVisiting Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and member Advisory Board and Visiting Senior Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). 

Abdul Rauf Shakoori, Advocate High Court, is a subject-matter expert on AML-CFT, Compliance, Cyber Crime and Risk Management. He has been providing AML-CFT advisory and training services to financial institutions (banks, DNFBPs, investment companies, money service businesses, insurance companies and securities), government institutions including law enforcement agencies located in North America (USA & CANADA), Middle East and Pakistan. His areas of expertise include legal, strategic planning, cross border transactions including but not limited to joint ventures (JVs), mergers & acquisitions (M&A), takeovers, privatizations, overseas expansions, USA Patriot Act, Banking Secrecy Act, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

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