Ever since the International Court of Justice order came out asking Pakistan to stall Kulbhushan Jadhav’s execution and provide him consular access, there has been great uproar in the media surrounding Pakistan’s legal agent Barrister Khawar Qureshi. There have been remarks and comments scrutinizing the legal counsel’s competence, experience and performance. Several prominent lawyers of Pakistan, though not authorities on international law, have criticized Pakistan’s decision to appoint him as legal counsel and to accept the ICJ’s jurisdiction on the matter. The negative media campaigns, criticism from various corners, and the unfavorable yet understandably inevitable Court order, led to certain news outlets suggesting the Government of Pakistan replace Barrister Qureshi with the incumbent Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali.

But what do we really know about Khawar Qureshi? Was he really that severely incompetent to be entrusted with a matter of such national importance? Did nepotism and patronage find its way even in matters with respect to India and the International Court, leading to an ill-conceived appointment? While these are all pertinent questions which all citizens should be asking the Government, the citizenry should make an effort to be well-informed rather than jumping on the bandwagon of baseless propaganda circulated by media houses. Ever since the ICJ decree, Barrister Khawar Qureshi has been a victim of harsh media campaigns undermining his competence and ability. While the vicious campaign might have been initiated in India, Pakistan was certainly not missing in action. It is imperative to point out that the campaign was politically charged to feed a particular propaganda, as the merits of the barrister speak for themselves.

This takes me back to my earlier question; who is Khawar Qureshi? Barrister Khawar Qureshi has the honor of possessing the prestigious tittle of Queens Counsel (QC), conferred upon the finest of barristers. He is part of Serle Court - a well-reputed barristers chambers situated in Lincolns Inn, London - possessing expertise in a variety of areas including private and public international law. Khawar Qureshi was called to the Bar in 1990 and took Silk in 2006. In 1993, he was the youngest advocate to have appeared in the ICJ, thereby proving wrong the claims that the Jadhav case was his first time before the Court. He has taught Commercial law at Cambridge University, Public International law at Kings College London and was appointed a Visiting professor of Commercial Law at the University of London in 2006. He was designated Deputy High Court Judge in 2013 and is a bencher of Middle Temple. Legal directories consistently recognize him, with Chambers and Partners in 2014 describing him as “completely what the modern barrister should be like,” and in 2008 as “who is effortlessly able to cross jurisdictions.” Moreover, in March 2008 Khawar was appointed as Head of Chambers of the first ever Barristers’ Chambers established outside the UK, the McNair Chambers in Qatar.

It was not too long ago, on October 24, 2016 to be precise, that I had the pleasure of meeting Khawar Qureshi. He was dressed in his crisp navy blue suit and red tie, which added to his air of confidence that was unmatched in the entire hall. When he spoke it was articulate and eloquent, retaining the aura that was created by his physical presence. It was at a Seminar titled “Arbitration, its Scope and Challenges in Pakistan”, held at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) School of Law, where he shared his vast experience of practicing international arbitration, representing both states and private entities. He described London as the center of most International Arbitration and in a conversation after the seminar advised me to do my Bar and practice there if I want to be well established in the field. Former Chief Justice of Pakistan Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, as well as present Justice Jawad Hassan were the other two speakers in the seminar.

In April 2017, Young International Council for Commercial Arbitration (Young ICCA) along with the law firm Clyde & Co organized a conference on International Arbitration at LUMS. The Speakers included authorities on international arbitration such as Toby Landau from Essex Chambers to other known personalities from Francis Xavier, partner at Rajah & Tan Singapore to representatives from Dechert LLP in Washinton DC and Clyde & Co in London. Barrister Khawar Qureshi was scheduled to speak at this particular event, but unfortunately was not present.

To conclude, it is fair to state that the criticism meted towards Barrister Khawer Qureshi is baseless and lacks in substance. His credentials as a well-established barrister in areas of private and public international law speak for themselves. We must understand that some orders are inevitable in nature and there is a limited role which the lawyer can play. Moreover, the ICJ being the UN’s legal organ, is not immune from the role of power politics and diplomatic muscle. When I tuned in to watch the ICJ proceedings of the Jadav case, I was delighted to see Khawar Qureshi representing Pakistan, as I felt we were in safe hands. Only recently I discovered that he had represented India, back in 2004, in an international Arbitration in the U.S.

While I am in support of scrutinising the Governments actions as that is a sign of a vibrant democracy, baseless accusations and media campaigns against the country’s legal representative to the ICJ is indeed condemnable. Here is to hoping that my personal insight into the barrister gives the public another perspective, one currently absent in the mainstream media.

 

n             The writer is a Lawyer based in Karachi.