Legal Aid & Justice Authority (L.A.J.A) Determined to Provide Legal Help and Justice to the Needy : Dr Raheem Awan

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Tazeen Akhtar

Director General Legal Aid & Justice Authority (L.A.J.A), Ministry of Human Rights, Dr. Muhammad Raheem Awan has shared that the public can approach the Authority at State Life Building , Floor No 10, Blue Area Islamabad through postal and online venue if legal help is required or justice is not delivered.

Editor Pakistan in the World Mr. Tazeen Akhtar and Deputy Editor Daily Azkaar Mr. Raja Liaqat visited the Authority on 08 Feb and had discussion with DG in detail about the working of the Authority.

LAJA was established only one year ago by Tehreek e Insaf government to prove that the party sincerely wants to provide ” Insaf” to the needy. Insaf / Justice is not only the title but basic principle of the party as well. LAJA is part of Prime Minister’s performance initiative in which the Authorities, departments, ministries have to present before the Prime Minister what they delivered in last 3 months.

Mr. Awan is seasoned legal expert who have served in Law and Justice Commission as Secretary in the past. It this position, he prepared a research report that helped Pakistan escape falling in black list of FATF. Under his supervision, the Law and Justice Commission also provided the policies on illegal transplant of human organs, transgenders, education and water security. Renown Dam initiative was also designed there. Establishment of Speedy Courts, Model Courts, Gender Violence Courts, Special Courts, Tribunals, formulation of Reforms to curb Firs at Margallah , Reforms in Police are the credits of Law and Justice Commission when Mr. Awan was its head as Secretary.

LAJA was established by Act of Parliament in Sep 2020. Mr. Awan took charge in July 2021. Since then, 7 months were without salaries and funds. He prepared the basic financial and funds rules of the Authority 3 months ago. The rules are under consideration in the Ministry of Human Rights. Procedure is , the ministry will refer them to cabinet for approval. The Authority staff has received their first salary last month.

L.A.J.A Board of Governors consists of Minister (Shereen Mazari) Chairperson, Secretary HRM, Attorney General, Advocate Generals of all federating units, DG and 2 Parliamentarians as members.

The Authority is to help the government in policy making, advising, upholding the right to fair trial for the public. “Large number of prisoners lying in jails for years even after serving their sentence because they are unable to pay little amounts of fines like 5 to 10 thousand only,” DG said.

To a question that the public does not know about LAJA. The DG said that we have suggested to our ministry H.R to hold a series of seminars for public awareness but we do not have budget for that. “We are looking forward to Ministry of H.R to send the summary of rules to cabinet and to Ministry of Finance to release the required funds,”. Mr. Awan replied.

DG said that at present the Authority has no sub office in Provinces. We are in contact with advocate generals as they are members of BoG. We have suggested that Prosecutor Generals may also be appointed the members because our work mostly belongs to the P.Gs rather than A.Gs.

“LAJA is in touch with district bars to get nominations of lawyers who are interested in working with the Authority. This network will take dispensation of justice to gross root level. Certainly, the lawyers will be paid for their service. We have sent a project proposal to be included in PSDP,”. Dr. Awan answered.

Director General is optimistic about Online settlement that is another way of resolving the disputes out of courts.

“LAJA is determined to exploit it in the best interest of all parties of the case. Going into litigations cost both parties in the shape of time, money and above all , the repute. For example, if a customer has complain against a company and he moves the court , both will have to bear the trilateral cost mentioned above. Online settlement will provide them a chance to save time, money and repute,”. Dr Awan explained.

“We have reconciliation councils at Police Stations and local governments level as well. LAJA looks forward to build a working relationship with these councils to take benefit from already present structure. LAJA will further improve their performance through capacity building,”. Dr. Awan continued.

To another question about the sensitization of lower judiciary and under training law officers about how to dispose of the cases as early as possible, the Director General replied that LAJA is building a contact with the Federal Judicial Academy. This will keep the academy in picture on the resolution of disputes our of the court.

Here it is worth noting, as is our observation as media practitioners  that PTI government never needed performance so badly than now when opposition is all set to bring the public on roads and give a tough time to government in the parliament as well. But the departments, authorities, commissions , set up for performance are not provided with required funds. Salaries of staff are pending for last many months and years. 6 months in case of LAJA and 2 years in case of National Commission for Rights of Children, that is in the same ministry of Human Rights.

Question rises that where is the problem? In HR Ministry ? that the ministry can not get from the government what is needed to run the performance oriented organizations or ministry of Finance is creating hurdles? This is a matter that should be seen by the Prime Minister himself directly.

Note : Special thanks to Ms Samra Ather Kakakhel for very profashionally coordinating and facilitating the meeting and discussion with Director General.

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