Several OPEN Members Disappointed by Ex-CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry’s Presentation
By Riaz Haq
I attended the session featuring Ex-Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry at OPEN Forum 2014 at the Santa Clara Marriott on May 10, 2014.
It was moderated by Pakistani-American attorney Riaz Karamali, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in the Corporate & Securities – Technology practice in Silicon Valley and San Francisco offices.
After a brief intro by Karamali, the former chief justice rose to read from a sheet of paper reciting the Pakistani laws governing business. This continued for about 20-25 minutes until the moderator interrupted the chief justice asking him to defer more details to questions and answers.
The first question the moderator asked was regarding concerns about intellectual property protection in Pakistan.
Mr Chaudhry said Pakistani laws protect intellectual property and if anyone had an issue they should go to court.
Former attorney general Munir Malik understood the crux of the question and agreed that there have been instances of lax enforcement but police has acted when asked to stop sales of pirated software and entertainment.
After asking some more general questions about rule of law, the moderator asked him why is it that Pakistan and most other countries in Asia have found that authoritarian governments, including military dictatorships, are seen as more business and investment friendly than democratic governments.
The chief justice was aided in his response by ex-attorney general Munir Malik. Both contested the premise of the question and said rule of law and democracy are more important in the long run. Malik added it was crony capitalism that thrived under dictators.
Then the moderator turned to the audience's questions, including my question about the impact of Mr Chaudhry's decisions on the dramatic drop in privatization deals and fall of foreign direct investment from $5.2 billion in 2007 to less than a billion dollars in recent years.
Mr Chaudhry responded that the steel mill decision was not his alone. It was a unanimous verdict by a nine-judge panel that rolled back the privatization deal for lack of transparency.
As expected, Mr Malik chimed in to restate his position that the necessity for "rule of law" outweighs any short-term impact it may have on the economy and investment. Malik also mentioned Reko Diq as another deal that was a "give away" and set aside by Mr Chaudhry's court.
After the session, Riaz Karamali, the moderator, told me that he had read my post on the subject as part of his preparation for the session.
Several attendees told me they were disappointed by Mr Chaudhry's presentation which was a mere recitation of the applicable laws without connecting it directly to address the concerns of the Silicon Valley audience at the OPEN Forum 2014.