Barrister Haaris Ramzan Very recently and in the past, several politicians, technocrats and journalists have been vocal about injustices done within Pakistan and against the State. The issue of drone strikes heads the list. Some have gone to the extent of showing a solid resolve of taking these matters to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Unfortunately, for us, none of them have a clear idea about the working of the court and its mandate. The common consideration is that any injustice done around the world shall give the ICJ the authorisation to take cognisance of the matter. The situation is different from this misconception. TheICJ is the UNs primary judicial organ. One of its main functions is to settlelegaldisputes submitted to it byStatesand provide advisory opinions on legal questions presented before it by duly authorised international organs, agencies, and the UNGA. The court was established in 1945 through the UN Charter. Since its inception, it has undertaken very few cases, however, due to the changing political scenario of the world; the developing countries are more willing to utilise this judicial forum. The reason for such a small number is explained below. In accordance with Article 93 of the UN Charter, all member states automaticallybecome party to the ICJ statute. Once a State becomes its part, it is permitted to participate in cases; however, it is important to note that being a party to the statute does not automatically give the court jurisdiction over disputes involving the member states. This means that ICJs jurisdictioncan be divided into two types, contentious issues and advisory opinions. In contentious cases, the member states wilfully submit to the competence of the court and any decision by the ICJ has a binding effect on the parties. For the understanding of the readers, only member states can become a party in contentious cases. Any individual, corporation, NGO, political parties, UN organs, and self-determinationgroups are specifically excluded from direct participation in cases. These organisations can only be consulted for information, if the court deems it appropriate. This brings forward a direct question on the scope of 'jurisdiction of the court in contentious cases. As mentioned above, a clear misapprehension within Pakistan is that issues can be directly and forcefully undertaken by the court. Article 36 of the ICJ Statue specifies that the court has jurisdiction only on the basis of consent, meaning thereby, that matters can only be undertaken by it if State parties agree to it. The advisory opinion by the court can only be ascertained by specified UN agencies. This happens when the court receives a request by one of these organisations and deliberates upon the matter. This opinion given by it greatly helps these institutes in maintaining uniformity in applying diverse principles of international law. In 1999, we all are aware of the tragic incident where a Pakistani navys reconnaissance aircraft 'Atlantic was shot down by the Indian air force. The incident was considered as a blatant violation of international law and specifically Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, which strictly prohibits all member states to respect the territorial sovereignty and political independence of each other. In this incident, an Indian MiG had crossed the LOC and shot down the aircraft within Pakistani airspace. Immediately the sentiments were high and the then government decided to proceed to the ICJ to seek justice and reparation. Unfortunately, the ICJ refused to entertain the matter due to the obvious reason, with respect to contentious matters. India had contended while representing itself before ICJ that it lacks jurisdiction to entertain the matter. Even though Pakistan did come up with some arguments, but they were weak. India never gave consent to bring the Atlantic issue before the ICJ and, hence, the rest is history. Regrettably, this caused the nation immense embarrassment not only in the international community, but among the academia of international law. The Atlantic case is now quoted at different forums as an example. The legal pundits at that time had done lesser research and concentrated more on rhetoric. As a way forward, the need of the hour is to educate ourselves with the legal understanding of not only the ICJ, but also many other aspects within international law domain. Many of our political leaders never realise while giving statements at different forums that lack of knowledge can lead to the State getting embarrassed at an international level. To add to the misery, even the legal fraternity needs to be acquainted with legal skills. But the good news is that Pakistan now has a vibrant mission at the UN that is working in a positive dimension. Pakistans election as a non-permanent member of the UNSC is a good achievement. What the State really needs to do is to equip these individuals with all sort of technical assistance and encourage them to perform to the best of their abilities so that they can represent the country in an excellent manner. The writer is a practicing advocate of the High Courts of Pakistan and an alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) organised by the US State Department. He is also the founding Chairman of the International Law Committee of the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHBA). Email: