The declaration passed at the eighth annual Judicial Conference on Saturday covered a wide gamut of topics, as diverse as the personal motivations of the various participants. Unsurprisingly the comments made by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP), Justice Saqib Nisar, regarding the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) garnered the most attention, as well as the most controversy. But beyond this instance of yet another case of judicial overreach, the declarations of the moot contained several important points; some of which need more unpacking.

While the measures suggested by the moot dealing with legal procedure –such as calling for properly trained law enforcement and prosecution agencies to gather evidence scientifically, using DNA testing, fingerprints and forensic techniques to solve crimes – are welcome and expected from the conference, the ones that pertain to the nation at large demand our attention.

Foremost among them are the comments made on enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, with jurists and legal experts stressing that custodial killings are a crime and those guilty of committing it should be prosecuted as criminals. In the context of recent developments – such as the rise of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) – and other more long standing problems – such as violence against journalists and rampant enforced disappearances in Balochistan – this reaffirmation by the judicial fraternity is welcome. But that is the extent of it.

Enforced disappearances are already considered illegal and unconstitutional, without the moot’s declaration. For a CJP who has been whimsically taking suo moto notices on even the slightest governmental missteps and mismanagements, his avoidance of the enforced disappearance issue stands out ever more glaringly. With a major movement demanding investigation and the issue going to the heart of “the government infringing human rights” – which is the basis of a suo moto action – one would have expected the CJP to be already tackling the issue head on with the zeal he is so famous for. Yet the limited comments made by the moot on the issue, coupled with the continued inaction, is disappointing to say the least.

Some other recommendations are also troubling. The declaration called for Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods to be made mandatory. According to the court “ADR should be made a compulsory part of the dispute resolution process and should be enforced through effective legislation and encouraged by the courts.”

While helpful in reducing burden on the courtrooms, outside commercial or business scenarios ADRs have often produced perverse results, with Panchyat and Jirga systems, making a mockery of justice. Making such methods mandatory would compound these problems.