The burgeoning interest in legal studies within Pakistan is notably reflected in the increasing number of applications for admission to LLB programs, particularly within public sector universities. A pivotal moment in legal education unfolded following a 2018 Supreme Court ruling, compelling universities and their affiliated private law colleges to implement a comprehensive five-year LLB program, despite its considerable duration.

The extant LLB syllabus, a collaborative endeavor of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), and legal education experts, has become conspicuously antiquated, necessitating imperative revisions. Recent months have witnessed the HEC disseminating a new undergraduate policy to institutions nationwide, encompassing the imperative need for a commensurate recalibration of the five-year LLB syllabus.

A critical examination reveals that the current LLB syllabus is conspicuously deficient. The overarching objectives are pursued through sub-objectives delineated at the course level, lacking the pedagogical depth inherent to comprehensive academic programs. Pakistani LLB syllabus developers have structured course content by sequentially presenting diverse legal statutes, without a discernible unifying framework. Notably, legal structures, such as the law of contracts, characterized by codified sections, are presented without requisite contextualization.

Integral to this discourse is the consideration of the requisite number of subjects within the LLB syllabus. Presently, the five-year LLB program in Pakistan comprises 56 compulsory courses, supplemented by a limited selection of optional courses. This accumulates to 166 credit hours distributed across ten semesters, prompting scrutiny regarding the feasibility of this extensive curriculum.

In stark contrast, three-year LLB programs from distinguished foreign institutions, including London University, operating as External LLB within Pakistan, are notable for their brevity. These programs, facilitated by accredited local teaching centers, culminate in the completion of 12 subjects, of which six are compulsory, in just three years. This equates to an annualized pace of four subjects per year, accumulating to 36 credit hours. The glaring contrast between the five-year and three-year programs raises questions regarding the efficacy of the former.

The incongruity is accentuated by the recognition accorded by the Pakistan Bar Council to three-year external LLB programs, taught within the country, paralleling the local five-year LLB. In this regard, the Bar Council has judiciously mandated requisite infrastructure and faculty criteria for institutions offering local LLB programs. Conversely, a dearth of essential conditions, including future faculty members, is evident in the majority of institutions overseeing external programs.

This schism perpetuates a discriminatory milieu for students enrolled in the five-year LLB program. The resultant class culture, wherein students of external programs with higher fees gain early access to legal practice, underscores the broader disparities in time investment and academic rigor.

Regrettably, this discriminatory scenario emanates from the regulatory framework governing legal education in Pakistan.

The 2018 Supreme Court decision, ostensibly interpreting foreign degrees to encompass those obtained locally, is perceived as an incongruous understanding. This interpretation inadvertently places three-year foreign LLB programs, widely available across the country, on par with their local counterparts, thereby potentially compromising educational standards.

Addressing this exigent situation necessitates comprehensive reforms in Pakistan’s legal education landscape. Foremost among these imperatives is the eradication of the prevailing discriminatory system. If the integration of three-year external programs into a regulatory framework proves unattainable, an alternative proposal involves subjecting them to a one- or two-year compulsory diploma under the country’s legal framework. Furthermore, contemplation is warranted concerning the conversion of the current five-year LLB program into a more streamlined four-year curriculum.

In conclusion, the prevailing practice of administering 56 courses within the LLB curriculum warrants rigorous scrutiny, as it gives rise to pertinent queries regarding the demonstrated competence of students upon completion of such a voluminous program. This confluence of academic and temporal considerations necessitates collaborative efforts among law educators across the nation to propel a substantive recalibration of the prevailing LLB programs.

The writer, Prof Dr Aziz ur Rehman, is Director School of Law, Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) Islamabad and can be reached at the following E-mail:

Related: Scope of LLB in Pakistan

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