Pakistan-based University of London law students excel in Moot

Amna Riaz Ali reports on supervising the Pakistan College of Law team for the 8th ICRC Henry Dunant National Moot Court Competition 2015
The winning Pakistan College of Law Mooting team
The winning Pakistan College of Law Mooting team
It was apparent that all the teams had achieved a high level of preparedness and their arguments had force. It could have been anybody’s day at the competition

The news of the prestigious Henry Dunant National Moot Court Competition, 2015 engulfed me with memories of last year’s Competition. The selection, the team, the preparation, the journey, the Moot, the exhilaration of participating and then qualifying to represent Pakistan internationally in the Regional Rounds later in the year, are all unforgettable experiences.

This time, however, my role was very different with greater responsibility. I had been selected as a Coach by Pakistan College of Law and entrusted with the task of supervising the team selection and preparing them for the Moot. My selectors had made it quite clear that they had high expectations from me and, consequently, from the team. I was, suddenly, expected to achieve a new level of maturity which I strived hard to deliver.

The Moot had been arranged under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which in my country is also known as the Red Crescent Society. The Moot was scheduled to be held in Nathiagali, a picturesque hill resort situated almost 8,000 feet above sea level. Nathiagali is blessed with surroundings covered in Pine, Walnut and Oak Maple trees and is one of the most tranquil and scenic places in Pakistan.

"The Moot rules and regulations did not allow for late replacements and as the Supervisor I did not think it prudent to set about getting a replacement."

The team, comprising of three participants – Gul Feroz (Speaker), Ahmad Kamal Tariq (Speaker), and Momna Taufeeq (Researcher) – had been selected from within the Pakistan College of Law Mooting Society. The selection was, unexpectedly, a smooth process. The chosen participants were eager and willing to perform. Their names were notified to the Moot organizers and I was expecting smooth sailing as a Coach and Supervisor – which was not to be, as the later part of this account will reveal.

Disaster struck whilst we were preparing for the Moot when one of the participants met with an unfortunate car accident and was laid off for two weeks. The Moot rules and regulations did not allow for late replacements and as the Supervisor I did not think it prudent to set about getting a replacement, particularly when a new team member could not have become adequately acquainted with a new area of law. Hence we set about preparing with only two members of the team who were to speak at the Competition. Illness, however, struck again when one of the remaining two team members came down with a severe throat infection which only allowed him to speak in a very uncomfortable manner. Naturally, I was quite perturbed owing to these circumstances but my team’s spirit and our desire to make it to the finals kept us going. The words which struck me were those of my College Administration, telling me that we have to work with the material we have available. I must here, at the cost of sounding clichéd, quote Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Just within one week before the Competition I found my team (all three members) together and willing to put in that extra effort which was indeed required. I did not see a moment of panic in my team and l realized that the nature of supervision is such that I learnt from the faith and confidence of my team. I did not waste time on counting the days we had lost, instead, prudently, we worked during the days and the nights which were available to us.

On the day of our arrival at the venue we were joined by teams from other participating institutions. They were a jovial lot and we were glad to be in their company. Unlike last year, when Islamabad was teeming with the politicians’ sit-ins, the journey to Nathiagali was peaceful and trouble free. We reached Nathiagali in the evening and were lodged at a lovely, locally situated hotel. The Moot Competition was due to start at 9am the following day.

Swallowing a box full of Strepsils, my team speakers were all set to present their case. My team exhibited an impressive display of organization. The researcher, Momna Taufeeq had spent painstaking time on marking the relevant judgements and sources which were to be presented to the panel of judges.

As the rounds began I discovered that the judges took pride in being known as the 'grill judges', meaning that the respective counsels would be thoroughly questioned by such judges on various aspects of International Law and, specifically, International Humanitarian Law. I will not hesitate to state that my team displayed a thorough understanding of the subject and the Moot problem. Many present agreed that the Moot problem raised several difficult issues which were well-addressed by the participating teams.

"The judges were ready with the verdict. Our hearts were beating at breakneck speed. The silence in the auditorium was deafening."

It was apparent that all the teams had achieved a high level of preparedness and their arguments had force. It could have been anybody’s day at the competition. Three days of back to back rounds favoured the teams as they tailored and enhanced the substance of their arguments, learning from other teams and in line with the type of questions posed by the respected panel of judges. The last round just before the results did not cause us too much impatience. We roamed around the hotel, interacting with other participants and kept our fingers crossed. I remember Gull Feroz, probably trying to keep herself calm, uttering repeatedly, 'Que sera sera', ' What will be, will be.' The time of reckoning had arrived. The judges were ready with the verdict. Our hearts were beating at breakneck speed. The silence in the auditorium was deafening.

The verdict was announced; our team was declared as having qualified for the next regional round of the Henry Dunant Regional Moot Court Competition. We were again given the responsibility to represent Pakistan at the Regional Rounds. Our joy knew no bounds and our shrieks were oblivious to the respectable presence of the judges and the organizers. We were congratulated by all teams and the respected judges who exhibited no surprise at the result.

"It was the third time a Moot Team from Pakistan College of Law had qualified at the Henry Dunant National Moot Court Competition to become Team Pakistan for the Regional rounds."

Our journey back couldn't have been more pleasant. It was the third time a Moot Team from Pakistan College of Law had qualified at the Henry Dunant National Moot Court Competition to become Team Pakistan for the Regional rounds. This achievement brought back memories from the past and I was glad to have fulfilled the responsibility I was entrusted with.

I thank the ICRC for taking initiative in disseminating awareness of International Humanitarian Law and providing students with the opportunity of sharpening their advocacy skills.

Finally, I am much grateful to my institution, Pakistan College of Law, for entrusting me with the responsibility of training the College Moot Team. I am much honoured to have been thought worthy of this task. I will learn much, much more now from my team as their Coach for the Regional Rounds. I wish Team PCL, now Team Pakistan, the best of luck in representing Pakistan in the regional rounds against teams from Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and others.