Centre for International and Constitutional Law

Director’s Message

The Centre aims to combine critical analysis and original thinking on matters of international and constitutional law under one roof.

These are distinct, but related subjects, and the Centre will approach them in both ways – as subjects, but also as subjects that can be combined. For example, a comparison of the Constitution of Pakistan with other constitutions involves comparative analysis and understanding from an international law perspective.

Mao Zedong famously stated that: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Yet whilst this may still be depressingly true in some parts of the world, we can be clear that legal authority is not the same thing as political power.  Legal authority grows from the acceptance of the legitimacy of those in power and involves more complex layers of analysis and critique than mere political power. Pakistan is enjoying a period of great economic, social and legal process under a democratic regime and the Centre will celebrate this, whilst also shining a critical light on areas for improvement. We will also help students to honestly and frankly address the inequalities in the world legal order, with a focus on issues like Kashmir and Pakistan’s wider relationship to the World.

The Centre aims to be student-led, in the sense that the research endeavours, other academic, outreach and collaborative programmes will be responsive to student interests and concerns.

Alexander Lawson
LL.B. (Hons.), LL.M. (Dunelm)
Director, Centre for International and Constitutional Law


International and constitutional law are subjects that sometimes feel like the poor relations, even the orphans of wider legal study. They are frequently dismissed as being too theoretical or as lacking in practical application. There is a widespread perception that international law is ignored by powerful states most of the time, and then hypocritically championed when it suits them. This kind of neo-realist approach can be identified in the US/UK approach to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. This invasion was illegal under international law, yet this did little to dissuade the powerful states from invading a weak state with few allies in the world. In 2014, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine, to a chorus of protests that this was an illegal act under international law. It undoubtedly was, but it is hard to see why this should make any difference to the political calculations being made in the Kremlin. President Putin is a hard man to understand, but we can guess his logic was something like: ‘No-one cares enough about Ukraine to intervene militarily. And if they attack me legally, they will be exposed as hypocrites.’

Similarly, constitutional law is sometimes regarded as weak concept that does little to really influence the behaviour of the politicians and officials that it is supposed to regulate. So many leaders enter power committed to their state’s constitution, only to change it radically so they can stay in power for life, or else suspend it entirely and let the military take over. The United Kingdom does not even have a codified constitution, whilst Pakistan has one that is extremely complicated and thus hard for the people to follow. There are strong constitutional systems in the world, but they are far from universal.

Yet constitutional systems are relevant in governing most of the world. Most of the states in the world do follow some form of a codified constitution. These systems have similarities and differences and one can thus engage in a meaningful comparison.  The reality is that we tend to hear more about constitutional systems collapsing because that is how the news media works. Problems and protests in an African state where the constitutional order has gone awry make the news. The fact, that things are running relatively smoothly in Argentina, does not. The Centre aims to take a constructive approach to constitutional matters, both at home and abroad.

Similarly, international law is still alive and well, especially in the age of COVID. International travel has resumed. International law allows states to cooperate in ensuring that this travel is safe and does not lead to further spreading of the virus. International law helps to ensure that vaccines are both developed and shipped across borders. If the record of international law on the use of force has been weak in recent years, its record on enabling cooperation in health, science and technology is one of the great unsung success stories of our time.


Both Student and Pakistan-focused

The Ziauddin University Faculty of Law, Politics And Governance Centre for International and Constitutional Law will be Pakistan-focused. When we consider international law, we will see how it relates to Pakistan. When we consider constitutional law, it will be focused on the Constitution of Pakistan. Yet this allows for comparison with different constitutions and approaches to international law across the globe.

The primary focus of the Centre will be raising awareness of the relevance of international and constitutional law to the State and the people of Pakistan. The Centre will be open to all students of Ziauddin University and will run academic and enrichment programmes to help embed the objectives of the Centre into existing academic programmes and modules. For example, we will encourage students studying human rights to see how the subject links to comparative analysis of constitutions and of international law norms.

Second, the Centre will conduct seminars and panel discussions on international and constitutional law. The watchword of the Centre shall be collaboration with outside bodies and other academic institutions.

Next, the Centre shall create modules of study for students to choose as electives in their 4th and 5th Year of study. These modules shall be purely academic and shall acquaint the students with current international and constitutional law problems which global leaders in academics are discussing. These modules shall include, inter alia, studies on the following topics:

  • The Use of Force in International Law
  • The Law of Armed Conflict
  • International Dispute Resolution
  • International Trade Law
  • The Law of the Sea
  • Comparative Constitutional Law
  • Statehood, Recognition and Constitutional Law
  • The Rule of Law and Constitutionalism

Furthermore, the Centre shall source foreign lawyers and policymakers to conduct online talks (and discussions with our students) with respect to modern problems within the field of international and constitutional law and how their country or organization is tackling them. This will give our students a more professional and practical look into these complex issues, further enhancing their skills and knowledge as legal professionals.

In conclusion, the Centre offers the opportunity to leverage existing expertise, some of which comes from the other two Centre’s in the Faculty of Law, Politics & Governance whilst also promoting academic excellence in both research and student engagement.