International acceptance of documents originating in Pakistan and in other developing countries has been a major issue that requires attention. Now the government of Pakistan appears to be keen on taking up membership of the Apostille Convention that governs such issues. The Hague Conference on Private International Law drafted this convention in 1960. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had requested President of Pakistan Arif Alvi to approve the instrument of accession to this convention. The president has duly approved the instrument and now the government of Pakistan is seeking a formal go-ahead from the Hague for the process to move forward. According to reports, the changes to the attestation process are likely to become effective in about six months. The prime minister has already asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to officiate notaries across Pakistan to orient them for attestation, authentication, and legalization of documents in accordance with the new mechanism.
It has been a long-standing demand of the concerned stakeholders in Pakistan that the country formally become a member of the Apostille Convention, without which public documents originating from the country find it hard to get acceptance internationally. With accession to this convention, Pakistan will be able to attest documents in line with the requirements of this treaty that will open up easy access of the documents to 122 countries that are the convention’s current members. This was not only the case with documents originating in Pakistan, public documents from other countries were also facing difficulty as the country has still not signed the instrument of accession nor does the convention accept Pakistan as a valid country to approve or attest public documents in accordance with the guidelines of the convention. Once a country becomes a member of the convention, all member countries require no further authentication. As most countries have their own process of attestation and legalization, the world community was finding it confusing to verify public documents. Most procedures were costly and cumbersome, so a less time-consuming mechanism makes the process relatively easier.
When Pakistan becomes a member, millions of overseas Pakistanis as well as their families and business partners in Pakistan and other countries will hopefully get better facilitation regarding document attestation. Traditionally, there were many hitches in an international acceptance of documents which has greatly eased now with the help of this convention under which a single Apostille certificate by a competent notary in the country of origin will suffice. Nearly half a century after the initiation of the convention, the electronic Apostille Programme (E-App) was also introduced in 2006 as it supports electronic issuance and verification around the world. Such multilateral treaties have improved legal cooperation, and it is good to see that Pakistan appears to be on the right track in changing the landscape of public documents for the better.
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