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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

SC hears reference on transparency of Reko Diq agreement

The Supreme Court (SC) emphasised on Tuesday that the parties to the Reko Diq Project should focus on the transparency of the state's leading investment being made for mine and mineral exploration in the province of Balochistan.

The Presidential Reference on the new Reko Diq Project was heard by a five-member enlarged bench of the Supreme Court, which also included Justices Ijazul Ahsan, Muneeb Akhtar, Yahya Afridi, and Jamal Khan Mandokel. The bench was presided over by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial.

Makhdom Ali Khan, a lawyer representing Barrick Gold Corporation, continued to make his case before the court, claiming that the possibility of Pakistan defaulting was increasing and that the nation would face a 9 billion dollar fee if the project was not completed by December 15.

Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial then questioned the knowledgeable attorney about if Barrick Gold was also keeping an eye on the nation’s economic circumstances. “It would be better if you advanced your points on the project’s transparency rather than disrupting the court, and also don’t tell us the errors made by the economists from which we are bearing the brunt.”

The knowledgeable attorney, however, retorted that Barrick Gold does not make a living by saving nations from bankruptcies. According to him, 4.297 billion dollars are being invested in the project, which must be completed by December 15 in order for Pakistan to avoid paying the 9 billion dollar fines and the anticipated fine from the International Court of Justice.

Makhdom Ali Khan argued that although provincial governments could join into international trade agreements, they could not negotiate agreements at the state level.

Read More: Fine in Reko Diq case a ‘nuclear bomb’: SC judge

The Chief Justice noted, however, that since the federal government also contributed to the Reko Diq project, the problem was not allowing the provincial governments to invest, but rather amending the relevant laws.

In response to a court inquiry, Makhdom Ali Khan stated that Reko Diq was seeking the apex court’s ruling because it didn’t want to repeat the legal errors committed in the previous project.

The attorney said that Barrick Gold will construct an underground pipeline from Reko Diq, Balochistan, to the port where the gold and copper reserves would be shipped overseas. The project would create about 7,000 employment prospects in the first phase, and about 4,000 jobs will be created for a long period, he continued, adding that the corporation will also build roads and carry out community development.

The judge then postponed the hearing until today (Wednesday).

The federal cabinet, led by Prime Minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif, gave its approval last month for the filing of a Presidential Reference in the supreme court to request its judgement on matters of law and public interest.

The legitimacy of the Reko Diq agreement and whether the earlier Supreme Court decision, Maulvi Abdul Haq Baloch against Federation of Pakistan PLD 2013 SC 641, the Constitution, statutes, or public policy preclude the Governments of Pakistan and Balochistan from entering into it are both up for debate. And would the proposed Foreign Investment (Protection and Promotion) Bill, 2022 be legitimate and legal if it were to become law.