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November 25, 2010

SC declines stay as govt denies Reko Diq deal

Top Story

AFP
November 25, 2010

ISLAMABAD The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday declined to give a stay order as prayed by Barrister Zafrullah Khan in his petition against reported deal on Reko Diq after Deputy Attorney General Chaudhry Mazhar denied of making any such deal.
The court also rejected appeal by Justice Fakhruddin G Ibrahim to stop ‘The News’ from publishing any more stories about Reko Diq gold mines scandal, as it began hearing the multi-billion dollar case.
Justice Fakhruddin was representing the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) and made two initial pleas before the 3-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.About 20 other senior lawyers were also present in the court when the Reko Diq case hearing started. These lawyers were representing different respondents and the TCC.
Mr Fakhruddin made the following pleas before the court: 1. As Balochistan High Court (BHC) has already decided a petition in favour of the TCC and an appeal against that petition is pending in the Supreme Court so the apex court should club everything together and hear as one single case as early as possible.
2. “The News” should be ordered not to publish any more stories on the Reko Diq issue. When the chief justice finished dictating his order, Fakhruddin G Ibrahim again asked the court to order ‘The News’ not to publish any more stories on Reko Diq. The request was opposed by the correspondent of The News as it was an unconstitutional demand.
The court was told that it was a very big scandal and tantamount to national theft and if some new points were discovered they should be reported. However, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday told The News correspondent Ahmad Noorani: “Noorani, we are issuing no order on this”.
A controversy ensued the acquiring of Exploration Licence-6 and Exploration-8 by the Tethyan Copper Company acquired of the Reko Diq mines with hundred percent share and without any share of the government

of Pakistan.
The court however instead of issuing any such order in this regard adjourned the hearing for December 15 after issuing notices to the federation, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, Government of Balochistan and other respondents in the identical petitions, filed by Barrister Zafrullah Khan of Watan Party and others.
A three-member bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, Justice Ghulam Rabbani and Justice Khalil-ur-Rehman Ramday was hearing identical petitions, filed against leasing out gold and copper mines, including the world’s biggest gold mine having worth over $260 billion situated at Reko Diq, in Balochistan to the foreign companies by the federal government.
Tariq Asad, advocate and Barrister Zafrullah Khan had filed the petitions in the apex court. In compliance to the court’s earlier order, the federal government through Deputy Attorney General Chaudhry Mazhar and Advocate General Balochistan filed para-wise comments. The court directed them to provide copies of the replies to the petitioners as well.
‘The News’ on November 3, 2010 reported that some 20 top corporate bosses and lobbyists of the two of the world’s largest gold mining groups had been meeting President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, Governor State Bank and others in Islamabad, pressing them to quickly hand over one of the world’s biggest gold and copper treasures found in Balochistan at Reko Diq, worth over $260 billion, to their companies and for peanuts.
Tariq Asad advocate had filed the petition under Article 184(3) of the Constitution and made the federal government through its federal secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, chief secretary Balochistan, head of the Department of Mines and Mineral Development of Balochistan and relevant Steering Committee through its chairman, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, Board of Revenue of Balochistan through its chairman, former Board of Directors through its chairman Dr Samar Mubarakmand and The News Rawalpindi through its reporters, Shaheen Sehbai and Ahmad Noorani as respondents.
The News International through its Group Editor Shaheen Sehbai and Ahmed Noorani, reporter also filed before the court their replies. Ahmed Noorani, reporter of The News also appeared before the court in-person.
It was submitted that transparency is the key as it is already admitted by all parties that not only El-5 had been given to TCC on 25:75 per cent share but also much larger areas under El-6 and EL-8 had been given to the same company on a 100 per cent ownership basis.
It was contended by saying, “This is insane as no one knows how big the deposits are in EL-6 and EL-8 and Pakistan will have no share at all. Federal and all provincial governments be ordered not to award any mining licence until the foreigner company engages and trains Pakistani professionals in all the phases, from exploration to mining, extraction, refining and marketing.”
It was further submitted that the training should be of the level that Pakistani professionals could undertake any such new project in future at their own. These companies engage Pakistani individuals only for labour and some junior management positions so that the real size and volumes of what they are doing may remain secret.
The court should order that all the operations should be open to Pakistani surprise checks and scrutiny and no one should be allowed to steal Pakistan’s wealth under a cloak of secrecy and protect their business interests.
The court should also order that the mining policy of the country should be suitably amended to make it mandatory to set up refining plants within Pakistan and only finished products should be exported from Pakistan. Raw form of gold or copper when it is extracted is very cheap and low but if it is refined and the finish product is made within Pakistan the poor Balochistan will get maximum share.
Meanwhile, in its reply the federal government denied that any secret negotiations were in progress or had taken place to finalize the deal. It submitted that a Mineral Agreement was still under negotiation between GOB, GOP and TCCP in accordance with the provisions of BMC Rules 2000.
“These negotiations are in strict conformity with the legal requirements and are not being conducted in secrecy,” it said.“All adverse allegations regarding the federal government’s involvement in Reko Diq are hereby denied, the reply stated.
The federation prayed that the petition might kindly be dismissed in limini along with costs in favor of the respondents, being devoid of merits, based on mere apprehensions and being not maintainable under the law in the interest of justice.
It submitted that the petition was not maintainable at all because only exploration had been granted by the Government of Balochistan strictly in accordance with the Balochistan Mining Concession Rules 1970 and Mining Lease had not yet been applied to by TCCP nor issued by the GOB.
The federation also denied that no deal had been made in relation with the Reko Diq Project, which might cause major losses to Pakistan. It argued that the foreign investment in Reko Diq Project was beneficial for the country and a source of revenue for the Balochistan in the form of income taxes, customs duties and others.