Tuesday November 29, 2022

Reko Diq case: SC terms ICJ's $10bn fine a 'nuclear bomb' with consequences

Justice Munib Akhtar says this fine is not against a "provincial institution but the country”

By Web Desk
November 02, 2022
Image showing the exterior of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. — SC website
Image showing the exterior of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. — SC website

ISLAMABAD: A Supreme Court of Pakistan (SC) justice Wednesday said that the $10 billion fine slapped on the country by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Tethyan Copper versus Pakistan case is a nuclear bomb, which can have consequences.

During the hearing of the presidential reference on Reko Diq, Justice Munib Akhtar said: “This fine is not against a provincial institution but the country.”

A five-member larger bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi, and Justice Jamaal Khan Mandokhel heard the case.

President Arif Alvi — on the advice of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif — had filed the reference last month to seek the apex court’s opinion on the Reko Diq settlement agreement.

Referring to the Supreme Court’s 2013 judgement in the Reko Diq case that purportedly nullified the earlier agreement, Additional Attorney-General (AAG) Chaudhry Aamir Rehman said that had the matter of relaxing the rules been in the previous agreement the court would not have declared it null and void.

To this Justice, Munib said Reko Diq and other mining-related rules were a prerogative of provinces. “Is the federation authorised to amend the provincial laws? Did the Balochistan government soften the rules for the foreign mining companies?” Chief Justice Bandial asked the AAG, who said they did.

The CJP suggested the formation of a consultative meeting to monitor all the matters regarding the agreement. “Despite investing a billion rupees in the Reko Diq project the federation handed over the powers to the government of Balochistan."

The attorney-general assured the court that great transparency and efficiency would be ensured in handling the matters related to Reko Diq. To this, the CJP said the level of transparency could be measured by the fact that "the Cabinet [sometimes] approves some files even without opening them”.

Moreover, Justice Yahya asked as the international agreements were a matter of federation, could provinces interfere in them?

CJP Bandial added that in the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling there was no mention of the international company’s corruption. “The Balochistan government did not have the capacity to refine the gold and the foreign miner took advantage of it.”

The lawyer of Balochistan Bar said the government should not forget that Reko Diq gold could benefit Pakistan in a big way; however, ironically, Balochistan never got anything out of this project.

The five-member larger bench adjourned the hearing until Monday, November 7.