Thursday November 30, 2023

SC verdict on Reko Diq presidential reference next week

SC concludes judicial proceedings on reference filed by President Arif Alvi in Reko Diq case to seek apex court's opinion

November 29, 2022
Supreme Court of Pakistan. — SC website
Supreme Court of Pakistan. — SC website

The Supreme Court on Tuesday completed the judicial proceedings on the presidential reference filed by President Dr Arif Alvi in the Reko Diq case. 

On October 18, President Alvi filed the reference on the advice of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to seek the top court's opinion on the Reko Diq settlement agreement under Article 186 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

The apex court has so far held 17 hearings on the Reko Diq presidential reference. After completing the proceedings, the chief justice thanked all the judicial assistants, additional attorney-general and lawyers.

Today's hearing

A five-member larger bench of the apex court — headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial — heard the reference. 

CJP Bandial said that the president has sought an opinion from legal channels.

"The court will be careful while giving an opinion on the matter of basic rights in the presidential reference," said CJP Bandial.

He said that Pakistan is facing a fine of a billion dollars, adding that the federal government followed the Constitution and the law concerning the Reko Diq agreement.

CJP Bandial said that he is happy the Reko Diq agreement ensured international standard protection.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that it is a positive factor that no party signed an illegal agreement in the Reko Diq project.

"All the lawyers agree that Reko Diq is a transparent and public contract," he added.

Meanwhile, the deputy attorney-general said that negotiations on the agreement took place for three years.

President's questions

The president asked two legal questions in the reference.

  • Whether the Balochistan or Pakistan Pakistan can enter into an international agreement as per Supreme Court’s judgment, in the Molvi Abdul Haq vs Federation of Pakistan 2013 case.
  • If the proposed Foreign Investment (Protection and Promotion) Act 2022 would accord to the Constitution.

In March 2022, the-then finance minister Shaukat Tarin announced that an agreement for the development of the Reko Diq mine had been reached with a foreign company Barrick Gold, according to which Balochistan would have a 25% share.

Pakistan and Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) had agreed to divide shares with each side getting 50% of them, contrary to 25% shares for Pakistan in the previous deal.

In 2019, Pakistan managed to get a reduced penalty from a massive $16 billion to $6 billion in the Reko Diq case. In a 700-page ruling, the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) awarded a $4.08 billion penalty and $1.87 billion in interest to Pakistan. The amount will be paid to TCC.

The firm had been granted a licence for gold and copper mining at Reko Diq, an area of Balochistan, but the former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry had cancelled the agreement with the company.