ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday stressed the parties to the Reko Diq Project should concentrate on the transparency of the country’s biggest investment being made for exploration of mine and minerals in the province of Balochistan.
A five-member larger bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijazul Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokel, heard the Presidential Reference on the new Reko Diq Project.
Continuing his arguments, Makhdom Ali Khan, counsel for Barrick Gold Corporation, submitted before the court that the risk of Pakistan defaulting was growing and if the project was not finalised by December 15, then the country will have to pay fine of 9 billion dollars.
Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial then asked the learned counsel as to whether Barrick Gold was also monitoring the economic situation of the country. “It would be better that instead of disturbing the court, you should advance your arguments on the transparency of the project and also don’t tell us the mistakes made by the economists of which we are facing the brunt.”
The learned counsel, however, replied that Barrick Gold was not making business of steering out countries from bankruptcy. He submitted that a huge investment of 4.297 billion dollars is being made in the country’s history, adding that if the project was finalised by December 15, Pakistan will not pay the 9 billion dollars fines and will also escape the expected fine of the International Court of Justice as well.
Makhdom Ali Khan submitted the provincial governments could not make agreements at the state level but could enter into international trade agreements. Chief Justice however, observed that the issue is not to allow the provincial governments to make investment as the federal government has also share in the Reko Diq project but the issue was making amendments in the respective laws.
To a court query, Makhdom Ali Khan submitted that the Reko Diq was seeking the opinion of the apex court as it doesn’t want to repeat the legal mistakes made in earlier project.
The counsel submitted that Barrick Gold will lay an underground pipeline from Reko Diq, Balochistan, to the seaport wherein the reserves of gold and copper will be transported to foreign countries. He further informed the court that the company will also construct roads as well as carry out community development, adding that the project will generate some 7,000 employment opportunities in the first phase while some 4,000 employments will be made for long time as well.
Later, the court adjourned the hearing for today (Wednesday).
Last month, the federal cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif had approved filing of Presidential Reference in the apex court for seeking its opinion on questions of law and public importance.
The questions as to whether the earlier judgment of Supreme Court reported as Maulvi Abdul Haq Baloch versus Federation of Pakistan PLD 2013 SC 641, the Constitution, laws or public policy prevent the Government of Pakistan and the Government of Balochistan from entering into the Reko Diq agreement or affect their validity.
And if enacted, would the proposed foreign investment (Protection and Promotion) Bill, 2022 be valid and constitutional?