Thursday September 28, 2023

Senate okays changes to foreign investment bill

December 17, 2022

ISLAMABAD: To allay the concerns of its allies, the government in the Senate on Friday got passed amendments to a recently-passed foreign investment bill, limiting its scope to Balochistan for the Reko Diq copper and gold mining project.

However, there appeared no let-up in the noisy protest in the House by PTI legislators during the third consecutive sitting against the re-arrest of their colleague Senator Azam Swati and for the issuance of his production orders.

The House adopted the Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) (Amendment) Bill 2022 with the majority of vote, as the opposition was focused on protesting in front of the chair’s dais and the front row of the treasury benches. Leader of the House and Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Senator Ishaq Dar introduced and moved the bill after Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani suspended the question hour in view of the protest and Dar’s request due to the urgency of the proposed legislation. The PTI lawmakers started sloganeering as the minister rose to introduce the bill and rushed to the dais of the chair, prompting the security staff to come between them and the front row of the treasury benches. Some of the PTI senators tore apart copies of the agenda and threw them up.

The House adopted amendments to the Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) (Amendment) Bill 2022, which is designed to revive the stalled Reko Diq project: Section 1 (2) of the original bill ‘bulldozed’ in the two chambers of parliament on December 12 amidst protest from within the ruling coalition, said it would extend to the whole of Pakistan.

However, under the amendment, after the word “Pakistan”, the expression “but for the purpose of Balochistan shall only apply to the qualified investment of the Reko Diq project as mentioned in schedules and annexure of this Act”. As per the statement of objects and reasons, the purpose of the subject amendment is to clarify the scope and application of the Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Act 2022.

Following the objections raised by some of the ruling coalition partners, and even warning of considering parting of ways, against the bill being seen as a move to roll back the 18th Amendment, Law Minister Azam Nazir Tarar had assured that the law would be Reko Diq-specific. He had sought cooperation of all for the passage of the bill as it was, due to time constraint, with the assurance that a suitable amendment would be introduced later. On the passage of the amendments, the chairman Senate, who is from Balochistan, congratulated the people of his province and Pakistan, and all incumbent and previous governments. “It is a good bill and will encourage investments, this law belongs to my home district Chagai and prove to be a good omen for the people of the area, this will provide protection to businessmen in the future,” he maintained.

Later, State Minister for Law Shahadat Awan moved the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2022 which was referred to the standing committee concerned for deliberation and report. The House unanimously adopted a resolution felicitating Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and its people for successfully hosting the FIFA World Cup 2022 in their country. The resolution, moved by Senator Sarfraz Bugti with the concurrence of the leader of the House and the leader of opposition, stated that arrangements for the world cup were exemplary and Qatar had provided the best available facilities to visitors and teams. The resolution said the House condemned all deliberate, malicious and negative propaganda instigated against Qatar for holding this successful event and that the people of Pakistan were proud of the state of Qatar and its people as it was the first Muslim and Gulf state to host the FIFA World Cup. After transacting the agenda items amid noisy protest, the chair prorogued the session sine die.