Cabinet green-lights signing Reko Diq agreement amid reservations of coalition partners

Cabinet Reko Diq agreement

Days after the Supreme Court of Pakistan termed the new Reko Diq agreement “legal”, there seemed to be cracks among the coalition partners when the federal cabinet met on Tuesday for a detailed discussion on the restructuring of the Reko Diq deal.

Two main coalition parties of the government, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the Balochistan National Party-Mengel (BNP-M), boycotted the cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to register their protest, but later joined it.

The two parties believed that the recently passed Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Bill, 2022, in the Senate was against the rights of the people of Balochistan. They complained that they were not taken into confidence during the preparation of the bill.

However, the government, sensing the gravity of the situation, assured the two parties that their reservations were valid and that necessary amendments would be made soon.

PM Shehbaz also formed a cabinet committee to remove the grievances of the partners, adding that an amendment bill would soon be tabled in the parliament after consulting the two allies.

The cabinet accorded its approval to the signing of the final deal over the Reko Diq project, paving way for the inking of the final agreement on December 15.

After the approval given to the ministry of petroleum and other relevant ministries and with its final signing, the agreement over the Reko Diq project would be implemented.

PM Shehbaz said that the government of Pakistan would ensure the protection of the rights of investors in the Reko Diq project and all other investors and would fulfil its commitment in this regard.

Supreme Court declares Reko Diq agreement legal

Last week, the Supreme Court of Pakistan declared the new Reko Diq agreement between the Pakistan government and two international firms — Antofagasta PLC and Barrick Gold Corporation — in March for the revival of the long-stalled Reko Diq mining project as legal.

Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, a five-member larger bench of the Supreme Court announced its unanimous opinion on a presidential reference.

The SC, in its order, observed that the government had entered the agreement after consulting experts, as per court directives, and the Balochistan Assembly was taken into confidence regarding the agreement.

The court observed that there was nothing “illegal” in the new agreement, adding that the agreement did not contradict the 2013 verdict given by the top court.

The order stated that the law did not allow agreements on national resources in violation of the Constitution and that provinces could amend laws pertaining to minerals.

The order further stated that Barrick Gold Corporation assured that laws for wages would be abided by and most of the labor force would be recruited from Pakistan.