Mining lease to Reko Diq project: Govt agrees to give in-camera briefing to Senate
ISLAMABAD: The government agreed on Thursday to give an in-camera briefing to the Senate about a recent ruling of an arbitration tribunal of the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in relation to denial of a mining lease to Reko Diq project in 2011.
Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Shahid Khaqan Abbasi told Senate that the issue is under litigation and he is ready to give an in-camera briefing to the house, to which the house agreed.
Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani directed the minister to give the in-camera briefing by the next session that is scheduled for May 8.
The ICSID’s ruling came after Tethyan Copper Company Limited (TCC), a joint venture of Antofagasta and Barrick, filed an arbitration claim against Pakistan for unlawfully denying a mining lease for the Reko Diq project.
The lawmakers said that the agreement with TCC was signed by a caretaker government, which is in no way acceptable, and there should be a legislation to bar caretaker governments from inking any such deal with foreign countries.
This prompted Rabbani to observe if the parliamentarians are serious to stop the caretaker governments from signing any foreign agreements, they must move an amendment, focusing that all such agreements should be ratified by the Parliament.
He made this observation during a debate on an adjournment motion by Senator Saifullah Magsi about implications of the arbitration tribunal of the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on arbitration claims filed by TCC against Pakistan in relation to denial of a mining lease to Reko Diq project.
Senator Usman Khan Kakar of Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) said that the contract of Gwadar Port operation has been given to China, adding 40-year operating lease to China for Gwadar shows it will benefit the neighbouring country than Pakistan.
He also said that Reko Diq is a giant copper and gold project in Chaghi and those involved in signing the deal with BHP Australia, besides giving it 75 per cent shares in the project, are in no way friends of Pakistan.
“I wish our courts might take suo motu against these dealers who compromised the interests of the country by making such a controversial deal. The government must clarify its position on World Bank’s ICSID verdict,” he added.
Senator Sherry Rehman of Pakistan Peoples Party Parliamentarians (PPP) questioned how a caretaker prime minister can sign an agreement with an international company for exploration of a goldmine.
She said that the government should tell the Parliament whether or not it is in a position to file an appeal against the World Bank’s ICSID verdict, adding both provincial and federal governments can pay the fine to TCC.
“Legislation is in the offing to bar the caretaker governments from signing contract with international companies as it is simply not their business,” she added.
Senator Jehanzeb Jamaldini of BNP-Mengal said that the attorneys hired by the government to contest the case were sure that they would easily win the case, but then they could not properly plead the case.
“They must give us reasons for abrupt change in their position,” he said.
Senator Shibli Faraz of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said those who struck the deal with these foreign companies without weighing its pros and cons should be made accountable.
He also criticised renowned scientist Dr Samar Mubarakmand for misleading the government about different goldmine and energy projects without making any significant progress on them.
Senator Ilyas Bilour of Awami National Party (ANP) also accused Dr Samar Mubarakmand of pocketing billions of rupees from federal and provincial government under the pretext of producing electricity through coal and wind.
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