ISLAMABAD: The federal cabinet on Tuesday formally accorded its approval to the signing of the final deal over the Reko Diq project in Balochistan, thus paving way for the final signing of the agreement on December 15 (tomorrow).
“The Government of Pakistan will ensure the protection of the rights of investors in the Reko Diq project and all other investors and would fulfill its commitment in this regard,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said while presiding over the federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday. The huddle comprehensively discussed the reconstitution of the Reko Diq copper and gold mine project agreement, PM Office Media Wing said in a press release.
After the approval was given to the Ministry of Petroleum and other relevant ministries and with its final signing, the agreement over the project would be implemented. The federal cabinet endorsed a decision of the Economic Coordination Committee taken on December 11 regarding the mining project funding plan.
Officials said that for the settlement of the agreement of the project, a legal opinion was solicited from the Supreme Court through the filing of a presidential reference under Article 186 (advisory jurisdiction) of the Constitution.
The apex court on December 9 observed that the reconstitution process of Reko Diq project was transparent and the agreements signed in this regard were legal under the relevant laws.
The SC’s advice was already sought over the Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Bill, 2022 (Amendment Act) being under discussion in Parliament, they added.
The huddle approved the inking of final agreements over the settlement of the Reko Diq project upon the recommendation of the Petroleum Division. In this regard, under Rules of Business 1973, the secretary/additional secretary of the Petroleum Division was given a nod to sign the said deal on behalf of the government of Pakistan.
The cabinet approved the regulatory framework for the state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and its special purposes vehicles (SPVs), the Government of Balochistan SPVs and the Reko Diq project company.
“The meeting was apprised that with the consensus of allied parties, it was agreed that the legislation was related to the extent of the Reko Diq project only,” said the statement.
To remove certain legal issues, a five-member cabinet committee comprising Minister for Finance Ishaq Dar, Minister for Trade Syed Naveed Qamar and Minister for Economic Division Sardar Ayaz Sadiq was formed.
The committee would hold discussions with the leaders of the allied parties and would remove their apprehensions by taking them on board. It was further agreed that in consultations with the relevant parties, the amendment would be made.
Fazl, Mengal concerned at being ignored over legislation
Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) chairman Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Balochistan National Party-Mengla (BNP-M) chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal expressed reservations for not taking them in confidence over legislation regarding the Reko Diq.
Sources told NNI, the PDM chairman met the BNP chief in which matters pertaining to overall political situation of the country and Balochistan came under discussion.
They added that both leaders while expressing concern for not being taken into confidence over the said legislation, agreed on adopting joint political strategy.
Both the leaders called the Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Bill “against” the 18th Constitutional Amendment.
Earlier today, the BNP-M chief, a key ally of the Centre’s ruling alliance, was reportedly displeased with the government over recent legislation in connection with the mining project in Balochistan.
Sources said that Mengal, who was considering parting ways with the ruling coalition, had summoned a meeting of BNP-M’s core committee to discuss the recent developments and future plan of action.
He had also refused to support the Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Bill, 2022 in the National Assembly. But, the ruling alliance, while apparently bulldozing the concerns raised by the allies, managed to take Parliament’s nod on the bill.
Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Quddus Bizenjo said on Tuesday no one would be allowed to politicise the Reko Diq project.
“The provincial taxes on the copper and gold mine project would go to Balochistan,” he told reporters and vowed to not give in the powers granted to the province after the 18th Constitutional Amendment.