A blistering cost.

It is like a settlement at gunpoint - an unusual requirement from the apex court to pre-sanctify precisely a commercial deal between a sovereign under distress and a top global mining firm with overwhelming powers of international jurisdictions.

Subject to the clearance by the country's top court, the provincial assemblies will pass special resolutions, and the parliament, through a joint sitting of both houses, will provide constitutional cover to a new binding document - Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Act (FIPPA), 2022.

All this will set a new precedent in the country's investment, trade and business agreements with far-reaching future consequences. It may be recalled that an earlier similar attempt for settlement of a commercial dispute, although not under any constitutional jurisdiction, in the matter of K-Electric had been declined by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

It would be rather depressing to witness a fait accompli being stamped that had been brushed aside over a decade ago as a trivial matter. The apex court in May 2013 had ruled that the original Chaghi Hills Exploration Joint Venture Agreement (CHEVJA) with an Australian mineral firm that subsequently led to two international mineral majors - Barrick Gold of Canada and Antofagasta of Chile - taking over the Reko Diq Copper-Gold Project was illegal and null and void, hence all subsequent agreements were also void.

Reko Diq's negotiations were carried out between unequal parties under duress and in unavoidable circumstances

This was, unfortunately, overruled by International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). The ICSID said that notwithstanding the Supreme Court of Pakistan's judgement, it had jurisdiction to proceed with the arbitration because the Pakistan government's obligations under the Pakistan-Austria Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) were independent of Pakistan law. And thus, the obligations were unaffected by the SC judgement, and the Reko Diq investment was protected under the BIT.

The ICSID held that the cancellation of the mining lease was not bona fide but a deliberate decision of the government to develop the project by itself.

Meanwhile, all those who had created a smokescreen that dozens of other investors were making beeline with highly attractive offers to take over the project with billions of additional dollars of return to the governments and the people of Balochistan and Pakistan simply vanished.

The ICSID rendered a...

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