A pie with many stakeholders.

The proceedings and recent remarks of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan in the Reko Diq case have not inspired confidence in investors. They are hoping for more informed proceedings and a meritorious decision that serves development goals and projects Pakistan as a viable business destination.

Some former bureaucrats and economists advised the court to be mindful of the interests and aspirations of people in restive Balochistan. 'No business can flourish in a hostile environment. It is critical for both investors and all tiers of the government to earn the goodwill of locals before initiating a mega project,' said a former federal secretary who served in Balochistan.

The apex court's five-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, is currently hearing the presidential reference on the Reko Diq case to validate the proposed deal with the mining giant Barrick Gold.

'Not only the fate of multi-billion-dollar investment in resource-rich remote Chagi district of Balochistan depends on the SC decision but also the out-of-court settlement with the two partners of the joint venture Tethyan Copper Company-Barrick Gold and Antofagasta Minerals.

It is critical for investors and all tiers of the government to earn the goodwill of locals before initiating Reko Diq

'The deal gave a reprieve against the $11 billion penalty slapped on Pakistan by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). A ruling to annul the agreement would revive the penalty that Pakistan managed to avoid after painstakingly long and complicated negotiations,' a former government functionary in the know of Reko Diq affairs confided.

Sharing his input, a top gun in the former prime minister Imran Khan government warned: 'The settlement calls for approvals of all clauses of the new agreement from Balochistan government, the federal cabinet and a nod from the Supreme Court of Pakistan by 15 December 2022. In case this fails to materialise, the ICSID award against Pakistan will be revived. We only paid Antofagasta Minerals; Barrick Gold claim was to be settled through the new agreement.'

Acknowledging the capacity gaps, the CJP has appointed three counsels Dr Farogh Naseem, Salman Akram Raja and Zahid Ebrahim, amicus curiae (an impartial adviser to the court in the case). Reluctant to comment on the merit of appointments, some commercial law practitioners pointed out several past court decisions in commercial disputes that leave much to be desired.


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