The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that Reko Diq was not a joint venture as credibility to this effect could not be established. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heading a three-member bench, also said that the Baloch people and the provincial government had the foremost right to Reko Diq resources. It will be better if the Balochistan government takes the final decision about the project, he said. The CJ remarked that if the respondents would agree to handle the matter with a mutual agreement, the court could nullify the Balochistan High Court verdict.
Khalid Anwar, counsel for Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), said “his client company had invested billions of rupees in this project and the verdict of Balochistan High Court was also in its favour so by nullifying it, its interests would be affected”. He argued that the mining lease may be awarded to his client as they already are working on it. However, the Chief Justice remarked that these mines are the resources of the people and the elected representatives have the right to take decision about its mining lease. The court also directed Khalid Anwar to consult with his client and inform the court on Wednesday in this regard. The other judges on the bench were Justice Mohammad Sair Ali and Justice Ghulam Rabbani. The bench was hearing various constitutional petitions filed by Muhammad Tariq Asad, ASC, Maulana Abdul Haque Baloch and around 26 senators including Dr Ismail Buledi, Azam Khan Swati, Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, Hafiz Abdur Rasheed and others under Article 184(3) of the Constitution against leasing of Reko Diq gold and copper mines in Balochistan to foreign exploration and mining companies in violation of the law. The Reko Diq project, located in Chaghi district of Balochistan, is being developed by the Tethyan Copper Company Pakistan (TCCP), jointly owned by Zionist Barrick Gold Corporation, Canada, and Antofagasta, Chile.
The hearing of the petitions has been continuing for the last five months. The case is before the court since a judgment by the Balochistan High Court that has been challenged in petitions filed under Article 184(3) of the Constitution along with the applications of the interveners. Initially 10 prospecting licences for exploration were given to BHP and BDA for one year – from December 1996 to December 1997. But the companies surrendered eight licences in 1998 and retained two; out of that, one licence was turned into exploration licence-5 (EL-5). During the proceeding, the chief justice observed that exploration licence to TCC has expired in February this year and renewing it was the responsibility of the Balochistan government. The counsel for the Tethyan Company told the court that the company has already invested $220million on digging, testing and analysis, and according to the agreement, it was his client’s right to get the mining licence. They, however, didn't bring it to the notice of Supreme Court that how much Gold filled stones they have smuggled illegally through Afghanistan and what is their total estimated worth. The court asked the petitioners and the advocate general Balochistan to give suggestions how to solve the issue of Reko Diq and adjourned the hearing till Wednesday (today).
Agencies add: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the Balochistan High Court’s verdict in the Reko Diq case was becoming a hurdle to the deliverance of justice. The apex court suggested the applicants and respondents to consider the nullification of the Balochistan High court’s decision before proceeding further. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry observed that the high court’s verdict was a great hurdle and suggested both parties to consider its nullification and submit their reply till Wednesday. The Balochistan government had allotted the rights of mining to the Tethayan Company which conducted all the digging process at the site. The SC also proposed the respondents of Reko Diq project to handle the matter of mining lease with mutual cooperation.