Disagreements On Reko Diq Project Emerge Among Coalition Partners

Disagreements On Reko Diq Project Emerge Among Coalition Partners
Differences were reported among the ruling coalition parties in the federal cabinet on the restructuring of the Reko Diq copper-gold project in the Chagai district of Balochistan, as the federal cabinet gave the final go-ahead for the signing of a deal on the mega project before the December 15 deadline.

Two main coalition parties of the government, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M), boycotted the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Tuesday. The cabinet held a detailed discussion on the Reko Diq project.

In his opening remarks to the cabinet meeting, PM Shehbaz said that the government of Pakistan would ensure the protection of the rights of investors in all the investment projects, including the Reko Diq project, and all promises made to them would be fulfilled.

The cabinet was informed that a presidential reference was filed in the Supreme Court under Article 186 of the Constitution for a legal opinion on the final agreements. The court gave its opinion on December 9, noting that the restructuring process was transparent.

The cabinet was told that the opinion of the Supreme Court had already been taken regarding the Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Bill, 2022. The cabinet was also informed that it had been decided by the coalition parties that the legislation was to the extent of the Reko Diq project only.

Legislators of the Balochistan Assembly also lashed out at the incumbent government over passing a resolution in favour of the deal. A BNP-M member of the provincial assembly called the resolution "an attempt to usurp the rights of the people of Balochistan".

The JUI-F and the BNP-M protested in the federal cabinet meeting, saying that they were against the bill on the project because they were not taken into confidence regarding the matter. However, the government assured the coalition partners that their reservations were valid and necessary amendments would be made soon.

To address the matter, a five-member cabinet committee was formed to remove some legal obstacles. The committee included Law Minister Azam Tarar, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar and Economic Affairs Minister Ayaz Sadiq.

The cabinet committee will hold talks with the leaders of the coalition parties and take them into confidence and address their concerns. It was also decided that the amendment would be made in consultation with the concerned parties.

During the meeting, the cabinet also approved the regulatory framework for the state enterprises and their special purpose vehicles, the government of Balochistan Special Purpose Vehicles, and the Reko Diq Project Company regarding its restructuring.

After a long discussion, the ministers approved the signing of the final agreements for the restructuring of the Reko Diq project on the recommendation of the Petroleum Division. The cabinet also approved the project funding plan passed previously by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet.