The Supreme Court on Tuesday reserved its decision in the presidential reference regarding the Reko Diq mining case, stating that it would announce its judgment next week.
A five-member larger bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial, completed the hearing on the matter.
The court has held 17 hearings regarding the Reko Diq presidential reference.
During the proceedings, Chief Justice Bandial remarked that he was happy that compliance with international standards had been assured in the Reko Diq agreement.
Justice Banidal said, “The court will be careful on the issue of fundamental rights while giving an opinion on the presidential reference.”
The president has asked for opinions on the legal challenges in the Reko Diq agreement, the CJP said, adding that in the case, the fact was that a fine of several billion dollars was imposed on Pakistan.
In the agreement, the CJP said, the federal government followed the Constitution and the law. “Happily, compliance with international standards has been assured.”
Justice Ijazul Ahsan said that it was a good thing that the agreement was not called illegal by any party.
“All lawyers have agree that Reko Diq is a transparent and public contract.”
The deputy attorney general replied that there had been three years of negotiations on the agreement.
Advocate Salman Akram Raja said in his arguments that he would support the International Investors Act 2022 prepared by the federal government.
“The project site will be declared an ‘Export Processing Zone’ in the Investment Act 2022,” he said, adding that the International Labor Organization rules were not applicable as they were not part of the Pakistani law.
The Reko Diq Gold lawyer apprised the court that all matters, including labour rights under the agreement, would be in accordance with the international standards.
Advocate Raja said that the federal government could be instructed to pay the workers of the Reko Diq mine.
Read CJP raises concern over Reko Diq miners' wages
“It is obvious that the Reko Diq agreement will not harm the country.”
He said the court was not asked to comment on the details of the agreement, adding that the court was not a party to the agreement to seal it, rather the ownership of the “agreement should remain with the political leadership”.
Justice Yahya Khan Afridi said, “If the president asks for an opinion on policy matters, should the Supreme Court refuse to give it?”
Advocate Raja replied that the Supreme Court could abstain from giving opinions on policy matters.
Justice Ahsan said that the Supreme Court was not looking at the agreement clause by clause, but if there “is any violation of law and Constitution in it, the Supreme Court can give an opinion on it”.
After the arguments of Advocate Raja were completed, Barrister Farogh Naseem said that if the court does not declare the agreement as transparent, someone would challenge it again.
“The court should give an opinion on the legal aspects and not the financial ones of the contract. The court cannot send back the reference without considering the questions raised in it.”
Justice Yahya Khan Afridi said should the Reko Diq be considered as agreement between two parties or an agreement resulting in billions of fines?
Barrister Naseem said that it should be kept in mind in the reference that Pakistan had been fined about $10 billion.
The Supreme Court's 2013 decision to invalidate the Reko Diq agreement did not explicitly mention fundamental rights.
The court should keep in mind the public interest while giving an opinion on the Reko Diq presidential reference.
After the court arguments were completed, the Supreme Court reserved its opinion.
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