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Senate passes Reko Diq amendment bill

Bill shields investors from pointless legal processes but has caused friction within ruling coalition

The Senate has passed a foreign investment bill on Friday, restricting the scope of foreign investment law in Balochistan for the Reko Diq copper and gold mining project.

The Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Act 2022 was approved by both chambers of parliament on Tuesday and has opened the way for an agreement between the government and the Canadian business Barrick Gold to restart the long-stalled mining project in the Chagai area of Balochistan.

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The bill has shielded the investors from pointless legal processes and other problems but it has caused friction within the ruling coalition since various parties including important partners BNP and JUI-F have voiced concerns that the bill has violated the rights of the people of the province.

Ministers from the PML-N, the head of the ruling coalition, have promised to change the law to answer the allies’ complaints twice on Tuesday, once during the National Assembly session and then following a cabinet meeting. The measure to modify the legislation was subsequently introduced in the Senate today by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.

“The subject modification aims to clarify the scope and applicability of the Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection Act), 2022,” the amendment said.

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As the finance minister delivered the bill opposition lawmakers primarily from PTI yelled chants calling for Senator Azam Swati to be released and for a production order to be issued. Security guards had encircled the chamber as opposition Senators gathered around the podium of Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani.

During today’s proceedings, the Senate also approved a resolution pertaining to the World Cup of football in Qatar. Senator Sarfraz Bugti proposed the resolution which praised Qatar for hosting the World Cup.

The session was thereafter adjourned indefinitely.

The initial Reko Diq mining project deal was signed in 2006 allocating a share of 37.5 percent to Barrick Gold and Antofagasta respectively and a 25 percent interest to the Balochistan government.

On October 18 President Arif Alvi moved a motion to refer the matter to the Supreme Court requesting an interpretation of its 2013 ruling in the case. The apex court declared the agreement as legal and also validated the constitutionality of the foreign investment bill.

The deal for the restart of the Reko Diq project was quickly deemed valid by SC.

The foreign investment law was subsequently approved by the NA and Senate and last night the government and Barrick Gold signed a contract for the Reko Diq project. The contract will become effective today, December 16, and the company will start work on the project immediately.


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