Supreme Court Trashes Reko Diq Agreement
It is wonderful that the stance of Government of Baluchistan has been upheld by the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan. Decision given on 7th Jan 2013 by the SC has declared the agreement on Reko Diq signed on July 23, 1993 as void and in conflict with the laws of the country. Tethyan Copper Company Pty Limited (TCC) also lost its case in International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) on December 13, 2012. ICSID has allowed the Government of Baluchistan and Dr. Samar Mubarak Mand to continue with their mining project in Reko Diq. These developments are a landmark victory for the Government of Baluchistan and for Baluch people. But at the same time it places a great responsibility on Dr. Samar Mubarak Mand and his team to produce results.
Back in 1990ís copper and gold deposits in Reko Diq area were identified by the Geological Survey of Pakistan in collaboration with BHP Billiton of Australia. It is believed that the project contains an estimated 12.3 million tons of world class copper and 10.9 million ounces of gold worth billion of dollars. The project is believed to be bigger than Sarcheshmeh in Iran and Escondida in Chile. If Pakistan is able to successfully mine and extract copper and gold from this project it will be able to generate immense amount of economic activity while creating hundreds of jobs for the Baluch youth.
Baluchistan government won this case after a long drawn struggle. In fact Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani was approached by the top executives of the company during July 2010 for the favour. They were categorically told by the Chief Minister that the provincial government has decided to operate the copper and gold mine by itself for which a board of governors has been constituted. Disappointed for not being able to win over Baluchistan government, they met President and Prime Minister. They were told that it was not possible to bypass provincial government on this issue. This decision reflects aspirations of people of Baluchistan and that of Pakistan. Dr Samar Mubarak Mand was appointed as the chairman of the steering Committee for running the project. He has repeatedly asserted that Pakistan has the expertises needed to extract copper and gold from the mine. There is no doubt that a large pool of scientists and technicians capable of undertaking the project is available in the country. We only need political will and consistency in our efforts and policies to achieve success.
Success is always dependent upon the availability of resources and their efficient management. Chief Minister of Baluchistan Nawab Mohammad Aslam Khan Raisani back in December 2010, had said that the Baluchistan government has the financial capacity to run the project. He planed to divert Rs.120 billion for the purpose, which the province would be receiving from the Federal government under the head of arrears of Gas Development Surcharge. To provide trained manpower he envisions to setup technical training institutes at Mastung, Khuzdar and Dera Murad Jamali to train Baluch youth. This vision will open new avenues of employment and thus will be a step towards poverty alleviation of the people of Baluchistan.
The decision has also slain the hopes of rogue elements operating in the province. Tethyan Copper Company had planned to export the raw material to be processed in their own country; a fishy undertaking in view of exuberant transportation cost. In this connection they had shown their intent to build a small sea port some 30 kilometre east of Gwadar exclusively for transportation of the extracted ore. Reportedly, they had approached Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) not to interfere in transportation of ore for which they would have been paid handsomely. This complete setting would have been a recipe to strengthen terrorism in the province.
SC decision has averted the possibility of such an ugly situation. Now it is the responsibility of the central and provincial governments to initiate physical work on the project without unnecessary delay. With the physical initiation of the work benefits attached with the project will start trickling down to the people in shape of jobs and associated developmental works. A new economic activity will be initiated within the province that will engage a sizable portion of its youth. The jobs will bring prosperity and concurrently would reduce operating space for the terrorist elements in the province. This project if properly managed will not only usher into economic revival of the country but will also serve as a check on the spread of terrorism in the province of Baluchistan and in Pakistan at large.