ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Farogh Naseem has said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government had adopted an effective strategy to win the Reko Diq international arbitration, with the result that the country’s vital offshore assets have now been secured.
However, the court order could be challenged as the petitioner Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) could file an appeal by June 4, the law minister said, while appealing to every citizen of Pakistan to pray for an everlasting success in this as well as other international disputes.
The law minister made the appeal at a press conference held on Wednesday to share details of Tuesday’s decision of the High Court of Justice in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in favour of Pakistan in the Reko Diq case initiated by TCC for attachment of Pakistan’s major assets abroad, including two PIA hotels in New York and Paris.
The TCC had initiated the dispute for the enforcement of July 12, 2019, $5.97 billion award against Pakistan by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in the Reko Diq litigation.
Urges citizens to pray for country’s success if BVI court order is challenged by June 4
On Dec 16, 2020 the BVI high court through its ex-parte order had attached the assets belonging to the Pakistan International Airlines Investment Limited (PIAIL) including company’s interests in two hotels, namely Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan New York, and the Scribe Hotel in Central Paris as well as froze 40 per cent interest of the PIA in a third entity, Minhal Incorporated. The BVI court in its Dec 16 order had also appointed the receiver on an interim basis.
The law minister told the presser that the PTI government inherited pending international arbitration including $6.5 billion dispute of Reko Diq, Karkey and Broadsheet.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had assigned him to lead the legal team on August 22, 2019 for international arbitration, he said. “The PM directed me to address the issue,” he added. For this purpose, he explained, a committee was constituted that he being the law minister headed.
“We interacted with various authorities across the world, shortlisted the lawyers to pursue the cases,” he further said.
Barrister Naseem, who belongs to the PTI’s coalition partner Muttahida Qaumi Movement, expressed regret that the Pakistan Peoples Party government had surrendered the sovereign immunity by unilaterally assuming the jurisdiction of international arbitrators in various disputes.
“We discussed the aspect of sovereign immunity at various levels. PPP has surrendered the sovereign immunity and we dealt with this matter very carefully. BVI court then accepted our stance on Pakistan’s sovereign immunity,” the law minister said.
While explaining that Pakistan took up the matter of sovereign immunity with relevant quarters, Barrister Naseem said: “We took the plea that Pakistan has become a victim of corruption and an agreement based on corruption could not be treated at par with fair investment. And termination of such contracts by the constitutional courts could not be challenged in international arbitration.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Imran Khan appreciated and lauded the efforts of the International Disputes Unit (IDU) and the office of the Attorney General for Pakistan that helped securing a great victory for Pakistan in the case filed by the TCC.
TCC Pakistan is a 50-50 joint venture of Barrick Gold Corporation of Australia and Antofagasta PLC of Chile, whereas the Reko Diq district in the Balochistan province of Pakistan is famed for its mineral wealth, including gold and copper.
Speaking to Dawn, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan said it was a great legal victory for Pakistan in general and the PIA in particular. He explained that all the orders passed against PIA earlier have been recalled by the BVI High Court besides the receiver appointed has been removed from the Roosevelt Hotel, New York, and the Scribe Hotel, Paris.
According to the IDU, the BVI high court ruled that it had no jurisdiction to decide the matter.
The IDU said the provisional charging order against PIA’s BVI companies was also set aside entirely besides TCC was ordered to pay costs of the present proceedings. Thus, the attempt to “steal” Roosevelt and Scribe hotels had been frustrated, the dispute unit added.
The information about the attachment proceedings and the order of the BVI high court was communicated to Pakistan on Dec 23, 2020.
Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2021