Revisiting Reko Diq

Published December 30, 2021

THE provincial PTI chief in Balochistan, Sardar Yar Mohammad Rind, has called for the establishment of a truth commission on the Reko Diq fiasco before closing a new deal on the gold and copper mining project.

The demand came days after Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo’s government had organised an in camera briefing for the provincial lawmakers to update them on different aspects of the issue. Given the $6bn penalty for not giving a mining lease to the Tethyan Copper Company, announced by the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes against Pakistan, and the subsequent embarrassment suffered internationally, Mr Rind’s demand is justified.

Read more: Reko Diq: Saga of bliss or bane?

After all, the people deserve to know who is responsible for this debacle. The Balochistan government’s decision to take its lawmakers into confidence is a welcome step but not enough. The taxpayers, who will be asked to pay for this fiasco, also have a right to be informed on the matter.

When the ICSID announced the award over a breach of the Australia-Pakistan Bilateral Investment Treaty and denial of the mining lease to TCC at Reko Diq in 2011, Prime Minister Imran Khan had formed a commission to “investigate the reasons as to how Pakistan ended up in this predicament, who was responsible for making the country suffer such a loss and what are the lessons learnt so that mistakes made do not repeat in the future”.

But the commission is yet to conclude its assignment and make its findings public. Hence, the demand from the provincial chief of the ruling party must be heeded and a new commission set up to carry out its investigation within public view for the sake of transparency. Responsibility needs to be fixed as it is not just an issue of enormous fines that the country is being asked to pay for poor governance and faulty decision-making but also lack of transparency in matters of public importance.

Reko Diq, however, isn’t the only case where the authorities concerned have messed up. The country and its economy continue to suffer the adverse consequences of poor governance, bureaucratic incompetence and judicial overreach in several other instances as well.

For example, the nation is still paying a high price for the apex court decisions that stopped the privatisation of the Steel Mills and invalidated the LNG deal with a French company at the expense of the national economy in the mid-2000s. Likewise, the recent penalties imposed on Pakistan in the Broadsheet case illustrate the incompetence of the bureaucracy in protecting national interests.

Read more: FIA gets nod to probe NAB’s ‘negligence’ in Broadsheet case

The statement given by Mr Bizenjo that “the rights and interests of Balochistan will be protected in any new [Reko Diq] deal” must be appreciated. But such statements from the rulers alone will not reassure the people unless those responsible for past debacles are named and held to account for their misdeeds.

Published in Dawn, December 30th, 2021

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