ISLAMABAD      -       Supreme Court of Pakistan was informed on Wednesday that Barrick Gold has tried to be as transparent as possible and wanted any concession must have statutory backing not to restriction on sovereign power of Parliament and the government. A five-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, Justice Muneeb Akhtar, Justice Yahya Afridi and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail conducted hearing of the Presidential Reference on the Reko Diq project. During the hearing, counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan said that Barrick Gold has tried to be as transparent as possible and wanted any concession must have statutory backing not to restriction on sovereign power of Parliament and the government. If the government decides to withdraw any exemption and concession then must be done publically and openly. The Chief Justice asked from the counsel that you wanted that the assurance given to the Barrick Gold must have the legal binding. If the concession is withdrawn it should be with the permission of the Barrick Gold. Your client reserves the right to approach the international arbitrations if the concession is withdrawn. Makhdoom said that the Supreme Court in number of judgments declared that the past and closed transaction cannot be reopened. The Chief Justice said that our legal jurisdiction is different from the international therefore the government of Pakistan should retain the good legal advice who perform responsibilities before the international legal forums. The government needs expertise of English law. He said that the proceeding before international forums is expensive therefore there is need to strengthen our system so that the foreigner trust our system. He asked from the Additional Attorney General to improve the legal system. He said that he hopes the qualitative improvement aimed at will succeed. He further said that in view of the economic meltdown Sri Lanka employed lawyers from Canada and London. Justice Muneeb noted that the affect on the company will also affect Pakistan which has 50% shares in the project. He added that if in future the Parliament curtails the concession then it will not only affect the Barrick Gold but also Pakistan and the local people in Balochistan. Makhdoom argued that the Presidential Reference is maintainable. He maintained that Section 7, added in ‘The Regulation of Mines and Oilfields and Mineral Development (Government Control) Act, 1948’, be treated as standalone law. This is clearly well negotiated agreement, adding for 3.6 years the discussion took place at all levels and the representatives of the Balochistan and the federal governments. Additional Attorney General (AAG) Amir Rehman made submission on the second questions of the Presidential Reference. He cited various judgments of the Supreme Court to show that federal legislature can pass law for the province. Justice Ijaz questioned when the Parliament legislates law for a province then whether it is implemented as the provincial law? The AAG said that the provincial assembly as Article 144 of the Constitution will have competence/power to amend or repeal that law. It will be done for the advancement and development of provinces’ economy. Amir Rehman informed the court that the underline objective of the proposed bill on the Reko Diq reconstituted project is to attract large scale foreign investment and ensure overall economic activity and growth. Later, the bench deferred the hearing till Thursday (today). Reko Diq is one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper-gold mines. The billions of US dollars’ project are being restarted after remaining on hold since 2011. After the Supreme Court judgment (PLD 2013 SC 641) the foreign company, which had explored gold in Reko Diq and later wanted its mining lease approached International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Tribunal and the ICC Tribunal. In 2019, the ICSID announced around $6 billion award against Pakistan. In view of the ICSID award and the anticipated ICC award the total liability against Pakistan is around $10 billion.A