The canons of our esteemed profession provide for three situations whereby Advocates may be permitted to refuse a brief from a potential client. Firstly, if the Counsel does not have the time to put in the required work to the satisfaction of the client. Secondly, if there is a potential conflict of interest in taking on the particular case. And finally, if the lawyer and the client cannot agree on the monetary terms of professional engagement. Sounds pretty straightforward, eh? What about those cases which one has to do out of obligation owing to a personal or familial relationship? And then there are those kinds of cases which a lawyer can’t just say no to – the kind of cases which are historic – landmark judgments. I mean, that’s why we are in this profession, right? To make history and to be an active part of it. This is the story of one such case which I have had the privilege of being associated with to this very day – the public interest litigation before the Honorable Supreme Court of Pakistan on the Reko Diq Copper and Gold Mines.

It was 2007. Three years after passing my LLB, I was engrossed in Court appearances, endless hours of chamber work and nervous times standing next to my Ustaad in Court, attempting to assist him in the triangular battle of wits and skill that is litigation. One fine day, he walks into office with six, thick yellow Paper Books, Parts I to VI. “Read them. Breathe them. And absorb them. This is going to be a long haul. And one more thing, this is pro bono publico – This case is for the future of Pakistan. There are no fees!” But as I began to read the “paperbooks”, I noticed that the case was before the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The phrases “Petition for Leave to Appeal”, “Concise Statement”, “Supreme Court Rules, 1980”, “Advocate on Record” were all alien to my learning on the job so far. Thus began my advanced legal education. This was my first Supreme Court case to prepare. And after countless sleepless nights trying to grasp the basic facts and legal questions that were required to be adjudicated upon in the case, it dawned upon me. This was going to be an epic battle. A real good vs. bad fight. And to convince the Honorable Judges of the Supreme Court was going to be an arduous task, given the particular facts and circumstances that existed on the record at the time.

From 2007 to 2013, we travelled back and forth between Lahore and Islamabad for hearings before the Supreme Court about 40 times. During the period when the CJP had been removed, there was a temporary lull in the case. Upon his restoration, the case gathered momentum and heightened public attention. And as the number of Public Interest Petitions under Article 184(3) of the Constitution multiplied on the Reko Diq matter, we were embroiled in a legal battle that was seemingly endless. What began as six Paper Books became about two hundred Paper Books, spanning about several thousand pages of pleadings and documents. The central issue involved was this: in the early 90s, a foreign oil and gas company came to Balochistan to do aerial and geological surveys in District Chagai and located particular areas where there was potential mineral wealth of copper and gold. In 1993, a Joint Venture Agreement was signed by the Company and the Government of Balochistan whereby it was agreed that the Company would do all the exploration without any cost to the Government of Balochistan, mineral rules would be relaxed in favor of the Company, the Company would be the sole manager and controller of the Project, the Company would get 75% of the profits of copper and gold production, whilst the Government of Balochistan would get 25% of the profits, after investing its share of the 25% at the stage of mining over a period of time and that the mineral ores would be “smelted” abroad, as opposed to being done on-site. And thereafter, the said Agreement went through many changes and ultimately it was purchased by another foreign company with the backing of Chilean and Canadian Mining Companies for US$260 million. The values of the resources located in Chagai District were in trillions of dollars. The foreign Companies being represented before the Supreme Court had hired the best lawyers in the country. After over 30 hearings, hours of arguments and watching many sunrises in Islamabad, on 07.01.2013, our Petition was decided in our favor and is reported in a 150 page long judgment.

Personally, this case was a landmark for me, for two reasons: My name had been etched forever in the annals of case law history, having assisted my Ustaad in the case and then, having my Ustaad stand at the Rostrum of Courtroom Number 1 and address their Lordships after completing his arguments: “My Lords, if you so permit me, may I take your leave and return to my work in Lahore. I am leaving behind my junior, who knows more about this case than I do. He may be permitted to assist you as and when required.” Despite all the wear and tear of lugging bags full of books and having to endure the wrath of my Ustaad whilst preparing and whilst assisting him during the case, there is no better feeling than to be recognized for one’s labor and abilities in such an important case. The battle for securing the future of Reko Diq continues today; lets hope our efforts for a better Pakistan are safeguarded in the times to come.

    The writer is a legal practitioner with hopes for a better future for his profession in the land of the pure.