ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court has been asked to restrict the federal and Balochistan governments from participating in the international arbitration over Reko Diq project.

Raza Kazim filed a petition in the Supreme Court on behalf of Maulana Abdul Haq Baloch, former MNA, maintaining that the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) have no jurisdiction to Reko Diq project under Pakistani law.

It requested the court to bar the federal and Balochistan governments from participating in the international arbitration, adding that the court has authority under the Constitution to overrule wrong decisions of the Balochistan government in the public interest.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry accepted the petition and issued notices to the Balochistan government, the Balochistan Development Authority (BDA), the Federation of Pakistan, the Tethyan Copper Company, the Antofagasta PLC, Muslim Lakhani, director of the Tethyan Copper Company, the Barrick Gold Corporation Canada and the BHP Minerals Intermediate Exploration Inc to respond on the matter.

The petitioner said that constitutional rights of the people of Balochistan had been violated in awarding the contract of the gold mines. “The federal and the Balochistan governments have established their total inability to develop the mineral wealth of Chagai Hills and have seriously prejudiced Pakistan’s national interests.”

He requested the court to consider the legal status of the Chagai Hills Exploration Joint Venture Agreement (CHEJVA), signed in 1993, and the subsequent modifications made to it, besides reviewing the Balochistan Mining Rules, 1970, the Successor Rules of 2002 and of the Mining Act of 1948.

He stated that the precondition for the ICSID was that the investment involved in Reko Diq should be Australian. “The Pakistani authorities have to be satisfied that the investments were actually made by Australians and not of mixed origin people”, the petition said.

The petitioner maintained: “It appears that without reading or understanding the provisions of the agreement between Australia and Pakistan dated February 7, 1998, the federal government decided to pressurise the Balochistan government to settle the matter on the premise that the treaty is applicable to the dispute pending before the Supreme Court.”

It says that there is a vacuum of administrative discretion and authority in this matter so it is the duty of the court to fill this gap with necessary arrangements and order a transitional step for preserving Pakistan’s sovereignty and the constitutional mandate.

“The foreign company respondents are in direct conflict with the people of Balochistan and Pakistan at all levels with respect to the development of the Reko Diq mines.” It requested the court to constitute a hybrid commission for protecting the interests of Chagai district.