The Reko Diq deal signed between the Balochistan government and the Australian mining company BHP gave the latter a 75 per cent share in discoveries while Balochistan got a meager 25pc plus a mere 2pc royalty. There were accusations of corruption, though without any proof, leading the Balochistan government to cancel the deal. This led to litigation that finally reached the SC which declared the deal void.
After the 2017 ruling against Pakistan by a World Bank tribunal there was no way out but to seek an out-of-court settlement with the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC). The PML-N government had already concluded that this was the only way to seek reduction in the whopping $6b penalty awarded to TCC. The task was made difficult because of the PTI’s relentless campaign against corruption on the part of PML-N and PPP leaders, a judiciary viewed as hostile and a vengeful NAB. Despite this the PML-N government tried in 2015 to pressurize a reluctant Balochistan administration to agree to an out-of-court deal with the Tethyan. The Balochistan government was already under fire from the opposition on the issue, leading the CM to maintain that he would not “sell a stone of Reko Diq”.
Mesmerised by its own anti-corruption rant, the PTI failed to engage with the TTC. Instead, PM Imran Khan issued orders for the formation of a commission to investigate and fix responsibility for the penalty. Consequently in July 2019 UN’s tribunal CSID, awarded damages in the sum of $5.84 billion to TCC. The PTI government appealed to the CSID for a stay on the enforcement of the massive penalty which it got in September 2020. Even after the stay it made no serious effort to seek a settlement with the TCC.
Now that the chickens have come home to roost, the PTI government has none but itself to blame. The British Virgin Island court has decided in an ex parte case to freeze three properties of the PIA, including Roosevelt Hotel in NY and Scribe Hotel in Paris. As the properties would yield little more than $1bn after the sale and deduction of taxes, the TCC is likely to go after Pakistan’s other assets abroad like Broadsheet. Among other things, the affair would bring bad name to the country and discourage foreign investors.