Reko Diq deal: Senate limits scope of foreign investment law in Balochistan

ISLAMABAD: The Senate has passed a bill for amendments to a recently approved foreign investment law, limiting the legislation’s scope in Balochistan to “qualified investment” for the Reko Diq copper and gold mining project.

The law, titled the Foreign Invest­ment (Promotion and Protection) Act, 2022, was passed by both houses of parliament and paved the way for a settlement deal between the government and Canadian company Barrick Gold for the reconstitution, and eventually, revival of the long-stalled mining initiative in Balochistan’s Chagai district.

The TLTP learnt that it aims to protect investors from unnecessary court proceedings and other hassles and has been a cause of discord within the ruling coalition, with several parties, including key allies BNP and JUI-F, raising objections that it is against the rights of people of Balochistan.

To placate the allies, ministers from the PML-N, which leads the ruling coalition, assured first during the National Assembly (NA) session on Tuesday and later after a cabinet meeting the same day that the law would be amended to address their grievances.

Subsequently, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar presented the bill for amendments to the law in the Senate. The bill stated that the law, which “extends to the whole of Pakistan”, be amended to specify that “for … Balochistan, it should only apply to the qualified investment of Reko Diq project as mentioned in schedules and annexures of this act”.

The amendment bill added: “The purpose of the subject amendment is to clarify the scope and application of the Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection Act), 2022.”

The amendment has to be approved by the NA before it is finalised.

The bill for the amendment was passed amid the opposition’s uproar in a repeat of Senate proceedings from Tuesday when the original Foreign Investment (Promotion and Protection) Bill, 2022 was approved by the upper house of parliament.

Lawmakers from the opposition — mainly the PTI — shouted slogans, demanding the release of arrested party Senator Azam Swati and the issuance of his production order, as the finance minister presented the bill.

Senator from the opposition also surrounded Senate Chairperson Sadiq Sanjrani’s podium while security personnel encircled the house.

After the bill was passed, Dar congratulated Pakistan and Balochistan and said the bill was of immense importance for the Chagai district. “It will protect business,” he added. Later, the session was adjourned for an indefinite period.


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