ISLAMABAD: Rifts emerged in Pakistan's ruling coalition after the federal cabinet gave a go-ahead for the signing of the Reko Diq deal before the December 15 deadline. The two main coalition parties of the government, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and the Balochistan National Party-Mengel (BNP-M), boycotted the cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, reported The Express Tribune.
The cabinet held a detailed discussion on the Reko Diq copper-gold project in Balochistan's Chagai district. Lawmakers in the Balochistan Assembly lashed out at the government over the passage of a resolution in favour of the deal. The resolution was termed as an attempt to usurp the rights of the people of Balochistan.
The JUI-F and the BNP-M members protested that they were not taken into confidence on the issue. The government, however, assured the members that their doubts were valid and would be addressed. Sharif in his opening remarks, said that the government of Pakistan would ensure the protection of the rights of investors in all the investment projects, including the Reko Diq project, and all the promises made to them would be fulfilled, according to a report in The Express Tribune.
The report said the cabinet was informed that a presidential reference was filed in the Supreme Court under Article 186 of the Constitution for a legal opinion on the final agreements. The court gave its opinion on December 9, saying that the restructuring process was transparent. A five-member cabinet committee was formed to remove some legal obstacles and hold talks with the leaders of the coalition parties, to address their concerns.
The committee comprised of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Commerce Minister Syed Naveed Qamar, Law Minister Azam Tarar and Economic Affairs Minister Ayaz Sadiq. The committee decided that an amendment would be made in consultation with the concerned parties.
After a long discussion, the ministers approved the signing of the final agreements for restructuring the Reko Diq project on the recommendation of the Petroleum Division. The cabinet also approved the project funding plan passed by the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet, reported The Express Tribune.