Daily Times Editorial 12 September 2019

Appeal against hostile decisions

Minister for Power Omer Ayub has said the government will challenge the decisions of International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Reko Diq and Karkay cases against Pakistan. Earlier, in July, the ICSID slapped a whopping award of $5.976 billion against Pakistan on a plea of petitioner Tethyan Copper Company (TCC), which originally claimed $11.43bn in damages. The cash-strapped government is in no position to pay such a huge penalty. The government also cannot be blamed for spoiling the accord with TCC. The case was already in the court when Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf came in power. Another choice is securing an out-of-court settlement, for the TCC showed willingness to negotiate right after the verdict. Before going into the appeal, the authorities must try the idea of out-of-court negotiation. Another compensation award of $1.2 billion in the Karkay case is also looming. On another front, the London Court of International Arbitration has also slapped a Rs14 billion award against Pakistan on a plea of nine independent power producers.
Is going into appeal against these awards a sensible decision?
Well, yes and no. The authorities need to do their homework before initiating a round of litigation, which is expensive and damaging, in case we emerge from the court as loser. On the other hand, awards are huge and Pakistan may not afford such a huge fine. The cost of defaulting on these awards is even more expensive as well as embarrassing. The minister himself is aware of the bitter fact that default on these payments results in seizure of national assets aboard. In this scenario, appeals may buy time for Pakistan, and in case of adverse decisions, there will be no bargaining chip left.
The minister is perhaps a man of out-of-court settlement. He presents a recently-done financial settlement of Rs 1.2 billion with Rousch (Pakistan) Power Limited. Again, the government inherited the dispute as their predecessors imposed damages on Rousch. Litigation is as bad for the corporate sector as a bad deal for the government. Recently, the government tried to kill many cases with one presidential ordinance in the notorious Gas Infrastructure Development Cess. The government was expecting a Rs220 billion cheque in the wake of the cess ordinance. The move backfired as the media dubbed it a loan waiver measure. Now, the government has passed the ball on to the Supreme Court.
We have a history of spoiling financial matters whenever we entrust the judiciary with the corporate sector. Reko Diq and Karkay are glaring examples. *


Kashmir at UNHCR


Since Pakistan has stepped up its diplomatic fight for the Kashmiris in India-held Kashmir, it is a significant gain by our diplomats that the United Nations Human Rights Council chief has expressed concern “about the impact of recent actions” in the occupied territory by Indian forces. At the Human Rights Council session, Michelle Bachelet minced no words to question India for its actions against Kashmiris such as blanket ban on communication as well human movement.
Bachelet said: “I am deeply concerned about the impact of recent actions by the Government of India on the human rights of Kashmiris, including restrictions on internet communications and peaceful assembly, and the detention of local political leaders and activists … I have appealed particularly to India to ease the current lockdowns or curfews; to ensure people’s access to basic services; and that all due process rights are respected for those who have been detained… It is important that the people of Kashmir are consulted and engaged in any decision-making processes that have an impact on their future.”
Later, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi kept the momentum by pleading the Kashmiris’ case in front of the international community, saying “We must not remain indifferent to the tragedy that is unfolding before our eyes in occupied Kashmir”. Mr Qureshi has demanded the UNHRC pay heed to the plight of the Kashmiri people to avert a “looming human catastrophe”. He spoke at length on India forces’ ruthless use of pellet guns, and unending curfew and clampdown on communications. The UNHCR must make a Commission of Inquiry, as recommended by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and also monitor India’s human rights violations.
It has yet to be seen if the UNHCR will pay heed to Pakistan’s demand. Meanwhile, President Trump has in his signature queer way offered to mediate between Pakistan and India on Kashmir. Trump can influence India and world bodies to resolve the Kashmir issue. He, however, needs to be updated on the plight of Kashmiris for he said that the Kashmir issue is now less heated between India and Pakistan. *

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