ISLAMABAD - Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has observed that according to documents available, its seems that approval for relaxing rules for exploration of copper and gold was not given by the provincial government but by the then Balochistan secretary industries and commerce. The Chief Justice asked the Balochistan advocate general from where the approval for relaxation of rules came if the provincial government did not move the summary for it. Advocate General Balochistan Salahuddin Mengal informed the court that secretary industries and commerce ordered for issuance of notification. He said he also wrote to chairman Balochistan Development Authority to extend the area of exploration from 50 acres to 1,000 acres of land and also the rules. A four-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was hearing various petitions on Wednesday against leasing of Reko Diq gold and copper mines in Balochistan to foreign exploration and mining companies in violation of law. During the course of proceeding, Sahibzada Ahmed Raza Khan Kasuri, counsel for Sanjrani Tribe, complained that the provincial mines department issued the NOC, while it should have been obtained from Sanjrani Tribe. He said the company should have opened schools and started some development projects in their area, but they did not do so. The Chief Justice asked him to raise these issues with the Balochistan government or company, as they would go strictly according to the law. He asked the learned counsel why he was lowering the dignity of the tribe as Pakistan was a sovereign state and its citizens are respectable and if they do not have one time meal then they never complain. Justice Ramday added they were a nation that did not beg so it needed not to say that Sanjrani Tribe was not given concession in the deal with the TCC. Kasuri said that an international conspiracy was going on against Pakistan. The Chief Justice stated, As long as we remain a sovereign nation no conspiracy can damage our country. Kasuri then said, What kind of sovereignty is it when an American has killed two innocent Pakistan citizens. The Chief Justice asked him not to discuss this issue as the matter was not under consideration right now. The learned counsel said approximately all rules including grant of exploration, area for prospecting licence, application for prospecting licences, exclusive rights, other mineral, royalty, penalties, employment and training and mining lease, were changed to accommodate the TCC. He said besides EL-5 licences, EL-6, EL-8, EL-26 and EL-27 were awarded to TCC in which 100 per cent share given to foreign company. Justice Ramday observed that the whole joint venture agreement revolved around relaxing the rules, adding the JVA was not in accordance with the rules. He questioned whether the first prospecting licence was issued under Balochistan Mining Concession Rules 1970. Director Mines and Minerals Department, Zaakbat Khan, informed the court that though the exploration licences was issued to BHP in 2002, the company had started the exploration earlier. Mengal informed the court that Martin Henry contacted the Balochistan Development Authority for exploration of copper and gold at Reko Diq in 1993. He provided the copy of summary related to granting licence on January 24, 1996. Justice Ghulam Rabbani asked the AG, We have all the documents pertaining to Reko Diq in 2007, but it took the Balochistan government many days to dig them out. The Chief Justice inquired from the AG Balochistan that it had been stated in the agreement that the BHP would submit quarterly report but tell us how many reports the foreign company has submitted and how many times the mines department officials inspected the site. Justice Rabbani observed that joint venture agreement was signed in 1993 and the first prospecting licence to BHP was issued in 1996 but according to the documents the BHP must have be operating in the province much before. Shakeel, counsel for BDA, said the first presence of BHP in Balochistan was in 1990. Kasuri has completed his arguments and from today (Thursday) Abdul Hafeez Pirzada would plead the case.