The European Parliament on Thursday called upon the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to immediately review Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status citing harassment of religious minorities in the country under the blasphemy laws.
“[The European Parliament] calls on the EEAS to immediately review Pakistan’s eligibility for GSP+ status in the light of current events and whether there is sufficient reason to initiate a procedure for the temporary withdrawal of this status and the benefits that come with it, and report to the European Parliament on this matter as soon as possible,” a press release issued by the continental body said.
It further stated that Pakistan has received economic benefits from trade preferences under the GSP+ programme since 2014 despite falling short on complying with obligations to ratify and implement 27 international conventions including commitments to guarantee human rights and religious freedom.
Around 34 percent of the country’s total exports are Europe bound and that quantum has increased since Pakistan was awarded GSP+ status. Through the GSP+ status, Pakistan is eligible to export around 78 percent of its products duty-free to the EU’s 28 member countries.
Although GSP+ status has helped Pakistan increase exports and provided greater potential to attract investment and generate employment, the incentives are contingent upon the country’s progress on working conditions, labour rights and gender equity.
Pakistan’s top exports to the EU include textiles, raw animal skins, vegetables, foodstuff and tobacco.
The text adopted by the parliament said that in its latest GSP+ assessment of Pakistan of Feb 10, 2020, the Commission expressed a variety of serious concerns on the human rights situation in the country, notably the lack of progress in limiting the scope and implementation of the death penalty.
The call for the review of GSP+ status for Pakistan came during the discussions of “Blasphemy laws in Pakistan, in particular the case of Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel.”
The couple, parents to four children, was sentenced to death on blasphemy charges in 2014 for allegedly sending text messages insulting the Prophet Muhammad and has been in jail ever since, currently they awaits for a hearing after an appeal with the courts.